Title: The Little Black Book of Leadership : The Fundamental Skills Required for Improving Yourself and Successfully Leading Others
Author: Todd Dewett
Publisher: TVA Inc., 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0980098204, 213 pages
If a “little black book” is a list of top date choices, Todd Dewett’s book is well named. This handy little volume provides a quick overview of the basics – enough information to have a fling with leadership, but not enough to be ready to marry it. While it lacks deep insight, it is certainly helpful as a directory for new managers and wannabe leaders. Dewett adopts a global, big-picture approach, outlining and discussing the personal and professional attributes, qualities, and characteristics leaders need. His suggestions include some detail (note the cogent two pages on body language), but they may seem routine unless you need an introduction to the basics. Even Dewett characterizes his concepts as “simple ideas,” but his time-tested advice tells novice managers how to start stepping out – and isn’t that one of the things a little black book is supposed to do? getAbstract suggests this book as a useful guide to first dates for new leaders.
Looking at leadership
Leadership, “the ability to achieve great personal and organizational results through others using positive interpersonal relationships,” depends on three qualities: First, being smart is helpful, though it’s not the defining factor. Second, you must make an effort. The harder you work, the better a leader you’ll be. Third, you must build leadership skills by developing your abilities to communicate, make decisions, motivate others, manage conflict and direct teams. Many observers contend that managers and leaders are separate species. Not true. Leaders manage and managers lead. Leadership relies on a steady, consistent effort. It’s a marathon, not a 100-yard race, and it is the subject of numerous myths you must ignore:
• “Leadership is complex” – It is anything but. Leadership is straightforward and simple.
• “Leadership is about ‘great men’” – You don’t need to be charismatic to be a successful leader. Most effective leaders are not. Instead, you must understand who you are and recognize your personal strengths.
• “Leadership is defined by big moments” – Au contraire, leadership is built on the actions you take on a daily basis, consistently, to lead others.
• “Leaders are born, not made” – People who work hard can become effective leaders.
No matter who you are or where you work, you need leadership skills, particularly people skills. The better you work with others, the more opportunities you will have to get hired and promoted. Plus, good leaders make significant contributions to their firms, while poor leaders chase away talented employees. Motivational leaders never play the “blame game.” They accept responsibility and rely on themselves. They are disciplined and willing to sacrifice to boost their skills and reach their goals. They know who they are. This self-awareness involves five areas:
1. “Cognitive biases” – These are typical, quick but misguided “mental shortcuts” to avoid. “Self-biased assumptions” may lead you to believe that everyone thinks like you. Never assume that your employees share your attitudes. “Positive bias” can lead you to evaluate yourself too optimistically. “Stereotyping” can misguide you into assuming you know about people based on their group affiliations, like thinking “jocks are dumb.”
2. “Values” – To be a top-quality leader, you must know your values. Without them, you can easily stumble and fall when you face a perplexing choice in a “gray area.”
3. “Personality” – Take a personality test or two, and have your team do the same. Your aim is to “develop a new vocabulary for understanding and talking about characteristic differences” so you have the knowledge to solve conflicts.
4. “Emotional intelligence” – When you want to motivate others, EQ is as crucial as IQ.
5. “Professional strengths”– First, identify your strengths and build on them. Use “self-observation” to study your performance; pay attention to what you say and do. Second, note your “professional outcomes,” since your achievements point to your strengths. Third, solicit feedback; ask others how you’re doing. And fourth, evaluate yourself; ask your HR department for professional assessment tools you can use…