This outstanding book is an outgrowth of Saturday morning discussions author and Harvard professor, Joseph Badaracco, Jr, had with CEOs (Chief Executive Officers). From these sessions, Badaracco learned that serious fiction opens doors to a world rarely seen and can help leaders confront important and challenging questions. Serious fiction allows discussants to see character tested, reshaped, strengthened, or weakened. They can watch and identify with leaders as they think, worry, hope, hesitate, commit, exult, regret, and retreat. Once they are drawn in and have put on the shoes of the main characters in the fiction, they can share their own (compare and contrast) experiences.
Badaracco has organized the book around eight critical questions leaders must confront and answer for themselves. He then uses a work of serious fiction as a springboard for discussion. Each chapter closes with the author's commentary on each of the "Questions of Character" raised in the discussion and a final reflection. Eg. Chapter, "What is Sound Reflection;" serious fiction used, "Antigone;" Questions raised and addressed, "Can I shift perspective?" " Is my reflection messy enough?" "Am I encouraging real dialogue?" and "Have my analysis and judgment evolved?"
The eight critical questions addressed and corresponding work of fiction used are:
1. Do I have a good dream? - "The Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller
2. How flexible is my moral code? - "Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe 3. Are my role models unsettling? - "Blessed Assurance" by Allan Gurganus
4. Do I really care? - "The Love of the Last Tycoon" by F. Scott Fitzgerald
5. Am I ready to take responsibility? - "The Secret Sharer" by Joseph Conrad
6. Can I resist the flow of success? - "I Come as Thief" by Louis Auchincloss
7. How well do I combine principles and pragmatism? - "A Man for All Seasons" by Robert Bolt
8. What is sound reflection? - "Antigone" by Sophocles
This is the most refreshing book on leadership I have read in many years. Badaracco, by taking serious works of fiction, treating them as case studies, and examining them in-depth, has also stimulated my interest in serious fiction as a tool for personal and professional growth.
In "Questions of Character," Badaracco provides an innovative and effective format for readers to learn - about leadership and about themselves. This is one of the two most important books (the other is "Living into Leadership" by McCoy) on character and leadership I have ever read. "Questions of Character" is a must read for those interested in leadership and will particularly appeal to those already in leadership roles.