Rosamund is a therapist; Benjamin is an orchestra conductor. They are an extraordinary couple, and this is an extraordinary book. It is full of so much wisdom and inspiration. Chapter 3's 'Giving an A' hearkens back to 'Catch them doing something right.' Chapter 4's 'Being a contribution' reminds us that power of seeking to be of service. Chapter 5's 'Leading from any chair' points to a leader's role and ability to build more leaders. Chapter 12's 'Telling the WE story' reminds us of the importance of language and narrative in relationships and culture.
Slap's central point is that great leaders are the ones who know what REALLY matters to them, shape their lives and organisations around that, share it with their teams and excite/unite those teams behind those values. There is a great exercise in this book for identifying your own core values. He then goes on to map how to bring these into the workplace and into your teams.
Steve Kerr spent time with current and past All Blacks to draw leadership lessons from the most successful national sports team in history. I found the most powerful bits those about character and respect for one's role as a part of something bigger than individuals, but there are more technical points (e.g. the value of adaptability) as well. As soon as I read in the first chapter that the All Blacks - led by their captain - clean their own locker room after every match, I had to read the rest.
I read this as a lieutenant preparing to lead an infantry platoon. It was written by a military leaders for other military leaders. Yet, there is much in it that 'normal' leaders can benefit from. It has several lists - that appeal to certain personality types - of leadership principles and traits. The reader may agree or disagree with each item, but at the least it serves as great food for thought and debate. It is based around the 'skill / will' situational leadership model.
The Tao Te Ching, written 25 centuries ago, give or take, was a leadership book - counseling kings and princes on how to govern themselves AND their kingdoms. John Heider's translation / interpretation is much more accessible than most, which although beautiful poetically, are hard for the western mind to make sense of!
Less than 80 years after the framing of its constitution, the United States of America threatened to come apart at the seams over the issue of slavery and the relative balance of central version local powers. Lincoln became President on a platform of addressing the building crisis, but the nation was not just divided North-South. Huge differences existed across Union (northern) parties and even within his own. Lincoln's humility and willingness to work with his enemies brought the best the United States had to bear on its greatest challenge.
Our response to performance pressures at work is ineffective, actually counter-productive. 'More, bigger, faster' is grinding us down. Schwartz shows that by we and each of our team members have four core needs - physical sustainability, emotional security, mental self-expression and moral significance. We need these four assets, and like any assets, we can't constantly draw from them without investing in them, maintaining them, giving them time to recover. There are cycles or 'pulses' that can't be ignored. 'Always on' is a short-term, immature approach to great performance. He outlines a sustainable approach.
Solving today's problems by extrapolating from what has worked in the past can be dangerous, especially if today's environment differs significantly from yesterday's. Some problems have causes that are too interdependent and tightly tangled to reduce to simple linear solutions. Complex problems require quite different approaches than we homo sapiens are programmed for. We have to ask different questions than those that come naturally, to take multiple perspectives rather than relying on our own and to see systems rather than illusory causes that can be attributed to individuals. We have not only to accept but to encourage small failures so we can learn and iterate to better solutions. We have to help our teams become comfortable with a lack of certainty.
Senge reminds us that no matter how good we are at any moment, the world changes. We have to learn and improve just to keep up. This means that perhaps the most powerful capacity to build in any organisation is the capacity to learn - as individuals and as teams. Five disciplines contribute to this: 1) individual excellence / mastery, 2) understanding how our habits and prejudices influence our decisions, 3) building shared visions to go beyond individual egotism, 4) team learning as a multiplying layer over individual learning and 5) systems thinking - seeing the bigger picture, interactions and feedback loops. This 5th discipline is what is at the heart of voluntary sector Theories of Change.
These authors from Harvard's Graduate School of Education show us how to identify, understand and eliminate barriers to change at a personal and organisational level. They frame four internal (Commitment, Personal Responsibility, Competing Commitments and Assumptions We Hold) and three social (Ongoing Regard, Public Agreement, and Deconstructive Criticism) languages that we can use to build, maintain and upgrade a new 'mental machine' for our own learning. Sounds abstract, but it is actually highly practical.
Tony Hsieh and his colleagues built an online retail powerhouse on twin pillars of uncompromising service to customers and an unbeatable company culture. Less than 10 years after launch, the company had more than $1 billion annual sales and was purchased by Amazon for $1.2 billion. It was also in the top ten places to work in the US. Michelli embedded himself in the company to learn how it ticks, and here he shares principles for great customer service and a fantastic culture.