Leadership & Working (by Iain)

This was first posted January 26, 2016

Last week I attended an excellent workshop on “Compassionate Leadership”. The whole point of the workshop was to have a discussion on what “Compassionate Leadership” meant to us. It was very interesting as we started with compassion being all “soft, nice, and comfortable” and finished up with compassion being “a dance between soft/nice/comfortable and hard/powerful/uncomfortable”.

Those discussions reminded me of leaderships books I’ve read, and found useful, in the last few years. These books all speak to the dance between “soft/nice/comfortable and hard/powerful/uncomfortable”.

Leadership BS (by Jeffrey Pfeffer)

This is a great book because Pfeffer lays out a very realistic description of the workplace. It is not a “pretty” description and this is why it is so useful. There is a lot of discussion around the interest of an individual versus the interest of the group. He notes empirical evidence that modern day leaders always focus on the individual first (i.e. themselves).

I wrote more here — https://hnorth.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/thank-you-jeffrey-pfeffer-leadership-bs-is-awesome/

The Hard Thing About Hard Things (by Ben Horowitz)

This is a book written around Ben Horowitz’s blog. He was an early Netscape employee and is a Silicon Valley legend.

The reason I’ve loved this blog is that Ben talks about really hard things like “Demoting Your Friend”, “Firing An Executive”, “Managing Yourself”, etc. In most cases he describes the problem as — we got to this place because you ( the CEO ) messed up and not the employee.

He talks a lot about why CEOs make mistakes. For example, one of my favourite blog posts from Ben Horowitz notes that if CEOs were tested for CEO skills the average score would be 22%. That is “CEOs suck” and then he goes on to discuss why that is.

What’s The Most Difficult CEO Skill? Managing Your Own Psychology (Ben Horowitz)

If CEOs were graded on a curve, the mean on the test would be 22 out of a 100. This kind of mean can be psychologically challenging for a straight A student. It is particularly challenging, because nobody tells you that the mean is 22.

More here — http://www.bhorowitz.com/what_s_the_most_difficult_ceo_skill_managing_your_own_psychology

So Far from Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World ( by Margaret J. Wheatley)

This book describes how we can do our good work with dedication, energy, discipline, and joy by consciously choosing a new role for ourselves, that of warriors for the human spirit.

It is quite a “dark read” in that Marg Wheatley really digs into the dark corners of our working lives to set the tone for the challenge. Her picture of working is even darker than Jeffrey Pfeffer’s. (Whew) Again she speaks the truth of our working day challenges. That really helps. I’ve found the concept of a “Warrior For The Human Spirit” to be very useful.

The “good-reads” reviews are very good too. – http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13590007-so-far-from-home

This book was recommended to me by Bonni. Thank You.


This is a very easy read for “Social Innovation” leaning people and a very hard book to read for “Entrepreneurship” leaning people ( like myself ). I’ve persevered and have come to understand him. I went to a talk by him, read the book, then mind-mapped the book, and took immense pressure from my daughter to understand him.

I really like that he talks about “acting like a group movement”. It is fascinating. I think all of you would like this book.

Here is the first chapter [link]


2 Responses to Leadership & Working (by Iain)

  1. al etmanski says:

    thanks for your kind review Iain

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