The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership

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:

  • Never make a decision today that can reasonably be put off to tomorrow.
  • Think gray. Don't form opinions if you don't have to.
  • Think free. Move several steps beyond traditional brainstorming.
  • Listen first, talk later. And when you listen, do so artfully.
  • Shoot your own horse. Don’t force others to do your dirty work.
  • The best leaders don't keep up with the popular media and the trades.
  • Know what hill you are willing to die on—and keep its exact location to yourself.
  • Know the all–important difference between being leader and doing leader.
  • You can’t copy your way to the top.
The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership is available at bookstores nationwide, and may be ordered through the USC Pertusati Bookstore at 1–800-447–8620 or online at

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Read an excerpt from The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership