Chicago-area coach Pat Sullivan has over the years racked up perhaps at least as many fans as wins in basketball, the sport he successfully coached for more than four decades. And, over those decades, he came to understand what it takes to be a good leader. He’s jotted down those lessons in a slim volume self-published in fall 2013 titled Attitude—The Cornerstone of Leadership.
Sullivan bases his approach to good leadership on attitude, which he also turns into the acronym “ATTITUDE.” The acronym serves as the basis for each chapter of the book and focuses on Attitude, Teamwork, Toughness, Intelligence, Thank You, You, Determination, and Effort. Each chapter ends with a few questions designed to prompt the reader to think about how he or she incorporates the various characteristics discussed.
As one might imagine, Sullivan peppers his leadership guide with anecdotes from the halls of academia and lessons learned on the basketball court. Stories abound about players and colleagues who in one way or another demonstrated one of the characteristics that comprise ATTITUDE. Sullivan also shares some examples of times when players failed to meet the standards of good leadership, contrasting what works and what doesn’t when it comes to leading others.
Readers of this short book will find frequent references to some of the greatest coaches in history, including Vince Lombardi and John Wooden (both of whom are the subject of many a business book themselves). Sullivan also clearly has been influenced by best-selling leadership gurus such as Ken Blanchard, Tom Peters, and Steven Covey, and he shares some of their insight as well, including Blanchard’s oft-repeated quote “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
With that, Attitude—The Cornerstone of Leadership does little to forge new ground in the area of leadership and management. Sports as a metaphor for leadership in business has been done—again and again and again by numerous other authors. As such, the information contained in these pages is interesting if not revelatory. There’s just not a lot of meat to these bones, and what is there has been chewed over so many times by so many other authors that what’s left is rather bland. Indeed, few leaders or readers would argue that attitude isn’t a necessary ingredient when it comes to coaching sports, leading teams, managing departments, or teaching students, whether in business, sports, or academia.
That’s not to say that there is nothing of value here, though. Sullivan’s approach to the subject via his ATTITUDE acronym is easy to remember if not all that original (scores of business books lay their foundations on similar acronyms). In addition, his own upbeat attitude comes through on each page in such a way that some readers may find his words inspirational. It seems that Sullivan writes just as he speaks, and the text is straightforward and honest, free of jargon or business-speak.
That this is such a short book (at only about 24,000 words, the book is barely more than a pamphlet) also makes up at least in part for the fact that there isn’t much new here. Its brevity allows it to serve as a pleasant refresher on the tenets of good leadership. Indeed, the book can easily be read in one sitting.
Attitude—The Cornerstone of Leadership might serve as a quick refresher for leaders in need of inspiration or as an easy primer for, say, new graduates about to embark on their careers. For those readers, however, who are well read on the subject of leadership and management, there may be too little new here to bother.
September 2013, CreateSpace
$9.99, paperback, 107 pages
—Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen