Book Review: ‘Leaderboard: The DNA of High Performance Teams’ by Omar L. Harris

Leadership is an art, a discipline, and a skill well worth studying. And if you love books by leadership gurus such as Stephen Covey or Patrick Lencioni, you’ll love ‘Leaderboard: The DNA of High Performance Teamsby Omar L. Harris. This handy book makes a compelling argument for rethinking how we hire our talent and lead our teams. A team is only as good as its manager — and this book shows managers how to completely transform their own ability to hire, lead and engage their teams.

Harris’s enthusiasm for his subject is palpable, and he’s certainly an expert. As an executive as well as a leadership coach, he combines his own experience in what works with modern leadership theories. Entrepreneurial by nature, Harris dove into the pharma industry as a rising star and quickly worked his way up the ranks. He clearly finds the corporate milieu, with its challenges and fast pace, a pleasure. He’s lived and worked from Turkey to Brazil to Indonesia, for firms such as Schering-Plough, Pfizer, and now, Allergen. His approach to leadership crosses cultures and geographies, which is vital to today’s global economy.

The book is filled with utility. Harris has gathered a trove of the best advice from leadership gurus, and turned them into applicable tools. But he doesn’t just repeat these theories, he builds on them — showing specifically the how and why of their effectiveness. The psychologist Bruce Tuckman’s classic model of team growth — forming, storming, norming and performing — figures broadly: Harris illuminates how the progression contributes to organizational success.

He also debunks some of the theories we’ve all come agrees, including the edict to hire star talent. Instead of A players we need A teams, Harris asserts, and lays out a step by step strategy to building them. He’s a big proponent of turning an interview in a kind of audition, packed with questions designed to reveal the strengths as well as weaknesses of prospects. There’s a pragmatic, common-sense logic behind his approach: many a book on leading great teams glosses over one essential requirement — you can’t have great teams if you don’t know how to hire great team players. Leaderboard fills that gap.

The book isn’t just a series of charts or tables, though there are plenty of these. It’s also the chronicle of a fictional executive, Sam Lombardi, who’s about to launch a fast-paced campaign in his firm and needs everyone on board. Like many in high-pressure, high stakes managerial roles, Lombardi has to think of his feet as he tackles disengaged team members, recalcitrant colleagues, and endless challenges. Harris keeps the decision-making process transparent, and we see team building happening in real time. It’s a refreshing format that injects some old-fashioned storytelling into the read.

Harris’ Leaderboard will help any leader, manager recruiter, people manager or HR pro revitalize their approach to leading and hiring. The book offers actionable steps, well-explained, useful theories, energetic language — Harris has fun creating his own terms, such as “INNERviewing” each team member — and a relatable story. For anyone concerned with organizational culture, with engagement, with talent that fits, and with sparking better performance than ever before, this title should be on the shelf. 

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