A series of book reviews

24 01 2011

In the past 12 months, I’ve reviewed a quartet of management books at various stages of the publication cycle. Mark Anderson’s The Leadership Book arrived as a stack of proof pages from FT Prentice Hall. The book did a very good job of creating a practical inventory of the tasks a senior manager, like Mark, faced on a daily basis in a knowledge industry. As a reviewer, I could add my tuppence worth that the same style of management may not be as successful in heavy industries or in other countries. Management and leadership are context dependent. Pleasingly, my from own perspective at least, some of my comments were incorporated into the book. It has also gone on to deservedly sell quite well.

 For the journal Action Learning: Research and Practice I reviewed Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones’ Clever: Leading your smartest, most creative people. And? Well, I learned that clever people are clever but can be difficult. Why oh why did I have to spend 180 pages learning this? A tweet would have done the job… @bkgpeters – hey Kai, did you know that clever people can be difficult to manage? Um, yes, I did.

 I just finished another review last week, this time for the same journal where I was honestly a bit surprised to be asked again after my “Clever opinions”. The book, A Manager’s Guide to Leadership Development by Mike Pedler, John Burgoyne and Tom Boydell is aimed at practitioners, but originates from academics. Now in its second edition, the book is just great insofar as it is firmly based in research, but disguises it cleverly to not scare away management development practitioners nor practicing managers. For my money, this is really a very worthwhile investment for anyone with limited amounts of time and a thoughtful mind.

 Lastly, I had a go at Julian Birkinshaw’s Reinventing Management for the UK monthly Management Today. I liked that one as well. Birkinshaw posits that only focussing on leadership rather misses some of the more practical, occasionally mundane tasks of making things happen. Sleeves rolled up. Grind, not glory. He’s right, there are definitely days where keeping at it is more important than waving the standard bravely and charismatically. A point which he makes which I think is critical for managers and leaders to learn is that there is no perfect state of an organisation – that different parts need to be managed in different ways and that the pendulum constantly swings back and forth between centralisation and decentralisation.

Three out of four ain’t bad.