Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to be Exceptional book review

How to be Exceptional - Drive Leadership Success by Magnifying Your Strengths.

This is an in depth book that is likely to make its way into the classic leadership book category.  It is research based.

I love and believe in their theory that leadership can be learned and involves a number of "learnable skills".

I have long believed focus on strengths is one of the best ways to succeed.  I am a fan of the Marcus Buckingham approach he talks about in his book Now Discover Your Strengths.  The first step is to discover them.  (I suppose CEO Time Management might be one of mine)

The book starts with study data on the correlation between how good the leader is with staff satisfaction and in turn customer satisfaction.  Good leader - happy staff - happy customers.

How to Be Exceptional spends quite  bit of time on "Fixing Fatal Weaknesses" also.  It really does not start talking about how to polish strengths until almost half way through (on page 93 of 217).  But fixing a weakness really involves much of the same skills and focus as polishing a strength.

I loved the concept of cross training which the authors use in the context of leadership traits.  They use multiple running analogies which I relate to.  Speaking of running - that is the one exercise I love doing but I do elliptical and a bit of cycling reluctantly because my body cannot take the wear of only running.  And I enjoy doing weights but find I scrimp on them if I do not push.

Although according the the book, I should not have any aches or pains yet since I am Gen X (not a baby boomer) according to their dates 1955-1976.

In cross training, they talk about companion traits that can be developed.  They use a couple of examples and I am certain you could come up with a list for almost any trait. 

One example of a strength might be "Inspires and Motivates".  Companion skills that help that might be: makes emotional connection; role model; champions change; takes initiative; fosters innovation; collaborates and is a team player; develops others; good communicator; clear vision and direction; establishes stretch goals.  These companion skills become the cross training.

One companion trait that helps leaders in almost all areas is public speaking.  I am a big advocate of Toastmasters and Dale Carnegie for all leaders.

They had a good formula for sustainability.  I think a leader can work to strengthen any of these:

Sustainability =  Motivation X Goal Clarity X support X opportunities for Practice X Measurement.

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