21 August 2013

Review: Why Leadership Sucks by Miles Smith

There are a lot of leadership books out there, a lot of them airport books. You know the kind: you get through check-in, go through security, and there’s a bookshop. It's selling the liquids you couldn’t bring through security, and some light reading for the flight: magazines, some popular fiction, a few children’s books and some grown-up looking books on business. Some of them are by recognised management gurus; others aren’t. Some were rushed through the press in the wake of the latest Enron; others were rewritten to remove all praise for Enron. Most take a top-down approach to leadership.

Smith is one of the few writers I’ve come across who looks at leadership from a servant perspective, a Christian perspective. That’s not to say that the leadership gurus who write airport books aren’t Christian: some of them are, and their ideas often reflect that. But it’s not front-and-centre in the way that Smith’s book is.

He makes a point, then provides a challenge to action that point: it’s like show-don’t-tell in novels. We need leaders who will guide us with less talk and more action. I liked that. Smith is well-read in classic and popular management texts and quotes from a number of well-known managers and leaders, and provides a reading list at the end (including Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf).

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power
- Abraham Lincoln

I particularly liked his advice on naming your business (“unless you are a personality or public figure, name your business something other than your name”—or, as my bank manager said, use your business name to say what you do not who you are). He also has a list of commonly misspelled idioms, which is O for Awesome (sorry - that's a Kiwi joke).

There was one problem with Why Leadership Sucks: Fundamentals of Level 5 Leadership and Servant Leadership: over-long paragraphs. Many were over a page long on my Kindle, and more paragraphs breaks would help readability. Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Miles Anthony Smith at his website.

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