Sunday, November 4, 2012

Learning to let Employees Lead

I was give this book to read by my manager several years ago, and since then I have read a lot of books on team leadership etc. This book was one of the simpler reads.

To summarize this book, the authors take an approach that is akin to the live and learn approach, learn by your mistakes approach, and a generalize by personal experience approach. I wrote in 2006: Belasco and Stayer have written an oddly titled best-selling book in first person based on these principles of leadership. Flight of the buffalo (FOTB ) is a joint venture that dives head first into experiences of running companies, heuristics of leadership, visual analogies, gut feel, earthly common sense and best practices of "leadership". The oddity of the title is explained early in the book.

The book begins with the authors' journeys into leadership and various related concepts & ideas. Amongst others ideas like intellectual capitalism, leadership vision, focus, direction, obstacles (removing them), developing ownership in employees, self-directed action & learning to be the leader (lead goose) are discussed. Every chapter is littered with short stories and a moral. There is an Aesop's Fables like feel to the book. Real-life examples are touching and real, however, if you have read Northouse's LTP previously, you can draw parallels to Belasco and Stayer's experiences. Specific leadership theories presented in LTP can easily experience the wise words the authors present. The book is enjoyable, and almost actionable. Some of the advice is basically common sense best practices in action. The writing style is patterned by "try,try again until you succeed, or decide to do things differently".

The authors introduce interesting words and concepts. I liked the word authors invented to mean the inverse of leadership - "status-quo-ship". Another favorite is the concept of "lead goose" in the "intellectual capitalism era". Good advice is provided on every page of the book, obvious common sense is prescribed often. For example, "Leaders proact, not react" is treated as a chapter, the basic premise is that leaders should prevent problems rather than solve problems. Basic management tenets are also provided for the uninitiated, Deliverable (What will be delivered ?), Measurement (How will we know it is done ?), Date (When will it be done ?), Person Responsible (Who will do it ?). The authors recommend that every employee do a process analysis by asking "what can i stop doing?" - remove obstacles. Expectation setting on staff, customers and oneself is discussed. Henry Kissinger is cited as asking "Is this your best work?". The author(s) push for excellence through action.

I found the authors doing a good job in the area of potential and reaching it. What's the difference between those who reach their potential and those who don't ? Those who do, bring a discipline with them to every task they face. They are willing continuously to challenge themselves. They keep learning how to get better because they do not accept falling short of their potential.

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This book can become suddenly interesting and intensely revealing if you decide to read Northouse's LTP first. It is the perfect anti-dote to analysis by knowledge (knowing too much, but acting too little).