Let me address that first. Original sub-title of book is “Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” but I have changed it to “Overcoming the Ignored Forces That Stand in the Way of True Leadership“. There are two changes that I have made to this sub-title. First one, the author thinks he is talking about Unseen Forces but I would say most of these are not unseen rather Ignored Forces. We are aware about most of these hurdles in leadership but somehow we overlook or ignore those. Second is, the title says these are in way of true inspiration, but I have changed it to True Leadership. Author might have thought that he is writing for benefit for someone in creative industry but he has actually helped anyone who wants to be a true leader.
Like I do with most of my book reviews, I would start with what I like about book and then leave you with some of my favorite parts of book, because there is no better person to talk about book than author himself.
I picked up this book because I saw this being recommended by lot of business leaders throughout media. Another reason for picking this book was title of this book which was on Creativity, one of my favorite subject. But this book is more about Leadership than Creativity itself and it also talks about how leadership in creative environment can play important role, another favorite topic of mine.
The book is a great resource for anyone who wants to be a great leader and is ready to change for that purpose. If you read this book with an open mind to change, you will gain a lot.
One central ?theme about this book which I have liked about some of other books as well is that Leadership is about People and Not Leader himself. Although this doesn’t say it specifically but focuses on this part.
It talks specifically about Hierarchy and how it can become biggest enemy of leaders and management if not dealt with properly. Hierarchy can block communication and thus taking an organization away from reality of its people. To quote the author:
Here’s what turns a successful hierarchy into one that impedes progress: when too many people begin, subconsciously, to equate their own value and that of others with where they fall in the pecking order. Thus, they focus their energies on managing upward while treating people beneath them on the organizational chart poorly. The people I have seen do this seem to be acting on animal instinct, unaware of what they are doing. This problem is not caused by hierarchy itself but by individual or cultural delusions associated with hierarchy, chiefly those that assign personal worth based on rank. By not thinking about how and why we value people, we can fall into trap almost by default.
Another central theme of this book is about Mistake and how we take those. The book emphasizes that organizations focus too much on avoiding mistakes and that proves to be wrong as culture. No one wants to have mistakes but other truth is that mistakes are inevitable part of process. You can’t avoid them, if you try that too much, you create a culture where people don’t take risks. To quote the book itself:
The oversight group had been put in place without anyone asking a fundamental question: How do we enable our people to solve problems? Instead, they asked: How do we prevent our people from screwing up? That approach never encourages a creative response. My rule of thumb is that any time we impose limits or procedures, we should ask how they will aid in enabling people to respond creatively. If the answer is that they won’t, then the proposals are ill suited to task ?at hand.
At one more place, book describes it beautifully:
The desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal – it leads to measuring people by the mistakes they make rather than by their ability to solve problems.
Another thing which is emphasized in this book is importance of Honesty which author chooses to replace with Candor. The author has emphasized how Candor is essential to any organization. If people fear to say truth, management will never know what are real problems till these hit hard. Book also talks about what are roadblocks to Candor and how to tackle those. The pieces on Braintrust or Notes day are real life examples for any leader who wants to bring it into organizational culture. Some of the parts from book which emphasize this are:
If there is more truth in the hallways than in meetings, you have a problem.
Candor isn’t cruel. It does not destroy. On the contrary, any successful feedback system is built on empathy, on the idea that we are all in this together, that we understand your pain because we’ve experienced it ourselves. The need to stroke one’s own ego, to get the credit we feel we deserve – we strive to check those impulses at door.
Here are some more parts of book which I liked:
The future is not a destination – it is a direction. It is our job, then, to work each day to chart the right course and make corrections when, inevitably, we stray.
What is the point of hiring smart people, we asked, if you don’t empower them to fix what’s broken?
and here is one that is helpful for personal growth even if you don’t aim to be leader.
When this happens, it’s usually because I feel like the world is crashing down and all is lost. One trick I’ve learned is to force myself to make a list of what’s actually wrong. Usually, soon into making the list, I find I can group most of the issues into two or three larger all-encompassing problems. So it’s really not all that bad. Having a finite list of problems is much better than having an illogical feeling that everything is wrong.
I would strongly recommend you to read this book. If you are one who likes to read small books, don’t worry this is multiple books in one, go for it, you will not regret your time. And don’t forget to read it with open mind to change.