Book Reviews

Building The Bridge As You Walk On It: A Guide For Leading Change                   

Author               Robert E. Quinn
Publisher         Jossey Bass, 2004
ISBN                   0-7879-7112-X
Reviewer          Basil P. Rouskas
                           CEO, NovAspire, Inc.
Stars                 4

Stars ratings:    
1=Don’t bother  
2=Limited value
3=You should read it     
4=You should read it, buy it and revisit it often

What is this book about?

Written by a professor at the Michigan Business School, this book is the sequel to his book Deep Change, also published by Jossey Bass (see our review of Deep Change on this website). In that book Quinn had addressed the need for change of ourselves before we could change the world.  Also he had described the deep personal change as a necessity if we wanted to avoid “slow death”, a condition of gradually losing our energy, our passion and eventually ourselves in a world of reactive complacency.  The sequel book originated from the messages Quinn received from his readers in which they related their own personal change stories.  In it, Quinn integrates these stories powerfully into a new concept of leadership that transcends competency-driven models.

Who should read it?

The purposes of this book, as stated by the author, are:

  • To help people who are assigned to lead change
  • To provide a new language for people who are already engaged in transformation
  • To help individuals to transform themselves and others.

There are three parts to this book. Part I introduces the stories of people who read Deep Change and then made deep change themselves.  Part II describes eight disciplines as the pillars required to build a new concept of leadership.  Part III covers the topic from the angle of education and training—how do we teach people in a classroom to enter the fundamental state of leadership.

As in Deep Change, at the end of each chapter, there are questions for reflection and for connecting the chapter concepts with your life/work situations.

Why should he/she read it?

Because it goes beyond traditional models of what leadership is. It defines leadership as being in a fundamental state, rather than practicing “leadership” competencies.  It integrates the “either / or” approach of competencies (you either have it or you need to develop it) into eight disciplines of navigating two paradoxically connected opposites. 

The book connects  eight key disciplines as preconditions for entering the fundamental state of leadership.  In the fundamental state of leadership one becomes purpose, integrity, other-focused-ness and openness

Additionally, the reader should read it because it challenges with radically fresh questions our ideas about how to develop leadership in others and ourselves.

Finally, there is a very good reference and brief comprehensive description of work by other researchers  (Prochaska, Norcross & DiClemente) into the different stages of change and the tools appropriate for each one of them.

What are the main points?

  • We can change the world only if we change ourselves.  Change in the world needs to come after change in attitudes and perspectives of the change agent.
  • There is a difference between incremental and deep change. Deep change requires change in the way we think and behave, incremental does not.
  • We all have the capacity to change the world if we have the courage to face our own integrity gaps and take step to deeply change our selves
  • There are eight disciplines or creative states that integrate eight polarities, as follows:
    • Responsible freedom (integrates spontaneity & self expression with self-discipline and responsibility)
    • Tough love (integrates compassion & concern with assertiveness / boldness)
    • Reflective action (integrates mindfulness / reflection with action and energy)
    • Authentic engagement (integrates principled / integrated with engaged / involved)
    • Appreciative inquiry (integrates realistic / questioning with optimistic)
    • Grounded vision (integrates factual / grounded with visionary / hopeful)
    • Adaptive confidence (integrates being confident / secure with being adaptive & flexible)
    • Detached interdependence (integrates independence / strength with humility / openness)
  • There are four strategies of approaching change, as a leader:
    • Telling (Logic-driven, focuses on facts & rational explanations)
    • Forcing (Compliance-driven, emphasis on authority and leveraging)
    • Participating (Trust-driven, focuses on relationships & dialogue)
    • Transcending (Vision-driven, focuses on potential & transcending self)
  • The Prochaska, Norcross & DiClemente change model identifies the following stages of change and describes appropriate tools and interventions for each:
    • Precontemplation  (Stage whereby the problem may have not entered our consciousness)
    • Contemplation (Stage where we start thinking about taking action)
    • Preparation (Stage where we are planning to take action within a month or so)
    • Action (Stage when we start engaging in new patterns of behavior)
    • Maintenance (Stage when we consolidate successes and guard against relapses)
    • Termination (Stage when the old behavior is no longer a temptation)