The New Art of the Leader by William A. Cohen

New Art of the LeaderI am currently enrolled in an executive development program for future IT leaders, which runs for a few months with sessions designed to help future IT leaders network with each other and learn about leadership. One of the requirements of the course is to read the book New Art of the Leader by William A. Cohen.

New Art of the Leader is extremely well written and keeps you engaged throughout with its numerous examples taken from history going all the way back to Winston Churchill, Eisenhower, Grant, and Napoleon. The examples are perfect for the subject matter the author is trying to address and gives you real life illustrations of the principles he is talking about in action, in a way you can relate to them.

The book begins by outlining and explaining the eight universal laws of leadership that the author defines in describing the “combat model of leadership”. Military leadership is used as the primary illustration of these principles because warfare is the “worst case scenario” in which these principles and laws are practiced.

These laws consist of the following:

  1. Maintain Absolute Integrity
  2. Know Your Stuff
  3. Declare Your Expectations
  4. Show Uncommon Commitment
  5. Expect Positive Results
  6. Take Care of Your People
  7. Put Duty Before Self
  8. Get Out In Front

Once the eight laws are defined, the book goes through a number of interesting topics, with many illustrations of them from both business and military scenarios. The topics covered include (lifted straight from the table of contents):

  • How To Attract Followship
  • The Four Direct Influence Tactics
  • The Four Indirect Influence Tactics
  • Developing Self-Confidence as a Leader
  • Building An Organization Like A Winning Football Team
  • Building High Morale and Esprit de Corps
  • How to Coach Your Winning Team
  • Secrets of Motivation
  • Seven Steps To Taking Charge in Crisis Situations
  • Seven Actions To Develop Your Charisma
  • Leadership Problem Solving and Decision Making

Here’s the most interesting thing about this book. As you are reading through it, most of it seems like common sense. I spent a lot of time ruminating over how completely obvious these principles are as I walked through my experiences in leadership situations. Unfortunately, I also spent a lot of time noticing how hard these principles are to practice and how many times I had failed to do what, as I read the book, “seemed obvious”.

These are hard principles to live by. Many times you find yourself reacting contrary to the way a leader should react in order to ensure a successful team. If nothing else, this book calls your attention to where your shortfalls are as a leader and lifts these principles as a priority in your mind, making you more conscious of what your role is in regards to the people and organizations you are responsible for. It calls your attention to the fact, if nothing else, that your primary job is to value your people, build them up, and most importantly, go first. People follow those who lead by example – not those who lead by positional authority alone.

This book is extremely enlightening and a must read for those in leadership positions. For some, it could change your whole perspective on your job, calling your attention to things you may not have thought was a part of leading a team to success. For me, it called attention to things that I had already known intellectually, but many times fail to practice in every day life.

Both scenarios are an advantage to increasing your effectiveness as a leader. The illustrations from history and real life experiences of the author help in bringing these principles into something “real” that the reader can relate to, rather than a bunch of theory that seems either impossible or impractical to practice in real life. One can tell by the book that the author has done his research.

If your looking for a book that describes leadership in its base form, with real life examples to illustrate each point, this is the book for you. Grab it, read it, and take what the author has to say to heart. It very well could change your life and the lives of the people who work for you or with you at a peer level.

Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup At A Time

Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time The last post talked about my opinion of the three things I find extremely important for a company to do in order to succeed. It was initiated by the treatment that I had received the previous day at Starbucks and a posting by Jason Kottke. The timing could not have been better for Tom The Architect to recommend I read the book Pour Your Heart into It : How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time, the inspring story by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on how he built the Starbucks brand and business on – you guessed it – the three things mentioned in my previous posting.

The book begins talking about Howards childhood and the origins of his drive to succeed being based on his fathers unhappiness and hardships supporting his family. We go through college with Howard and his first job, as a salesman, on to his first exposure to Starbucks corporation, a coffee roasting company dedicated to bringing fine coffees to its customers. Howard is completely caught up in the passion that the company owners have, and persue them to hire him as an employee. Finally, after a lot of convincing on Howards part, they hired him.

We then go to Milan, where Howard is first exposed to the espresso bar. He is captivated by the environment which these bars create and takes an idea back to the Starbucks owners to begin opening espresso bars in the Seattle area to recreate the environment he encountered in Milan. The owners of the company are resistant to the idea, fearing it will comprimise the standards they have set for themselves in being the finest coffee roasters in the Seattle area.

Finally, Howard decides to leave Starbucks and start his own company running his own authentic espresso bars in the Seattle area. His Il Giornale stores are highly successful. By the time Howard has 3 stores (to Starbucks 6), the owners of Starbucks decide to put the company up for sale and Il Giornale buys the company, changing it’s name to Starbucks.

The remainder of the book chronicles the building of the Starbucks we know today and the journey from small entrepreneurial company to a large, multi-national, professionally managed one. The most amazing thing about the story was the adherance to the core values that the company was founded on and the unwavering belief that customers and the employees drive business success. The company is living proof that success (financial and otherwise) is a by-product of doing the right things for your customers. It is also is a very good example of how valueable a mission statement that articulates the values of the company can be as a “measuring stick” to help you make decisions.

Reading this book was a breath of fresh air for me. I highly recommend it as not only a fascinating story in general, but for the lessons in leadership that it offers. Howard Schultz is very honest about both the things he feels he did right and mistakes he thinks he’s made. He shares the heartbreak of being turned down for venture capitol, and the elation of succeeding in the business of his dreams. He explains some of the real challenging times he has had as CEO of Starbucks, the issues encountered when a company grows really quickly and the ways in which these issues were handled. He outlines his creation of a “leadership pipeline” and his long journey towards being able to let go of the details and finding people he trusted to take care of them as the company grew. Finally, he talks about the delicate balance between values and Wall Street, and the stress that the shareholders can bring to a business.

This is probably the best “business” book I’ve read in quite a while. It has everything you could possibly want in a book about leadership, vision, and values. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a truly inspiring story.