Book Review - The Leadership Contract

The Fine Print to Becoming an Accountable Leader

They easily push every instruction received from the higher-ups without understanding it properly and people down the line also accept such decisions in fear of punishment. There are leaders who do not understand that their role is to successfully deliver and not simply counting the working hours. There are leaders, who become arrogant after assuming power and fail to get team support. This drags themselves out of the confidence of the team members.

There are leaders, who can not gel with other leaders within the organisation sometimes due to sheer arrogance and show of supremacy or sometimes in fear of being exposed as a weak leader. The English / French proverb 'nothing succeeds like success’ may no longer be true as once success is tasted, the expectation increases from the people around and even the smallest of mistakes comes into prominence.

Under this premise that leadership position is not an award, rather a responsibility, this book titled ‘THE LEADERSHIP CONTRACT’ is a very well structured, lucidly presented book appropriate for leaders at all levels.

The author Dr Vinci Molinaro (, a scholar in Leadership teaching has truly pointed out that Leadership is not a position, rather it is a responsibility and this truth is not understood or acknowledged by many leaders or aspiring leaders for different reasons like,

  • Accept a leadership position without thoroughly understanding the role.
  • Believe that the position is a gift for long experience or success in one area of activity .
  • Misunderstanding accountability with autocracy and distancing from the team.
  • Remain soft and indecisive at the time of challenges and do not take tough decisions.
  • Not recognising the bigger responsibilities towards environment and society.

This book titled “The Leadership Contract” is an excellent book to develop an understanding of the significance of being a leader. It is also presented in such a way that a leader/ aspiring leader can consider it as a very useful learning material with self check questions.


This book is structured around eleven chapters, each having a definitive theme ending with a few questions for self assessment.

  • Chapter 1: My Personal Leadership Story
  • Chapter 2: What’s Wrong with Leadership Today?
  • Chapter 3: Why We Need a Leadership Contract?
  • Chapter 4: Leadership Is a Decision—Make It
  • Chapter 5: Leadership Is an Obligation—Step Up
  • Chapter 6: Leadership Is Hard Work—Get Tough
  • Chapter 7: Leadership Is a Community—Connect
  • Chapter 8: Signing the Leadership Contract
  • Chapter 9: The Turning Points of Leadership
  • Chapter 10: Living the Leadership Contract
  • Chapter 11: Embedding the Leadership Contract in Your Organization.

My Personal Leadership Story

In this warm-up chapter the writer has introduced the concept of leadership through an analysis of personal behaviour and what the reader has observed leadership experiences through personal experience. At the end, the writer has asked questions which are recorded as they are in the writer’s words.

  • What is your personal leadership story?
  • What critical leadership experiences have shaped you as a leader?
  • With whom can you share your personal leadership story with?
  • How might you help a fellow leader better understand his or her own personal leadership story?

What’s Wrong with Leadership Today?

The writer has introduced some interesting facts about the actual condition of leadership today. There are leaders, who do not take any decision on their own and mostly rest decisions on their fate or depend on direction from a senior leader. Many leaders are disconnected from the team.

The Gut Check questions in writer’s language are,

  • What has been your experience with empty chair leadership?
  • Think of your current leadership role and reflect on whether you have settled as a leader.
  • In what ways do you feel disconnected? Why?
  • What has been your experience with disgraceful leadership?
  • Would your employees say that they give you their full discretionary effort?
  • Are your expectations for leadership high enough for yourself and others?

Why We Need a Leadership Contract?

In this chapter the writer brings in four fundamental aspects of leadership that can be considered as fundamental foundation blocks. These fundamental aspects are directive in nature.

  • Leadership is a decision - MAKE IT
  • Leadership is an obligation - STEP UP
  • Leadership is hard work - GET TOUGH
  • Leadership is a community - CONNECT

The Gut Check questions in writer’s language are,

  • Did you ever consciously decide to be a leader?
  • Do you lead every day with a sense of clarity regarding your obligations?
  • What is the hard work you face? Do you have a tendency to tackle it head-on or do you avoid it?
  • Do you strive to build a sense of community with your fellow leaders?

Leadership Is a Decision—Make It

The concept is that to be or not to be a leader is a decision. If a leadership position is received and accepted, then the purpose of being a leader is defeated. Once someone decides to be a leader fully knowing what the role requires, he will be able to take decisions, sometimes tough decisions to make things moving.
The Gut Check questions in writer’s language are,

  • Can you think of a time when you jumped into a leadership opportunity without really appreciating what you were getting into?
  • What are the major complexities and pressures of your role? Who is legitimately scrutinizing you?
  • When have you been in a situation that forced you to make the Big D leadership decision?
  • Think about the small d leadership decisions you find yourself confronted with. What guides you when making these small d decisions?

Leadership Is an Obligation—Step Up

The writer eloquently points out that leadership is not an award, rather it is an obligation. It defines 5 core obligations of Leadership which are obligations to,

  • Self: It is important for a leader to complete obligations towards self and family. If personal health and happiness is sacrificed, the leader may not be able to continue for long.
  • Customers: There is a greater responsibility towards customers, who help in the survival of an organisation. Hence, a leader must think from the eyes of a customer for efficient decision making.
  • Organization: As a leader, his responsibility towards his organisation is to steer it through the tumultuous market environment and generate much needed profit and cash.
  • Employees: Employees constitute the most important aspect in an organisation & as a leader, he would have unbiased views about each employee. He is also responsible for eliminating non-performance of poor performance.
  • Communities: Above all, there is a responsibility towards communities including Environment within which communities exist. A leader has to be sensitive towards these aspects.

The Gut Check questions in writer’s language are,

  • What do you define as your primary obligation as a leader? To what extent do you lead every day with this obligation front and center in your mind?
  • Consider the five core obligations of leadership described in this chapter. What insights did you gain regarding your obligation to:
  • Yourself as a leader?
  • Your customers?
  • Your organization?
  • Your employees?
  • The communities in which your organization does business?
  • What actions will you take to live up to your core obligations as a leader?

Leadership Is Hard Work—Get Tough

Leadership requires delivering the highest level of performance in different areas like, financial results, team performance, management commitments, reputation etc., - many times with conflicting priorities. All these require hard work to the core and most of the time communication of performance management is crucial.
A leader who avoids working hard or taking hard decisions is identified as a weak leader. The writer also conveys ten ways making hard work harder, which is obviously undesirable. Such scenarios are,

  • 1. Getting in over your head
  • 2. Confusing Rough with Tough
  • 3. Mistaking efforts for results
  • 4. Feeling like the victim
  • 5. Being Insecure
  • 6. Needing Good News
  • 7. Winning at all costs
  • 8. Waiting for Permission
  • 9. Being Driven by Distraction
  • 10. Losing Perspective

In our working leadership experience we can identify many people with several of the above conditions. Any such inappropriate work culture affects performance and three ways to get through are identified as, “Shift Your Views”, “Build Resilience” and “Develop Resolve”.

The Gut Check questions in writer’s language are,

  • What is the hard work of leadership that you must tackle in your role? What hard work are you avoiding? Why are you avoiding it?
  • In what ways might you make the hard work harder for yourself?
  • What is your mind-set regarding the hard work of leadership? Do you see it all in a positive way or negative way?
  • How might you be able to strengthen your resilience and personal resolve?

Leadership Is a Community—Connect

This is an interesting narration for performance improvement for leaders through “Connect” mode, i.e., learning from others mistakes/ learnings and working on collective decision making. The idea should be in promoting a selfless culture in the leadership charter and absorb the best practices under a specific condition through collective decisions.
The writer has also rightly pointed out that, ‘The Community of Leaders’ is a real missed opportunity in many organisations.

The writer has also expressed the strong statement like, ‘Rotting of Zombies’ - directly referring to a team of leaders who degrade their position to that of followers and mindlessly accept every decision conveyed to them.

The Gut Check questions in writer’s language are

  • Think of times in your career when you may have worked in organizations with cultures described as a rotting of zombies, a league of heroes, or a stable of thoroughbreds. What was the impact on you?
  • Have you experienced a genuine community of leaders? What was the impact on you?
  • How will you build a community of leaders within your organization?

Signing the Leadership Contract

This is a recap for the leaders/ aspiring leaders on the four mission statements mentioned in this book. It suggests a solemn acceptance of the contractual terms. The statements the writer’s words are:

Leadership Is a Decision—Make It:
  • I understand that leadership is a decision, and by signing below, I decide to be a leader. This means that I will be aware of when I need to make Big D leadership decisions. I will also bring this clarity to my role each and every day as I make effective small d leadership decisions.
Leadership Is an Obligation—Step Up
  • I understand that I am obligated to be the best leader I can be. I have an obligation to my customers, my employees, my organization, and the communities in which we do business. I will lead in an ethical manner. I will live up to the position of responsibility that my organization has given me.
Leadership Is Hard Work—Get Tough
  • o I understand that as a leader there is hard work that I must do to make my organization successful. I also understand that if I avoid the hard work, I will make myself, my team, and my organization weaker. I commit to not being a bystander or a spectator. Instead, I will demonstrate resilience and personal resolve to tackle the hard work.
Leadership Is a Community—Connect
  • I will work to create a strong community of leaders in my organization. I will aspire to great leadership in myself and encourage it in others. I will set the tone for other leaders. I will strive to be the leader that others want to emulate. I will build relationships based on trust, respect, and mutual support. I will work to drive greater clarity and commitment among our leaders so that we can effectively execute our strategy and help make our organization successful.

The Gut Check questions in writer’s language are,

  • How do you feel now that you have signed the leadership contract?
  • How do you feel if you were not able to sign the leadership contract?
  • Has anything changed in how you view yourself?

The Turning Points of Leadership

The writer has defined four stages in leadership roles, defined in the order of hierarchy are,

  • Emerging Leader
  • Frontline Leader
  • Medieval or Senior Leader
  • Executive leader

The Emerging Leadership position is the starting of the leadership journey and every step forward is a turning point with increased responsibilities.

,/br> The Gut Check questions in writer’s language are,
  • What does the leadership contract mean to you? What new insights did you gain about your leadership role?
  • What specific areas must you pay attention to now as a leader?
  • What clarity did you gain about how to apply the four terms of the leadership contract to your role?
  • In what ways has this clarity affected your commitment to be a truly accountable leader?

Living the Leadership Contract

Now that someone assumes a leadership role, the challenges become many, from managing internal and external is a challenging job. It is important under this condition that a leader always remembers the four points of leadership.
The Gut Check for Leaders Contract are,

  • How does understanding your personal leadership story help you become a more accountable leader?
  • How does having clarity regarding your value and desired impact help you become a more accountable leader?
  • How will having tough conversations make you a more accountable leader?
  • In what ways will you be a community builder within your organization?

Embedding the Leadership Contract in Your Organization

The writer points out guidance notes on embedding the four guiding principles within the organizational setup.

The Gut Check for Leaders are,

  • To what extent has your organization made leadership accountability a business priority?
  • How can you do a better job of setting clear leadership expectations for your leaders?
  • In what ways do you need to get tough on the tough stuff?
  • How can your organization foster the ability of leaders to connect with one another?