Your First Leadership Job: How catalyst leaders bring out the best in others by Tacy Byham and Richard Wellins, Wiley $29.95
The authors come with good credentials and it shows throughout this readable and engaging book. Both regard leadership as more science than art, and rightly insist that it is based on a deep respect for an understanding of the people side of a business. Their focus is not ‘now you’re the boss’, but rather on how to be a catalyst, meaning ‘someone who represents the gold standard – energetic, supportive, forward-thinking mentors who spark action in others’.
This book is full of quizzes, exercises, key tips and reflection points to help readers navigate the contents, as well as a robust website with bonus chapters and an online community. It is a generation ahead of similar books for first-timers in style and usefulness. The chapters on feedback and coaching were first class, as well as that on a woman’s first leadership job.
There are quotes throughout as hashtags, reflecting their clever use of social media to enhance the reader’s experience and make the content interactive. Few books on leadership in recent years have been as inviting or
Energising Leadership by Nita Cherry, Oxford University Press $44.95
Cherry says the time is ripe to focus on what leaders do, not just who they are, and she makes the good point that professional leadership is deliberate, discerning and intentional behaviour, not an unconscious set of habits or inherent personal traits.
She describes the energy cycle as mobilising, focusing, refreshing and refocusing, and the work of leadership as paying attention to the ups and downs in the patterns of energy going on around them. She rightly laments the fact that micro-managing and controlling leaders drain initiative from even self-motivated employees.
This book is well structured and attractively presented with succinct chapter summaries in breakout boxes, a generous index and an up-to-date bibliography. The various models throughout illustrate her in-depth analysis, such as the dimensions of face-to-face conversations involving text, context and subtext and zones of engagement to deal with complexity in thinking and the environment. This is not a book full of simple checklists for leaders, but one full of well-supported, reflective insights about leadership.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the November 2015 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘Book reviews’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.