I was with a colleague the other day and he mentioned that he really wants to improve his leadership skills and if he could just find a “Leadership for Dummies” book, then that would make his day. We engaged in a bit of conversation about leadership styles, philosophies and ideas and I suggested that perhaps he might want to think about what kind of leader he wants to be? What kind of leadership style or philosophy he might want to put forward.
But as I sat down to right this little missive, I thought I better check with the Dummy series books and sure enough, written by Marshall Loeb is the Leadership for Dummies book. “Short on theory, and long on practical strategies and surefire techniques, it arms you with what you need to…
Gosh, you can even go on the web site (http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/leadership-for-dummies-cheat-sheet.html) and download free cheat sheets on “Developing your Mission, Leadership Qualities and conducting a SWOT analysis.
Now I have no doubt this is a good book, (although I usually find that the Dummy books have way more information than I actually want and are pretty much a manual with funny pictures and the same step by step directions I can get from most manuals) Clearly there is a market for this and people like having the summary explanations right in front of them so they can reference the information when they need them. I would probably call this Leadership Tools for Dummies
My thinking with my colleague was that what it takes to be a good leader is an idea of the kind of leader you want to be. Who are you as a person, what impact do you want to have in your organization or community and what do you have to do to achieve those goals. Using an approach to leadership that is consistent with your values, beliefs and strengths seems to be the only real way that you can claim being a leader. Having a philosophy is what allows you to have an integrated comprehensive view of who you are and what you believe. Jim collins and Jerry Poras in their book, Built to Last state that successful organization have a clear leadership philosophy that the authors call a “core ideology” and that t”guides and inspires people throughout the organization and remains relatively flat for long periods of time.
A leadership philosophy may be something you adopt. Perhaps you aspire to follow a certain approach like authentic leadership or servant leadership. Perhaps it is a historical figure you wish to emulate like Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill. Plenty of business books will herald the accomplishments of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Jack Welch. Maybe your style has more of a spiritual bent to it and you find yourself applying Christian beliefs to your philosophy. Regardless of your choices, what is important is that you take some time to consider who you are and how you can be the best leader you can be.
By the way, the “customer reviews” on the Leadership for Dummy book were all pretty positive including one guy who finished his MBA stating that this book could have saved him thousands of dollars. But the most interesting comment to my mind was from a Brit who thought the book was “barren and perhaps the worst he had ever read”. His recommendation…” Pick up a copy of Henry V with its luminous articulation and its ideal of the noble spirit” Now there is a great leadership tip.