The Six Dimensions of Leadership


The academic and consultant Andrew Brown has selected six key elements of leadership that, he believes, illuminate the secrets of great leaders.

Illustrated with countless examples of leaders from history and today, The Six Dimensions of Leadership, first published in 1999, tackles in 200 racy pages the six qualities in turn: heroism, acting ability, self-esteem, a sophisticated understanding of power, diplomacy and ‘the leader as victim’.

With this sixth element, Brown goes against trend in management books to encourage aggressiveness, strong egos and decisiveness. He reckons that ‘self-victimization’ is just as important.

Brown argues that the greatest leaders – such as Nelson Mandela – are ‘multi-dimensional’, able to switch on any of the six qualities at the right time.

Why is it worth reading?
This playful book addresses an old subject from a new angle. Aimed at a general readership, it should interest anyone from aspiring adolescents striving to ape their heroes, to senior executives who fancy measuring themselves against famous leaders past and present.

Brown gives insights into management, and is good on the will power and ‘supreme confidence’ of leaders like Bill Gates and Napoleon. But he also sneaks in wry, off-the-cuff comparisons between dissimilar leaders to illustrate the points he is making.

For example, he couples Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s imprisonment in her own home with US president Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky-related confessions to illustrate the successful ‘leader as victim’ – the quality of self-victimization when necessary.

By comparing leaders who lived in different eras, Brown gives readers a fascinating overview of several of the most important events and personalities in history. This fun style has its advantages over other books in the management genre, and contrasts with the rather dry, humorless approach of some self-help books.

Talking points
Brown says the most effective leaders are:


    • Heroes – respected and loved by people who look up to them. Leaders who cultivate an aura or myth around them are strong. For example: Walt Disney, Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie
    • Skilled actors – like Apple’s Steve Jobs, whose theatrics have included playing the Chariots of Fire theme music at a meeting while verbally whipping the audience into hysterics; or Richard Branson; or even Winston Churchill. The important point that all of these leaders have recognized, according to Brown, is ‘the need to deliver authentic leadership performances that convince others of their right to command’
    • Self-confident immortalists – people whose self-esteem has ‘propelled’ them to the highest level, such as Margaret Thatcher and Bill Gates
    • Shrewd dealers in power – who build alliances at the right time and manipulate their power relations with others. ‘They are subtle when subtlety is called for, and act with the force of a sledgehammer when coercion is required’. For example: Napoleon, Cecil Rhodes and Jack Welch
    • Ambassadors – this category includes Chung Ju Yung, founder of Hyundai and John D Rockefeller
    • Victims – according to Brown great leaders are willing, if necessary, to suffer short-term sacrifices for the long term good of their career. Australian businessman Alan Bond fell from power partly because he didn’t have the grace to engage in ‘self-victimization’, for instance


‘Hitler was so disorganized and insecure that he surrounded himself with sycophants loyal to him personally. Such flawed personalities can never be fully multi-dimensional or truly great leaders.’

Brown, quoting leadership expert Warren Bennis:
‘Leadership is like beauty: it’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.’

What others say
Sir Adrian Cadbury, former chairman of Cadbury Schweppes plc: ‘You will be entertained by the book’s biographical anecdotes which bring leadership successes and failings vividly to life. Whatever your entrenched views on leaders and leadership, The Six Dimensions of Leadership will give cause for thought.’

Andrew D Brown is a lecturer at the Cambridge University business school, the Judge Institute of Management Studies. He is director of studies in management at Christ’s College and Fitzwilliam College. He has also written Organizational Culture.

The Six Dimensions of Leadership, by Andrew D Brown, is published by Random House. ISBN 0 7126 8470 0.

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