Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Journey of Not Knowing

The Journey of Not Knowing by Julie Benezet focuses on a critical characteristic of effective leaders, the ability to deal with ambiguity. This is an aspect of leading that has not been given enough attention. Benezet draws from her own experiences as a former executive at Amazon. The book begins with Benezet sharing her own perspectives on leadership. She outlines the unknowns—internal and external—that leaders need to confront. The middle portion of the volume is a fable about a pivotal day in the work lives of executives in a fictional company. The story is absorbing, though it is easy to lose focus on the points the story is attempting to illustrate. Benezet does provide introductory notes to sections of the story to help the reader keep attention on the lessons being illustrated. In the last section of the book she provides a helpful summary of what is to be gleaned from the story. She also provides useful charts that condense the information. The book provides a readable introduction to the subject of dealing with the unknown. The book’s main weakness is a lack of depth. Nonetheless, Benezet does an important service in making would-be leaders aware of the need to develop an ability to navigate the unknown.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Draw to Win

Leaders interested in more effectively communicating will want to read Draw to Win by Dan Roam. Using clear, straightforward language and lots of simple drawings, Roam provides easy to follow instructions on how to illustrate your thoughts. This is not a book about art; it is about thinking and communicating that thinking to others. Can’t draw? Roam will prove you wrong. He even includes instructions on how to draw the ideal stick figure. But Roam provides more than drawing lessons. He shares practical models on how to lead, sell, and innovate. This is an enjoyable and informative read that will prove useful for those wanting to improve how to share ideas in their personal and professional roles.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Start With Why

The concepts, and even the model, that Simon Sinek shares in his book Start with Why are not new. Nonetheless, he has written an inspiring book. The reason Sinek inspires is because he integrates those concepts and clarifies their WHY—the purpose those concepts serve. Sinek effectively explains the source of inspiration at the individual and organizational levels and how to tap into that source for ourselves and those we would lead. Sinek provides practical advice as to how to inspire self and others. Anyone aspiring to lead will find this book a worthwhile read.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Christian Leader

The Christian Leader by Bill Hull explains how Christians are to lead. This book is aimed at all Christians, not just those in formal church leadership roles. Hull believes all Christians are called to lead others to Christ. But this is not a book about discipleship, not directly. Hull challenges the appropriateness of secular leadership models for Christians who would lead in any sector of society. Hull holds up Jesus as the model leader and outlines in the book the leadership lessons Jesus teaches us. For Hull, being a leader is about character. To be a Christian leader means to allow ourselves to be shaped and led by God. Hull’s description of the Christian leader goes contrary to the usual secular model of a leader. Hull identifies as an evangelist but has little patience for the holier-than-thou variety. But Hull’s strong Christian language leaves no doubt about his faith commitment to Jesus Christ. There are lessons to be learned about authentic leadership from the book even for those who do not share Hull’s faith perspective. It may be difficult, though, for such readers to get past the Christian language to glean the universal lessons for leaders. But Hull is clearly writing for Christians and based on that premise, he has written a useful book for those who would lead following Jesus Christ as their model.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

That's Not How We Do It Here!

The latest book from John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber entitled That's Not How We Do It Here! is a quick, inspiring, entertaining read. Written as a fable about a clan of meerkats, the book addresses how entrepreneurial startups and mature organizations alike can thrive in an ever-changing business environment. The story highlights such issues as dealing with change, handling increasing organizational complexities that come with growth, fostering teamwork across departmental silos, encouraging innovation, and becoming a learning organization. The key lesson of the book is the difference between leading and managing and the need for both if an organization is to thrive. There is a short section at the end of the book that outlines the concepts illustrated in the fable. This is not a how-to book, however. Readers will need to refer to Kotter’s more detailed works for guidance on how to implement the approach described in this book’s storyline. The value of this book is as a tool to introduce readers to the need to consider the premises introduced through the fable. Having managers at all levels read this book and discuss as a group can initiate stimulating conversations, innovative ideas, and a desire to act.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

The Mindfulness Edge

The Mindfulness Edge by Matt Tenney and Tim Gard is a practical guide for mindfulness self-training. The authors show how to develop greater self-awareness without having to carve out time from a busy schedule to add mindfulness exercises. The authors explain how mindfulness can be developed as you go about your normal day. Interspersed throughout the book and separated from the main text are notes explaining the neuroscience of mindfulness training. Clear instructions are given for mindfulness practices for beginners to advanced-level practitioners. The authors explain how mindfulness improves leadership and personal excellence. This is the book for those wanting to understand the importance of mindfulness to personal and professional effectiveness and how to cultivate increased awareness of self, others, and one’s surroundings without complicated exercises. The authors admit that their approach is simple but not necessarily easy. But for those who truly want to increase mindfulness, The Mindfulness Edge provides a realistic process for achieving that goal.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Discover Your True North

A former CEO and now a Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School, Bill George explains in his latest book Discover Your True North what it means to be an authentic leader and how to develop into being one. George explains what you have to consider and do to be a values-led leader and the pitfalls to navigate around so as to avoid the shadow side of leading. The bulk of the book consists of stories of leaders used to illustrate George’s points and lessons. The vast majority of leaders highlighted are from business, but George’s lessons are relevant to those who would lead in any field. This is a useful book for those who are striving to grow into a leader for the 21st century.