Two leadership facts:

  1. Leadership sells books; and,
  2. People in leadership and management positions are continually searching for knowledge and help.

This may explain why most books with “leadership” in the title have little to do with leading.

Most of the books you find in business or leadership categories fall into two themes:

  1. How-great-I-am stories, like Jack Welch’s ‘Winning’, regaling the reader of a rise to greatness; Or,
  2. Treatises on psychology, neurology, or old dead guy quotes that seems to be no help to deal with that jerk in accounting.

Read how to deal with a jerk

Why do people fall victim of books promising leadership secrets?

It is a three-step process:

  1. They were good at their old job and got promoted;
  2. But no one prepared them for their new profession as a leader; and,
  3. They are scared to death or they are looking for a quick, simple answer.

I am a voracious reader and love a well-written book, but when writers talk of ‘interconnection’, the ‘beauty of all life’ or the ‘joys of meditation’, they are not talking about practical leadership advice for someone dealing with a crisis within their company.

A crisis with common symptoms: Lack of a unifying and inspiring direction, employees who feel they don’t know what’s going on, and a lack of a leadership culture. None of which can be fixed with Deepak Chopra counselling that “…great leaders are those who can respond to their own needs and the needs of others from the higher levels of spirit with vision, creativity, and a sense of unity with the people they lead…”

This is not helpful or practical.

Leadership is not a new field. It is based on eon’s worth of a tested of knowledge in the same way that medicine does. If Caesar, Napoleon and Shackleton managed without reading Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership Model you can too.

Read more on Servant Leadership

I’m, not saying that is all bunk; I love Galdwell’s prose, Synek’s perspective, Greenleaf’s articulation and Ghandi’s philosophy and have great respect for all of them.

But if you are looking for a leadership book, be smart and read the writer’s bio …

  • If he spent life in a monastery, read books on religion.
  • If she writes on relationships, it may not be a leadership book.
  • If it highlights attendees of the writer’s seminars, it may not reveal leadership insights.

You may quite well be holding the wrong book.

Take care in choosing the people from whom you get help from in building your leadership capability. Look for specific actions that are based both in scholarship and experience.

Avoid solutions that are built on systems, processes, meditation or changing your inner you.


What practical leadership advice or answers are you looking for?

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