The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership

Review by Erica S. Whitfield

The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership
by Steve Farber (2004).

In early March, I was selected to be a facilitator for my sorority’s leadership development institute taking place in July and quickly learned that the entire weekend’s theme surrounded Steve Farber’s The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership. As a counselor, I am always excited to gather new approaches to empowering the students with whom I work on a daily basis and to learn and gain new tips of my own. Steve Farber does not just define leadership in his book; he explains how he happened upon it over a week’s time and why he continues to follow this approach to leadership.

As the book progresses, you meet Edg, who adopts Farber as his mentee. The relationship develops over the week as Edg reveals his insights on LEAP-ing. LEAP, in the title, is actually an acronym for Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof. Farber’s theory follows these ideas: Extreme leaders cultivate love. Love generates energy. Energy inspires courageous audacity—the willingness to take purposeful risks that will guide us to a better existence. Extreme leaders must also provide proof that their efforts and their visions are worthwhile. Thus, Farber encourages extreme leaders to take the LEAP.

Farber goes on to describe the essentials in making this theory work. It is, by far, no timid approach to leadership in today’s society. He is speaking with his mentor, Edg, who shares this insight with us:
“The ability to lead doesn’t come from a snappy vocabulary, the books you’ve displayed on your shelves, your place on the organizational chart, or that fashionable title on your business card. Leadership is always substantive and rarely fashionable. It is intensely personal and intrinsically scary, and it requires us to the live the ideas we espouse—in irrefutable ways—every day of our lives, up to and beyond the point of fear.” (p.19)

As times passes and his mentor continues to teach him the workings of becoming an extreme leader, more wisdom emerges.
“Think of it like this: If the only reason you’re avoiding taking on a challenge is because the idea scares you, then that’s the reason to take it on. You have to pursue the [moment], dude. That’s how you know you’re growing as a leader. And the bigger and more important the challenge, the more intense the [moment].” (p.28)

Here Edg is talking about that crucial moment when the realization is made that something uncontrollable has happened and has to be taken care of in order to continue to move forward. As his mentor continues, he elaborates on this point, “A leader’s greatest obligation is to make possible an environment where people can aspire to change the world.” (p.28)

The book continues in this manner, as Farber learns more about the process of becoming the Extreme Leader and why it is so important not only in the corporate world, but in the personal lives of each individual willing to take the LEAP. As a counselor, I found the meaning of this book to hold great significance in the work that I do on a day-to-day basis. In working with students, we have to lead them in making themselves self-sufficient, but also reassure them we are here to help them every step of the way. While we want them to eventually be independent in their career-related searching, we know that they will stop in to ask questions and some may even be more than regular visitors in our office.

Overall, the book discusses positive ways to encourage leadership not only in yourself, but in the students with whom you work and the clubs and organizations you advise. It is an empowering book that takes a short time to read and is very worthy of a brand new highlighter. I recommend this book for anyone needing a jump start on their leadership skills or a fresh vision about LEAPing into the future.

Erica S. Whitfield is the Director of Career Development Services at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA, and a Field Editor for Career Convergence. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with the reviewer at eryielle@yahoo.com.

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