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The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership

The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, by Steven B. Sample, was released in October 2001 as the lead book of the fall season for John Wiley & Sons’ Jossey-Bass division. The author’s royalties from this highly anticipated book—which has received lavish praise from major government, business, and academic leaders—will fund scholarships for USC undergraduate students.

A contrarian leader, as defined by Sample, is one who sees situations from his own unique point of view and who finds genuinely new solutions to the challenges facing his organization. The Contrarian’s Guide is a distillation of Sample’s decades as a university president, director of corporate boards, civic leader, inventor, and professor. In this book Sample explodes many romanticized views of leadership and presents profound leadership lessons that combine a masterful survey of history with rich insights from personal experience.

Sample uses USC’s explosive recent growth as a case study in contrarian leadership, noting how bold and unconventional choices helped USC become a world leader in the fields of communication and multimedia technologies, earn national recognition for its innovative community partnerships, and solidify its status as one of the nation’s leading research universities.

Among his counterintuitive lessons:

Praise for The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership

“This is among the rarest of contemporary leadership books: a rigorously honest one that is both brutally unsentimental and firmly grounded morally. . . . What Sample has to say is so fresh, yet paradoxically so timeless, so at?an?angle to contemporary wisdom, that this book will instantly be recognized as an invaluable addition to the literature on leadership.”
— Warren Bennis, from the Foreword to “The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership”

“Professor Sample’s contrarian text for effective management would be a valuable guide for anyone in a position of leadership, but never more so than at present. Unfamiliar problems will require creative new ways of addressing them, new insights into solutions. His book is both interesting and readable, yet profoundly wise in its understanding of the essence of leadership.”
— Henry A. Kissinger, Former United States Secretary of State

“Every leader or anyone who hopes to be one should read what Steven Sample says about leadership. No one could possibly say it better than he has in The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership. This gem of focused wisdom is presented with such amazing originality, clarity and artful eloquence that it often holds the reader spellbound. It is sure to become the classic leadership text.”
— Simon Ramo, co-founder, TRW Inc.

“This is an intoxicating read, a bushwhacker’s delight. With swift, sure strokes, Steve Sample cuts down a lot of bad ideas about leadership and opens up a new path for the next generation to follow. No wonder he has turned around not one but two major universities!”
— David Gergen, noted commentator, bestselling author, and adviser to four United States presidents

The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership is a unique guide to effective management because it’s written by someone who practices what he preaches. Steven Sample isn’t someone who just writes about leadership; he leads. As a result, he offers us fascinating reading, illuminating a way that others may follow.”
— Michael Eisner, chairman and chief executive officer, The Walt Disney Company

“Real thought and leadership run everywhere in this distillation from Steve Sample’s rich experience as a leader. He writes easily and well, but the points he makes run deep and help you reflect on your own experience. Read this book at your own risk: you just might learn something startling.”
— George P. Shultz, former United States Secretary of State

“I loved this book attributing the huge recent gains at USC to a learnable, determined rationality that especially values correct decisions that are contrary to conventional wisdom.”
— Charles Munger, vice chairman, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

“This splendid work, unlike other recent textbooks and cookbooks on leadership, explores the issues and values that are the essential foundation of leadership. Enlivened with practical examples and enriched by personal experience, this is a book of major stature and enduring significance.”
— Frank Rhodes, president emeritus, Cornell University

“In this era of hype and simplistic how?to lists, Steven Sample’s refreshing book stands out for its depth and unusual personal insight. Lessons from great leaders of history blend with his experience as university president to illustrate the many roles leaders play, from artful listener to entertaining storyteller, as they struggle with circumstances en route to significant accomplishments. Reading this provocative book will help all leaders better understand themselves and their choices.”
— Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Arbuckle Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, and bestselling author of “Evolve: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow”

“Steven Sample goes well beyond conventional wisdom about the art of leadership and brings a totally new dimension to the rich body of literature on the topic, dotting this lively narrative with pearls of wisdom and insight based on his wealth of experience. What emerges is a stimulating and provocative 21st?century vision for how leadership can be taught, learned and practiced.”
— Dr. Ray Irani, chairman and chief executive officer, Occidental Petroleum Corporation

The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership is not only a helpful guide to effective leadership, it is a thoughtful guide to successful living. One main point that comes through is that ‘big time’ leadership is only possible after answering tough and probing questions about one’s own skills and values. In this, there are no failsafe equations for leadership. For a big time leader, character carries the day.”
— Dianne Feinstein, United States Senator