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Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

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10:54p
I sometimes wonder ...
To whom are these various "leadership" books marketed? I suppose that by results (i.e., I've bought and read a few), that would be me, but I somehow suspect that this isn't exactly the case. The main reason that I've been picking these up is that, after working alone for 13 years (plus another 2 with just The Wife), I find myself in a situation where I'm actually faced with managing people, and feel a bit rusty on that level.

The question kept coming to mind while reading J. Donald Walters' The Art of Leadership: A Practical Guide for People in Positions of Responsibility, as, on one level at least, this tends to be something of the equivalent of a diet book that did nothing but patiently explain that to "eat less and exercise more" was going to get you to your weight loss goals ... no great revelations, but setting out the common sense realities of dealing with a leadership role.

Now, I made VP within a year of graduating college, so I've pretty much always been an executive, and perhaps my perspective is different from somebody who, say, worked their way up to be an assistant manager at a McDonalds and suddenly found themselves dealing with an unfamiliar dynamic with those around them ... are those folks the target of these books? Somehow the tone of the material does not seem to be on that level, but for more advanced roles, this seems to be a bit akin to the slave whose function (according to Tertullian) was to whisper to victorious generals in Rome, while in the midst of the Triumph parade: "Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento!" ("Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man!") or some such.

This is a very brief book, covering a dozen topics (ranging from checking one's ego, to being flexible, lending support, etc.), which, as noted, are pretty much "common sense" based. The most unique part of this is the "encapsulation" that follows each chapter with a numbered list of the main points (4-9, depending on the section). It struck me that these would make handy index cards to have at hand for those times when one was feeling like one was going to be acting, uh, "counterproductively" in a management situation!

As I've mentioned previously, I've never been much of a reader of "business books" until just the past couple of years, so my "ear" is perhaps not the best for what is good writing or not, but I found this very easy going, without any undue "playing office" obfuscationism, so found it much more of an interesting read than something by somebody trying to prove that they paid real close attention in their MBA classes!

I'm not sure if The Art of Leadership still in print (Amazon just has it listed via the new/used vendors, but bn.com has it at it's whopping cover price of $6.95), but you can get a "like new" copy for as little as 15¢ (plus shipping, of course). Again, despite my caveats, it's a good book, with solid advice if you're looking for coaching in the "Leadership" area, so pick it up if it's something that would be on your radar!


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