Rogue Scholar: Leading by Book

The business world is an interesting place littered with the mediocre on top looking down upon people in the trenches insert Atlas reference here. Every once in awhile like lemmings one grand pooba hears about a book adorned with power words such as Maximize, Innovate, Synergy, and the whole lot eat it up as gospel. Of course they would, and they would be true to the paradigm of taking the easy way, seeing as time is of the essence in the busy busy world. One must constantly have to strive to do more with less. So in a place where anything other than can do, yes sir, great idea, and superfluous positivity will get you career suicide, you instead get a regime laden with an entire litany of cognitive biases (herding, confirmation, self-serving, ingroup, etc.).

As Eddie Griffin once posited on the issue of self-esteem, and the stampede to purchase books on them, “since when have we forgotten the self part?” He also said Jesus was a black man. If you’ve never heard of Eddie then I feel for you. The “take-away” here is we have all we need within, we only need look into ourselves to find the strength to raise esteems and shatter obstacles. So like self-esteem, in the business centric self-help category why reach out for tiny leaflets laden with top tens in order to circumvent using the tools within and even around in your staff to help forge true skills. Sometimes just the employ of vagaries in perception can change the self, allowing access to skills you never knew you had. Take each day as if you’re visiting, keep yourself in the present tense, take stock in your intuition, and always listen to hear. However before waxin philosophic, I will simply save that topic for another treatise, today it’s about the few lemon wedges I’ve sucked on in the past which I like the call the corporate world.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this is in no way a generalization, I’m sure there are plenty of the corporate ilk out there doing things right. However I see a burgeoning trend built upon convenience, self-service, and shortsightedness. Anywho, back to the point of glamming on to leadership and teamwork books, or shall I say skimmies cause in this busy world who has time to read right, we skim. The folks at the top love the books to be the shorter the better. Slather in a nice concise number or rules, commandments, or steps in the title and it’s best selling gold. Does credibility in the author matter? Indubitably not, it’s about how many have heard of the author, the book, or if there’s a catchy catchphrase. Ooh hopefully one that rhymes (search on rhyme as reason effect).
Who indeed has time to learn or commit a thought exercise to the foundations or precepts of leadership, one must “keep on keepin on”, in order to stay ahead. Now perhaps I have a bias and in all fairness I shall declare it now. I learned about leadership, teamwork, and every trait or colloquial in between from putting in a KFC bucket sized amount of time in watching the Twilight Zone as a child, military service, listening to people that actually say things, and a dash of studying human behavior. Make mistakes, look at the good and the bad, listen more to those who you think don’t matter, learn from history, and splash in some knowledge, a pinch of conscious, and you have what you need to know between right and wrong, self-reliance and codependency, leadership and management. It’s a touch of what I’ve done which seems to work for me. I also found that I had no need to be motivated to do something, why waste the energy trying to rev up like a delorean, yugo, ford festiva, model T, when I could simply do something or not do it. Same can be said of procrastination or many ‘debilitating’ moods. It’s like pacing yourself out for a long event on the slow and steady, hoping that you have conserved enough in the tank for the last bit. Works great for a distance race but how does it fare against life. I rather “go out and leave it on the field”, knowing I did all I could, and if I get a tomorrow well we’ll run it again see how far we get (Find your equilibrium). So when I see a pamphlet sized recipe for being a good leader, person, team member, or what have you, handed down for the populous to read, I am a touch skeptical. That being said I will still give it a read more so than the emails adorned with any of a milieu of meaningless preambles like, “I know you’re busy…, or PLEASE READ, or ACTION Required. Oh so adept we’ve become at political correctness that in all avoidance of honesty we slap false empathy or avoid them in lieu of selfish ruminations. Now some come with some good perspectives and paradigm shifts that can be of great use in tackling the day to day, but be wary of the modern day snake oil salespeople cause they exist and they know the secret. It was this type of hollow rhetoric that compelled me to focus more on different aspects of psychology/sociology in my spare time. With a moderate investment in time one can learn several philosophical and psychological concepts that can yield a better understanding of the human condition. However I am not completely apathetic to one’s time being paramount. I know many people that call themselves leaders and would rather spend days getting car washes and shopping for electronic devices, rather than taking a “deep dive” into dispositions that can tear teams inside out. To be fare and attempt to be just I will list out five books which I’ve read, some are good and some are bad. Take my advice or not, but more importantly make up your own mind, and if you value the people you work with, for, or work for you, make an investment to know more. Even if it ends up being that the person you finally get to know best is yourself.

1. The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon

The book seemed to rehash many age old values into a parable style that seemed under developed and haphazardly put together. What the story lacked in depth it made up for in monotony. So I’m thankful it was very short. At times it seemed so blatant in it’s reuse of “The Secret” and Covey teachings that I felt bad for them. It’s very religious narrative and constant reiteration of providence was a bit off putting, especially if it’s supposed to be a book used by businesses to help emerging leaders. I do acknowledge that in writing a poor review I run the risk of being labeled as negative or in the case of the book an energy vampire. I beg to differ however and offer into the people’s evidence as well as for perspective’s sake, that I have read Covey’s Seven Habits several years ago and still use many of those principles to this day. However if I can offer some constructive criticism, update the book with actual statistics. I found my eyes rolling at every mention of a statistic that carried no corroborating evidence or so much as a reference to the dataset in the appendix.

Instead Read: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman or Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich

2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Out of the entire book the most ground breaking concepts to me were of listening to understand and the realization that you control your emotions. Such simplistic things can sometimes go unrealized. Nevertheless those two alone led me to always seek feedback, listen, and to curb a rash of negative emotions by simply becoming responsible for them. Instead of being angry or sad I saw that I was allowing myself or sad.

Also Read: George Washington’s Leadership Lessons: What the Father of Our Country Can Teach Us About Effective Leadership and Character by James Rees

3. All Hands on Deck: 8 Essential Lessons for Building a Culture of Ownership by Joe Tye

This one has to be my favorite simply because it takes a Mr. Toad’s magic ride approach to it’s somewhat lackluster attempt at instilling traits upon the reader. In a nutshell you get to travel through time with Walt Disney as you visit While light on substance it does have merit in that it broaches the dissonance that can be found in the use of extrinsic motivators to foster intrinsic characteristics. For those who may find it a quantum leap to figure out that a horse and carrot system or rewards will eventually fail in an environment where your end goal is an engaged and innovative culture, read the book a few times and take a psychology course.

4. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath

While I don’t put much stock in personality assessments simply because they can change depending upon emotional state when taking them, this one was put together by a psychologist and scientific researcher. So taken with a grain of salt this can help give you some insight as well as some areas to begin to dive into as far as understanding one’s own strengths. However do not take the results as fact since we are ever changing beings, take the results and go deeper.

5. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Areily / You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

Now these two aren’t business books, but I’m plugging them simply cause they lend much insight into both psychological and sociological concepts that are imperative to have a grasp upon in order to know thyself and take that knowledge forward into being a good contributer, sound decision maker, and get on the road to honest leadership.