Book Review: Leadership Without Easy Answers

Ronald Heifitz

This often-cited book is an important contribution to the leadership field. According to Heifetz, leaders are confronted with two types of problems: technical problems, which can be solved by expertise and good management, and “adaptive” problems, such as poverty, war and racial issues, which require innovation and learning. Heifitz asserts that traditional management strategies are useful in dealing with technical problems, but in situations where beliefs and values come into play, technical “fixes” tend to exacerbate the problem. It’s a good book to change the narrative that there’s a “right way” to do leadership.

Moving From Theory to Action: On Trying New Ways of Doing Things

To support you in identifying better processes, this is a supportive exercise designed to help you loosen attachment that there’s one right way to do it adapted from the Kamana Naturalist Training Program. In doing so you may see patterns that no longer serve you in their original purpose, and gets you accustomed to trying new ways of doing things.

For the next seven days try to do things differently in service of finding perhaps better ways. It’s possible to practice trying new things so that when the opportunity arises, you can be more nimble and open to finding more appropriate solutions.  Some suggestions include:

In your home: How can you shift your daily patterns? Get ready before you eat breakfast or vice versa? Sleep on the other side of the bed or even in the guest bed if you have one? Peel a banana from the other end (see Great Link above). This can be fun! -My kids love it when we have breakfast for dinner J

At work: Where can you mix it up a little? What is your morning routine- checking emails? If so, what if you opened the day with a big project instead? What does lunch look like? How could you try something new? Are there conversations you could have with people you don’t regularly interact with?

Take a new way home– is there a different street you can take home? A different door entrance? (front door versus back door?) Let go of the Mister Rogers routine of doing things exactly the same when you come home?

Throughout this process reflect on:

  • Do I need to update my routines?
  • What might I do differently and perhaps more effectively if I did not feel bound to the way I “have always done it”?
  • What action would I like to take based on this exercise?

Book Review: The Boys In The Boat

Daniel James Brown

Riveting! Inspirational! This book about nine Americans and their epic quest for the gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is a rare gem. I kept saying to my husband, “You’ve got to read this!” each time I put the book down for the night. This historical novel brings us intimately into the lives of these young working-class men, gives us a glimpse into the magic moments on the water, and the incredibly hard work to get there. It is estimated that in four years of college rowing, each of them rowed approximately 4,344 miles (469.000 strokes) in preparation for the mere 28 miles of actual collegiate racing. A stunning testimony to practice and what it takes to be an exceptional team. Beautifully written, I will never look at crew the same way.

Book Review: The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working

Tony Schwartz

I love the title of this book because it echoes a feeling many of us have that our current workstyles just aren’t sustainable. Schwartz, a respected researcher and consultant, goes into depth about how managing our personal energy is critical to being more fulfilled and effective in our lives. He walks through practical methods for shifting the burnout cyle into a renewal cycle. And he does it with a holistic perspective, recognizing the importance of not only our physical energy, but our mental, emotional and spiritual energy as well. It’s a well-written, organized book that provides context and practical strategies to breaking difficult patterns.

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