Robert J. Kohlhepp’s New Book – “Build a Better Organization”

Robert J. Kohlhepp’s new book is Build a Better Organization, and like any good read within the nonfiction subcategory of ‘leadership advice’ is succinct, to-the-point, and a step-by-step walkthrough that never feels overly dense, nor lacking in any necessities related to detail, examples, and analogy. Kohlhepp breaks down his philosophy on what constituted to his success into three, distinct categories: Culture, People, and Leadership. “The first characteristic of great leaders is that they are visionaries,” he writes in this vein. “They know where the organization is headed, or where they want it to go, and they are capable of describing exactly how their team can reach that destination.

They can paint a picture that is both vivid and inspiring yet within reach.” He goes on to elaborate on tenets such as these, expanding accordingly with the rumination: “True leaders never mislead anyone or lie to them. You’ve heard that ‘honesty is the best policy’ — well, I say that ‘honesty is the only policy’… I really believe that you cannot lead people if you don’t care about them—the people you’re leading. A quote from Roberto Clemente, the late baseball player who died helping his countrymen, mirrors my own feelings about true leadership: ‘Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.’”


It’s through this holism, coupled with extensive and personalized examples, statistics, and analogies that Kohlhepp makes Build a Better Organization emotionally engage its targeted audience as much as it does for what it intellectually has to offer. Kohlhepp allows himself to be surprisingly sentimental, never at the expense of retaining a certain mandated, cold professionalism. Like many noted business leaders operating within a postmodernist corporate framework, Kohlhepp’s alleged sentimentality is as much an effective literary tool as it is simply another facet of unpacking the corporate leadership process.

More and more companies are working to engage their employees from a top to bottom ratio, believing in the ideas of unification and shared investment in company goals over exclusionary information reserved for certain echelons and division of labor that enables segregated levels of power, malleability, and responsibility. “Doing the right thing may be at odds with taking the most popular route or course of action, especially when the right thing is uncomfortable or controversial. Of course, more often than not, it’s human nature for people to make decisions based on what’s popular as opposed to what’s right. Frequently, though not always, admittedly, they are two different things,” Kohlhepp writes. “For example, giving direct, honest feedback to people is the right thing to do—the ethical thing—because in providing feedback about their performance, you’re informing your employees about the likelihood of continued employment at your company or their odds of getting that promotion they’ve been eyeing. You’re helping them see the reality of their situation, rather than taking the easy route and saying everything they want to hear, even if it’s not true.”

By making these kinds of precepts the primary focal points of Build a Better Organization, Kohlhepp makes the data analysis visceral, the examples decidedly humanistic, and the potentially dense translucent and clear-cutting. It’s impressive balance, and worth a read.

Nicole Killian

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Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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