Book Review: Leading from the Roots-Nature-Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World by Dr. Kathleen E. Allen

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“Leadership today is about unlearning management and relearning being human.” – Javier Pladevall, CEO of Volkswagen Audi Retail

You know I like a book when I mark it up with post-its, write notes in the margins, highlight certain passages and nod my head along like one of those bobble-head figurines. Which is exactly what I did while reading Dr. Kathleen E. Allen’s fascinating, timely and revolutionary’s book Leading from the Roots: Nature-Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World.

This book implores organizational leaders (and pretty much anyone else with a stake in the workplace) to look beyond the confines of the physical spaces where we toil to nature and how it can help us and our companies thrive.

Leading from the Roots is divided into 11 well-researched,  and finely-written chapters on concepts like cooperation, diversity, lack of waste, curbing excess, the power of limits and so much more.

Each chapter gives ample evidence on how nature can help worker’s productivity and commitment to their jobs and how simple it is to work these practices into the workplace that won’t break the bank, take up too much time, or distract us from our tasks at hand. Dr. Allen provides ample evidence through both her extensive end notes and bibliography. And each chapter concludes with a summary of the chapter’s main focus and points to ponder and discuss.

Simply put, Leading from the Roots inspired me. Dr. Allen’s lessons are doable, practical and very audience-friendly. It’s ideal for everyone-managers, workers, students and grads, religious leaders, politicians, activists, teachers, creative types, social workers, medical personal, entrepreneurs, and so on.

Leading from the Roots is a great addition to my book shelf. I highly suggest you add it to your book shelf.

Book Review: Becoming Michelle Obama by Michelle Obama

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Even my cat, Pokey Jones, liked this book!

Once upon a time, in land called the south side of Chicago, lived a girl named Michelle Robinson. Instead of living in a huge castle, she lived in a modest house on a street called Euclid Avenue. And instead of having to deal with an evil stepmother, she had two loving parents and a protective older brother. Like a lot of girls, Michelle Robinson dreamed of adventures that would take her beyond her humble roots and finding her own Prince Charming. She did that and so much more, thus becoming the history-making first lady Michelle Obama, not only the first black first lady (not to mention one of the most educated and admired, and if I may dip my toes into the shallow end of the pool, one of the most stylish first ladies, in the history of the United States).

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or are so “unwoke” you might as well be in a coma, you are fully aware of Michelle Obama’s years of living in the White House – her “Let’s Move” campaign to alleviate childhood obesity, her work with second lady Dr. Jill Biden on veterans’ issues, her loving marriage to President Barack Obama, and her challenges of raising two children in the White House under the glare of the media. This is a very compelling part of Becoming, and Mrs. Obama is fully honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly she dealt with during the White House years.

However, most of Becoming focuses on Mrs. Obama’s life before her time as First Lady, and it is both extraordinary and ordinary, which I’m sure a lot of readers with relate to.

Mrs. Obama describes these years in rich detail that had me riveted. Her family was firm and loving, inspiring her to be a striver and excel in whatever she pursued. She writes about teachers who supported her from grade school through law school. She lovingly mentions the girlfriends who inspired her, and are still with her today (even if one standout friend is only with her in spirit). Mrs. Obama discusses the various mentors she was blessed with while navigating the difficulties in the workplace. And she’s brutally honest about these privileges and her gratitude seems truly sincere.

However, she also had to deal with the thorny issues of both racism and sexism, and plenty of naysayers who claimed she’d never make it. For instance, one person tried to convince Mrs. Obama that she wasn’t Ivy League material. Ha, she showed this person, didn’t she?

And yes, Mrs. Obama also dishes on a certain fellow named Barack Obama, from her initial meeting when she was his mentor to her twenty-five plus years of their marriage.

But just as Mrs. Obama is grateful for her blessings, she is also honest about the trials and tribulations she faced personally. Prince Charming was sometimes a bit of a challenge and often their marriage was less than ideal. Mrs. Obama also faced issues with having children, finally reverting to using fertility treatments and later giving birth to her cherished daughters Malia and Sasha. In other words, her life is at turn both typical and atypical, one that inspires and one that a lot of us can relate to.

Now, it’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Michelle Obama. However, as a book reviewer I realize I must be truthful of my assessment of Becoming. Not to be gross, but you can’t crap on a cone and expect me to call it ice cream. Thank goodness, Becoming is a sundae of a read and truly exceeded my expectation. It’s both down to earth and out of this world, one that takes a treasured place on my book shelf. I can’t recommend it enough.

Book Review: The Common Good by Robert B. Reich

Considering I gave Robert B. Reich’s Saving Capitalism a rave review, it’s no secret I’m a huge fan of the former secretary of Labor under President Clinton. So I am thrilled to give Reich’s latest book, The Common Good, another rave review.

The Common Good is a call to arms to anyone who cares about the state of our country and all of its citizens.

And when I mention a call to arms I don’t mean guns and ammunition. This book is a call for us to bring a sense of empathy, sensibility and basic human decency when it comes to politics, business, religion, education, media, activism, and our communities as a whole. And The Common Good is written in an enthusiastic and perceptive manner that will connect with a wide audience.

The Common Good is divided into three distinct parts:

1. What Is the Common Good?

2. What Happened to the Common Good?

3. Can the Common Good By Restored?

Part one is a primer on the common good. It starts out using the sheer awfulness of Martin Shrekeli and how he fully encompasses what is not the common good.

As part one moves on Reich explains both the common good most of us share and origins of the common good.

In part two Reich examines what exactly happened to our nation’s common good through a 3-prong dismantling of the common good’s structure. Believe me, it’s not pretty.

But before readers gnash their teeth in despair, Reich wraps things up with a manifesto on how we can restore the common good, which includes leadership we can trust, the use of honor and shame, resurrecting truth and finally but most importantly reviving civic education for all citizens starting in grade school and high school.

Some of ideas may be a bit difficult to implement and others will be quite simple. But all are vital.

The Common Good is written in an audience-friendly style that instructs and inspires and will hold your interest long after you are done reading it.  I can’t recommend it enough. The Common Good is both timely and timeless.

Book Review: Herding Tigers-Be the Leader That Creative People Need by Todd Henry

“Much of the dysfunction and tension that exists in the workplace is the result of highly creative people’s needs not being met. If you step back and examine the patterns, you’ll find that a lot of bad behavior occurs when there is poor or inattentive leadership”-Todd Henry

And that, my fellow citizens of the Island of the Misfit Creatives is the gist of Toddy Henry’s practical, timely and eye-opening book Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Want.

There is an idea that dealing and managing creative types is like managing cats, but Todd thinks that idea is insulting to creative types. No, it’s more like herding tigers-creative types are often brilliant, driven and need the proper environment to bring all their talents that provide results that satisfy management, clients and yes, creative types.

After a brief introduction, the book leads off with a chapter on what creative people need. It also dispels myths about creative types. These myths include concepts like creative types wanting full control to create and we’re obsessed with working on ideas that are considered “cool.” Creative types are totally insecure (when we aren’t being total egomaniacs). Creative types are flaky and flighty and lack analytical ability and business acumen.

Okay, we got the myths out of the way. But what do we need in the workplace? Creative people need both stability (clarity and protection) and challenge (permission and faith) to thrive in the workplace.

Now, this is easier said than done and Henry builds on this theory throughout Herding Tigers. After providing us a clear mantra on what creatives need. Herding Tigers divides itself into two distinct parts. The first part implores management to focus on its current mindset. In the second part Henry shares the mechanics when it comes to leading creative types for both established management and for those who go from being peers to management.

While reading Herding Tigers I kept nodding my head, thinking to myself, “Yes, someone who gets it!” I also felt a wee bit bereft because as a creative it is Henry’s idea of managing creatives, which has been missing the most in my life as a working creative. I’ve often felt misunderstood, caught up in feelings of lost, angry and stuck in places where I should have flourished. If I was queen of the world, every manager and every organization that relies on work by creative types, would be required by law to read this book and implement Henry’s wise, compassion and practical advice, concepts and checkpoints when handling me and my fellow tigers. And don’t worry managers of Tigers, Henry is also in your corner. He truly cares about all of us. (And to be honest, I think Herding Tigers is just a good management book even if you’re not leading creative types).

Herding Tigers is a book that I can imagine reading again and again. In fact, my copy is littered with little post-its, highlighting passages and ideas that I agree with or I find interesting and valuable. I’ve also written down Henry’s advice in a notebook to refer to again and again.

I highly recommend Toddy Henry’s Herding Tigers to both management and creatives. Creatives will recognize themselves and management will be enlightened by Henry’s timeless and timely book. Herding Tigers isn’t just one of the best books on leadership I have read this year; it just might be one of the best books leadership I’ve ever read.