I’m asked to review boatloads of books on leadership, and most wind up in the back-most section of my bookcase, unmentioned. No need to sadden the day of well-meaning authors by sharing my lack of enthusiasm for the product of their work. Most of the books are poorly framed, derivative, simplistic, poorly-researched, or just badly-written.
Leadership and the Art of Struggle is different and welcome.
First, the topic is fresh and relevant. I’ve never read any book that so clearly names the experience of leaders through struggle. Maybe a bit in Heifetz and some of the less accessible ontological literature; this is a far more personal book on engaging productively with tough times.
Second, the writing is smart. Examples ring true, and the recommendations are practical to leaders unused to failure. The author, Steven Snyder, is both an accomplished software executive (Microsoft, Net Perceptions) and PhD psychologist, now organizational consultant. (I don’t know Steven personally; an early copy of his book came to me through mutual friends.)
Third, the book encourages reflection. Typically, executives overdo action and underdo observation and reflection, leading to more and more poorly adapted action. During times of struggle, frenetic action just digs the hole more deeply. Snyder’s guidance toward reflection aligns well with the Self-Coaching series of one of my colleagues and favorite leadership bloggers, Ed Batista.
This book comes from one my favorite publishers, Berrett-Koehler, and reflects their care to situate the work in the useful spot between OD-nerd rigor and self-help pulp. It’s also a nice-looking paperback, which I value more highly since my own cute-only-on-Kindle leadership book.
Inevitably, my clients, whose leadership I tremendously admire, suffer through setbacks… product failures, colleague betrayal, being passed over for the top spot, booted by the board, unfair press, competitive blindsiding, discovering one’s own weaknesses at the worst time, to name the most common. This book strengthens my discernment as a coach in guiding them through that part of their journey.
If you, or someone you know, are thrown by the down cycles in your leadership path, I highly recommend Leadership and the Art of Struggle.
Note: I’ve received nothing by way of promotion other than a copy of the book.