Book Review: "As One" by Mehrdad Baghai & James Quigley

By Adrienne Gonzalez

As One opens with a dedication to people all over the world from all walks of life who labor tirelessly to enable groups of people to work “as one” in pursuit of noble goals. The book’s authors, Mehrdad Beghai and Deloitte CEO James Quigley, believe that the future of civilized society depends on the success of the leaders of those groups. With technology and innovation bringing us closer together as a global civilization each day, recognition of that responsibility was long overdue.

Two years of research uncovered eight distinct models of As One behavior which are represented around two axes. The vertical axis (Landlord & Tenants and Community Organizer & Volunteers) represents direction-setting and describes how power is exercised: top-down versus bottom-up. The horizontal axis (Conductor & Orchestra and Producer & Creative Team) conveys the nature of individuals’ tasks and how work is organized: highly scripted to highly creative. Four clusters of cases sit at the end points of the axes and four more hybrid clusters (General & Soldiers, Architect & Builders, Captain & Sports Team and Senator & Citizens) sit between pairs of end points. These eight clusters are defined as “archetypes” and represent eight different ways of working as one.
 
Curious where your team falls on the axis? Answer a few short questions with the Archetype classifier and determine your team’s archetype. From there, you can read a few of the 60 case studies packed into As One, representing a global balance across 19 different industries.
 
The idea behind As One is to find the strength in each collaborative group, regardless of size, industry, or focus. Case studies and even strangely appropriate fictional examples such as the superhuman Borg characters of Star Trek fame offer the reader the opportunity to apply the abstract theory of collaborative effort to actual events, goals, and innovation.
 
Take for example the management style of GORE-TEX founder Bill Gore. Gore firmly believed that leaders should be chosen by the people who follow them (keeping with the Senator & Citizens archetype). The foundation of his company’s culture is made up of just four simple principles: fairness, freedom, commitment, and “waterline.” The waterline is the illustrative risk-taking tipping point within the organization. It allows for decisions that “might punch a hole in the boat as long as the boat is above the waterline so that it won’t potentially sink the ship.”
 
As One forces the concept of leadership into the 21st century, with insight and guidance for leaders and followers alike. For leaders who want to build a better team or truly embrace the inherent strength of their organization’s collaborative forces, As One is a necessity on the bookshelf. The book presents a clear, concise, and even – gasp! – entertaining view on modern leadership and the spectacular possibilities of collective power.
 

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