Tag Archives: Leadership

I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following by Jon Rennie

I Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth FollowingI Have the Watch: Becoming a Leader Worth Following by Jon Rennie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a review copy of this from the publisher through BookSirens. The title caught my eye, then the cover. As it turns out, Mr. Rennie and I have a coupe of things in common. He was a Navy nuclear officer on a submarine in charge of the Reactor Controls Division and I was a nuclear reactor operator (reactor controls was our division) before becoming an officer myself, another, if different, commonality. Now he was on submarines and while I grew up around subs – maternal grandfather, father, younger brother – and was a sub volunteer the day I enlisted, I saw the light while in hands-on training at a reactor prototype and realized that reactor operators on submarines had less than no life (even the officers got to go home, but the reactor, operating or shut down, always had to have a reactor operator on watch), so I moved up, so to speak, and was assigned to a couple of nuclear aircraft carriers. And Rennie and I are both mechanical engineers. He left the Navy after five years (it’s not for everyone, and a nuke life is harder than most) and parlayed his experience into design and manufacturing; I became an officer in the Civil Engineer Corps, finished a 20 year career and parlayed my experience into facilities construction management and operations. So, the title spoke to me – those words carry a strong meaning – and the cover definitely attracted.

To use a term I learned in the Navy, the BLUF*: This book is not about the Navy. Not even Navy leadership, save for a couple of anecdotes. But it is about leadership, and is a pretty good capsule of many of the traits and methods I’ve adopted over the years. I am always looking to add to the toolbox on that subject, for ways to improve myself, and for good sources to recommend to aspiring leaders. The book is short, and the sections short for the leader who claims to have little time to read – an excuse in my vocabulary because a good leader always makes time to read. There is some overlap and repetition, but that’s because Rennie composed this from “a curated collection of articles [he had] written over the past five years.” The articles are to the point, which is good and I appreciate that. They are conversational, even if there are some statistics peppered throughout – but no citations in case you go looking. There is nothing new here that any good student of leadership hasn’t already seen; any good leader hasn’t tried, implemented. But it is in a compact, easily digested form. There are stories, and they are real, not parable-ized like the Blanchard or Johnson of Lencioni books usually assigned that I am not fond of. What I am fond of is people first, and Rennie nails that. Continue reading

The Dance of Leadership: The Art of Leading in Business, Government, and Society by Robert B. Denhardt and Janet Denhardt

The Dance of Leadership: The Art of Leading in Business, Government, and Society: The Art of Leading in Business, Government, and SocietyThe Dance of Leadership: The Art of Leading in Business, Government, and Society by Robert B. Denhardt and Janet Denhardt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I pulled this from a shelf in my office (leadership books acquired over time, more than a few I’ve not gotten to yet) and had hopes. In the first chapter, the authors observe “we think leading is something people do at all levels of society and in all areas of human endeavor.” While that should be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, a quick survey of the body of work out there returns a majority targeting traditional leaders and how to improve. I find the best books on leadership are not the academic overwritings of say, Kouzes and Posner, or the annoying parables of Blanchard or Lencioni, but the ones that bring a different perspective, a non-traditional perspective (thus, my hopes). correlating the qualities of good leadership with dance, music and other arts should have been a winner.

To play the hands dealt, this falls short of having any real contribution to the repertoire. There are takeaways, but there is little depth. These are basics, with the difference of anecdotes culled, or more probably created, from the arts world.

Still, here are a few margin notes. Each chapter has four pseudo-anecdotes setting the expectations of the chapter topic. For the chapter titled “The Interplay of Space, Time, and Energy”, one was

An executive, sensing that where she sits in a crowded meeting will make a difference in the way people respond to her, moves instinctively toward the “head” of the table.”

Bad example. Or, rather, good example of an immature (sadly, traditional) leader. “Instinctively” is a problem. Good leaders think about things like that. For me, depends on the purpose of the meeting. If it is my meeting and I don’t want my presence to influence, I’ll sit to the side or back. I’m more interested in productive conversations than seeking my concurrence (well, it’s still needed, but not during the process!) It it is my meeting and I want my presence to influence – maybe I need to establish a direction, convey expectations, etc. – I will sit where I can “command” attention.

Artists see the world differently from other people. Their italics, and spot on. I like to populate the table with as many brains as needed plus more (one of the things I do is manage design and construction of capital facilities.) I value different perspectives.

In that same chapter (this is where the most value is, it seemed when I was done), the authors use a metaphor of moving between boxes and making an assumption moving steadily from box to box results in success, and making the mistake of thinking time stands still while in the various boxes. That they acknowledge boxes is good (and they fall into the trap of saying leaders need to “think outside the box”, not knowing there is always a box!)

In the chapter titled “Communicating in Images, Symbols, and Metaphors, the authors bring up Howard Gardner and his book Frames of Mind. Gardner posited multiple intelligences. I wasn’t totally on-board with Gardner, considering some of his “intelligences” skills rather than, well, intelligence, but that was just my take.

And my take here is that despite that different perspective, this does offer much.

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The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service by Lee Cockerell

The Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational ServiceThe Customer Rules: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service by Lee Cockerell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I borrowed this from a coworker and after the first few pages tracked down a couple of copies nearby (that I haven’t bought yet) so I can have my own to add to the toolbox. Solid advice, probably heard before for sure, but collected in one place. Cockerell’s Title plays on the words, but his subtitle entices: The 39 Essential Rules for Delivering Sensational Service. (I would have left off the definitive article, but I also didn’t write the book.) I won’t list all of them here – buy or borrow it yourself! – but here are a few, with some thoughts… Continue reading

Leadership: As Seen Through the Eyes of a Follower by George Vucin – short review

Leadership: As Seen Through the Eyes of a FollowerLeadership: As Seen Through the Eyes of a Follower by George Vucin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

L. David Marquet wrote a great book that had the subtitle A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. I suppose Vucin might have been trying to turn leaders into followers with his book. Okay, not really per se…but his point of making leaders aware of the eyes of followers is one lost on quite a few in leadership positions.

I thought the narrative was simple, no new revelations…just repackaged, but that’s probably because as I was an enlisted Navy sailor who later became a Navy officer and I am keenly aware of how I comport myself with those I am charged to lead. I’ve mentored people who have risen through the ranks in the military and civilian life, I’ve made it an explicit point to tell them “Never forget where you came from.” (I’ve even turned that on leaders several ranks above me: “Sir, don’t you remember how much you hated last minute data calls when you were at our level?”) Just as situations call for different leadership styles and good leaders adjust (too many in leadership positions are not good leaders and the adage of “To those who only know how to use a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” is too appropriate), an intelligent leader recognizes the perspectives of the different…followers…and adjusts.

Not everyone who is led is a “follower”. Some follow because they are happy that way, and some follow because of positional authority. Those are the ones to be aware of, and to whom Vucin seems to be pointing the reader leaders. I suggest lots of reading, watching, digesting to add to your leader toolbox. This is one book of many.

I downloaded this from NetGalley and unfortunately for me (and the author), I had a few things come up after finishing and before I could write up my review, my DRM lease expired and my notes disappeared with it as I no longer had access on my chosen reader. I did recall one observation on the book composition/format: I prefer notes and references, particularly in books such as these. They usually serve as jumping off points, although I sometimes pull threads to follow up on a point linked to a reference to confirm. None in this book.

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