Bill Nicol, a leading Australian consultant on leadership and management, works here in Indonesia. We see a bit of each other. Both of us have a strong distrust and dislike for business gurus.
Bill wrote to me yesterday.
"It is mid Monday morning. My brain atrophied long ago although gets the occasional ray of sunlight it needs to prevent it stopping altogether. Thank you for including the Garry Stager commentary. I loved reading it.
Personally, I loathe reading business and leadership books. I flick through them in bookshops and buy an occasional one that takes my transitory fancy. I can say from personal experience that none helped me run my own business other than into the ground. Like you, I would prefer to read a good story like that of murder in Fiji and a gentle poem or two than a book written by a guru whose entire experience is limited to motivating minor minds rather than building ball-busting businesses."
Gary S Stager Ph.D. writes "What business gurus like Don Tapscott, Daniel Pink,(the cover of his book above) Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins have in common is that none of them actually ever ran a business prior to hitting the bestseller list offering business advice to others. Most of them have never been the night manager of a Seven-Eleven let alone launched or managed an innovative business venture.
They are fancy talkers.
That is their skill. Several are evangelicals. Faith or pseudoscience, along with a dose of prosperity theology, is used to advance their arguments.
Their audience is adults who dream of being rich or increase their personal productivity. Neither goal is analogous to the education of children.
There’s trouble right here in River City
I’ve observed that the fancy talkers tend to have three or four good stories, perhaps as many as seven, they use to captivate their readers. If you see the author on Charlie Rose, you hear the three stories. Google an interview and you’ll read the three stories. Read the book and the three stories will appear verbatim. There is a polish to their schtick that often masquerades a lack of depth or thoughtfulness.
Many of these authors are linguistic jugglers. They can turn a phrase (or at least a handful of rehearsed ones) brilliantly. I compared Thomas Friedman to Nipsey Russell in my review of Friedman’s book due to his penchant for reducing complex ideas to puns.
Ultimately the success of these books is based on the authors’ ability to reduce complex concepts to simplistic binary dichotomies or playground rhymes. Such books are filled with numbered rule-based advice with little room for nuance. Issues are either black or white. The principles apply to any situation.
Obviously, lots of people buy these books. Some even read them. Many of the readers are hooked on this genre of business book and purchase lots of them. Ironically, the people who don’t read these books are successful business leaders. The New York Times article, C.E.O. Libraries Reveal Keys to Success, tells us that most successful business leaders, the people self-help book readers wish to emulate, do not read business books. They read poetry and novels and great non-fiction written by experts. In short, CEO libraries are tributes to a great liberal arts education. Now that is a lesson school leaders should learn.
It is the great insecurity of wannabes that drives the sales of popular business books. I am of the opinion that educators with limited time should not squander it studying to be CEOs. This is especially true when these books are written by charlatans and touted by educational gurus who themselves are fancy talkers.
Education should be about doing, not talking. Education leaders should be well versed in the literature (past and present) of their chosen profession."
To me the only book worth its salt is Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith, 'Learning to Lead.' It is simple, but profound book written by humble people.
The most enlightening part of the book is the Chart of Distinctions between Manager and Leader:
The manager administers; the leader innovates.
The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
The manager maintains; the leader develops.
The manager accepts reality; the leader investigates it.
The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader
has his or her eye on the horizon.
The manager imitates; the leader originates.
The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.
Use this as a check list and you will soon find out is you are a leader, a manager or neither.