At HDS there is a leadership book club that discusses a new leadership book once per month. A brief list of past titles includes “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell, “Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” by Spencer Johnson and The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness by Stephen R. Covey.
This month the book was You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader: How Anyone, Anywhere, Can Make a Positive Difference by Mark Sanborn. Its a quick read at 102 pages, but with most business / leadership books, implementing or executing all of the ideas or even those you most relate too, takes time. The title pretty much sums up the theme of the book. That there are ways to demonstrate and practice leadership everywhere (not just at work, in fact its most often NOT at work). This is a recurring theme in most leadership books, and I hope its because the theme is true, and not because its an easy way to sells leadership books to those in non-managerial positions. “You don’t need to be a leader” and other books like it stress that Leadership takes many different forms in many different forums and that success is not guaranteed because of where you are on the corporate ladder. Leadership is defined in the book as influence, the ability to provide a vision, communicate it and persuade others to help you make it succeed. It has more to do with your effectiveness and I dare say ‘luck’ (although, there is no ‘luck’; I define luck as those people who work hard to put themselves in wining positions, to be at the right time and place and thus only seem lucky. All their hard work is mostly invisible to outside observers).
Overall I would recommend the book for anyone looking to improve their Leadership IQ as its a minimal investment in time spent reading and instead you can focus your time an efforts on planning and executing, two far more important things, that will require hard work.
In fact it seems that any project be it implementing a new Knowledge Management initiative at a company, improving your skills, learning a new language or other worthwhile activity will require hard work. Which is good news and bad. Bad is that it takes lots and lots of effort. Good in that it is possible even if you don’t have the immediate skills. This article from Fortune talks about the Secret to Greatness.
The article’s summary says it all “The critical reality is that we are not hostage to some naturally granted level of talent. We can make ourselves what we will. Strangely, that idea is not popular. People hate abandoning the notion that they would coast to fame and riches if they found their talent. But that view is tragically constraining, because when they hit life’s inevitable bumps in the road, they conclude that they just aren’t gifted and give up. Maybe we can’t expect most people to achieve greatness. It’s just too demanding. But the striking, liberating news is that greatness isn’t reserved for a preordained few. It is available to you and to everyone.”
So maybe the business improvement books aren’t just selling snake oil to make us feel better. There may be some truth to what they are telling us after-all. Its just that my goals may require a lot more hard work than they (or I) realize. What is it they say, ignorance is bliss?