Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: Take the Lead

Take the Lead by Betsy Myers with John David Mann, is her treatise on leadership.  The byline is “Motivate, Inspire and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You”.
Ms. Myers has an underlying concept: that there is a need for a new kind of leadership.  Changing times, the Internet, the mobility of society has erased the prior, up the organization ladder method of leadership development.  Her statement: “The emerging need is not simply for a better leadership but a new kind of leadership…”  (Italics are hers). 

The book takes the reader through the experiences that gave her a point of view on leadership.  Those experiences, while varied, are heavily weighted to public service.  That includes stints in the Clinton administration, working in the Obama campaign and at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard.  All of these led to contact with famous and successful people, whether cabinet level or contributors to Harvard or political campaigns.  Not a bad group to use to develop leadership mdels.
Her leadership model consists of Authenticity, Connection, Respect, Clarity, Collaboration, Learning, and Courage and she devotes a chapter to each.  While the direction of each of these is rather obvious from the titles, some of the specific content is nonetheless good, and in one particular case, surprising to me personally.  As an example of how Respect is an element of leadership development, she uses something Jerry Rossi did.  I know Jerry, not well, but have met him on many occasions.  He is an executive with TJX Corporation, which owns Home Goods, Marshalls and TJ Maxx.  The Jerry I know is a somewhat gruff, no-nonsense retailer.  However, her story shows a very different Jerry Rossi, taking time to notice that a woman in the corporate office had been abused, having the TJX organization help her, and moving from that one incident to personally taking up the cause of abused women nationally.  Ms. Myers, and eventually President Clinton, also worked to shine a spotlight on that festering evil.  By doing so, Jerry illustrated the Respect component of leadership.
I should have realized earlier, but didn’t, that Betsy Myers is the sister of De De Myers, former press secretary to President Clinton.  Obviously the political connections run deep, and most of the examples of leadership are drawn from the public sphere as opposed to private enterprise.  Nonetheless, it is a reasonably good work with some provocative material.

As an aside, as a political conservative, I noted two things.  First, how the Obama campaign out-maneuvered, out-teched, and generally out-thought the McCain campaign.  And second, as I read through her examples of meetings with the interagency group on this, or the council on that, just how much overhead exists in Washington that we simply can’t (at least in my view) afford.
Political differences aside, I enjoyed the book.


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