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Organizational harmony and strategic alignment aren't enough to drive success.

Until now, management wisdom would have you believe that the single most important thing leaders have to get right is alignment. To accomplish anything, employees must agree about the mission, strategy, and goals of an organization. Aligned employees are happy employees, and happy employees are productive employees. Simple, right?

Well, in a word, no. Counter to conventional wisdom, the dirty little secret of leadership—what they don't tell you in business school—is that a leader's time is not always best spent trying to help his or her teams make nice and get along. In contrast, the authors' groundbreaking research shows that fostering productive dissent is essential for achieving peak efficiency—what Joni and Beyer call "right fights."

Right fights need to be well designed and subject to certain rules to be effective. Alignment cannot be ignored; without it, organizations can be plagued with bitter, energy-draining wrong fights. But a certain amount of healthy struggle is good for organizations. Right fights unleash the creative, productive potential of teams, organizations, and communities.

The Right Fight turns management thinking on its head and shows why leaders—in the fast-moving, hyper-competitive marketplaces of the twenty-first century—need to foster alignment and orchestrate thoughtful controversy in their organizations to get the best results. Drawing from examples as diverse as Unilever, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Dell, the Clinton administration, and the Katy Independent School System, here is your playbook for picking the right battles and fighting the right fights well.

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