Leadership Library Review: Women & Power: A Manifesto

January 2018 

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard (Liveright, 2017)

What are the big take-aways?

“When it comes to silencing women, Western culture has had thousands of years of practice,” observes Mary Beard in her Preface to Women & Power (p. xi).  She ought to know; not only is Beard a classics professor at the University of Cambridge (this slim volume is based on two lectures she gave in 2014 and 2017) but she is famously the recipient of horrific misogynist commentary by online trolls, including death threats, attempting to silence her.  They don’t work.  As Parul Sehgal reports in this recent New York Times review:

Beard responds, sometimes with fire, sometimes with kindness, sometimes with a bawdy joke. The men back down more than you’d predict and, sometimes, unexpected friendships are struck. One of her harassers took her to lunch to apologize. She later wrote him a college reference.

Women & Power is a superb history of the origins in Greek and Roman culture of the West’s continuing refusal to fully allow women’s voices into spheres of public power; that said, it does not address questions of leadership in ways I had hoped.  In her Afterword, Beard explicitly acknowledges, “I would like to try to pull apart the very idea of ‘leadership’ (usually male) that is now assumed to be the key to successful institutions, from schools and universities to businesses and government,” “[b]ut that is for another day” (p. 94).  I look forward to it!

Why do I like it?

Despite Beard’s choice not to conduct the above-mentioned leadership analysis that I had anticipated, I still like this book as a resource for leaders.  I enjoy history and politics and I’m personally and professionally fascinated by gender issues – all of which have only been heightened by the current dynamics of the #metoo movement – so the book is captivating and timely for those reasons.  And Beard is a vivid, engaging lecturer whose points are frequently illuminated by startling ancient imagery which she convincingly argues is still very much alive and operative in our modern world.  For example, Donald Trump’s campaign explicitly used the analogy of Perseus (the slayer of monsters in Greek mythology) decapitating Medusa in its paraphernalia against Hillary Clinton.  Beard writes (p. 79):

You could buy it on T-shirts and tank tops, on coffee mugs, on laptop sleeves and tote bags (sometimes with the logo TRIUMPH, sometimes TRUMP).  It may take a moment or two to take in that normalization of gendered violence, but if you were ever doubtful about the extent to which the exclusion of women from power is culturally embedded or unsure of the continued strength of classical ways of formulating it – well, I give you Trump and Clinton, Perseus and Medusa, and rest my case.

Beard points out that this same Medusa imagery has been similarly used against British Prime Minister Teresa May.  She also presents evidence (pp. 54-62) of how of public power masculinizes women who do have it, from Aeschylus’s fictional anti-hero Clytemnestra (from the Greek drama Agamemnon, 458 B.C.) to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  “[O]ur mental cultural template for a powerful person,” Beard concludes, “is resolutely male” (p. 53).

In what situations would this be useful?

Women & Power is useful for expansive historical context, especially in light of current events in the U.S. and beyond, even though the book is based on lectures delivered prior to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault revelations that kicked off #metoo.  This book provides interesting, probative and substantial background to the tumultuous moment we find ourselves in, especially in American politics, entertainment, news media and other industries.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

When I think about women, “feminine” gender identification, power, and leadership right now, what leaps to my mind is the spectrum of workplace attitudes and behaviors that range from unconscious gender bias to discrimination and sexual harassment.  If you’re a leader who’s interested in any of this, I recommend:

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Leadership Library Review: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

December 2017

Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans (Knopf, 2016)

What are the big take-aways?

This book offers the key insights, exercises and recommended thought habits from the “Designing Your Life” curriculum that a pair of Stanford design educators have taught for years in their Life Design Lab.  Its underlying premise, which arises from the disciplines of engineering and innovation, is that we cannot “think” our way forward in life; instead, like designers, if we want to move forward we must “build” our way into the future.  How do we do that?  By harnessing the generative power of curiosity, proactively embracing change, making prototypes, reframing beliefs and challenges when we get stuck, and approaching life design as a collaborative process that one does not undertake alone.

In addition to the approaches and activities of life design, the book also offers super-practical advice on conducting a job search (see chapters entitled, “How Not to Get a Job” and “Designing Your Dream Job”).

Why do I like it?

I like Designing Your Life because I agree with the authors’ underlying philosophy.  On page 32, Burnett and Evans say their “goal for your life is rather simple: coherency.  A coherent life is one lived in such a way that you can clearly connect the dots between three things:

  • Who you are
  • What you believe
  • What you are doing” [their emphases].

For followers of this blog, you will recognize that what they are referring to as “coherence” is what I often describe as “leading an integrated life.”  The book offers a process for helping the reader engage with her or his values, strengths and energy in order to lead a well-aligned life in which each dimension (home, work, family, community, spirit, etc.) supports the others.

I also like it because, in my leadership coaching practice, I’ve noticed a dearth of career resources that share a bunch of tools in an intentional progression that speak to both (a) people who are already basically satisfied with how their lives are structured and are just looking to kick things up a notch, as well as (b) people who are in the midst of a significant transition – whether of a type and time of their own choosing, or not – and embarking on a potentially major life change.

Last but not least: I like their focus on fun, play and happiness.  Specifically, their reframing of “happiness” resonates with me: “Dysfunctional belief: Happiness is having it all.  Reframe: Happiness is letting go of what you don’t need” (p. 174; authors’ emphases).

In what situations would this be useful?

While I have already begun mentioning Designing Your Life to all my clients and friends who I know are contemplating a career change or are already in one, I would especially recommend it to two audiences in particular:

  • young people (e.g., in their 20’s) – fresh out of undergraduate or graduate school and/or menial jobs – who are considering their first meaningful career move; and
  • veteran professionals who are perhaps contemplating their “third act,” a late-career transition or an entirely new type of (paid or volunteer) work in lieu of retirement.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

If you’re in the latter category above, you might want to check out a book about personal reinvention called The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50 by sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot (Sarah Crichton Books, 2009).  Note: It is about human development and narrative, not about conducting a job or career search.

For both categories above, I believe that cultivating a new mindfulness practice or deepening an existing one can accelerate any life transition process.  There are some very effective guided mindfulness meditations of various lengths – starting at just three minutes long – available to stream for free online.  One audio site that I like is UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.  Also, “there’s an app for that!”  Here’s a recent news article that ranks popular mindfulness apps.

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Leadership Library Review: Khizr Khan interview on “Face the Nation” regarding his book, An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice

November 2017

Khizr Khan interview on “Face the Nation” regarding his book, An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice (Random House, 2017)

What are the big take-aways?

In honor of Veterans Day this month, and in awe of Khizr Khan’s extraordinary dedication – as a Gold Star parent – to transcending the cultural divisions the U.S. is currently grappling with, I want to lift up Khan’s leadership and his fascinating book.  For me, the big take-away from his October 22nd interview with John Dickerson on “Face the Nation” was Khan’s startling reverence and gratitude for our nation’s founding documents.  His message is a wake-up call to all U.S citizens to get back to basics.  (When was the last time you read the Constitution, beginning to end?)

Why do I like it?

What I strongly responded to in the “Face the Nation” interview was the poignancy of Khan’s story of his journey to American citizenship as a Muslim immigrant from Pakistan, how he and his wife Ghazala raised three boys in Maryland, and the family’s experience of losing the eldest son – a captain in the U.S. Army – who was killed in Iraq in 2004, trying to stop a suicide bombing.

Khan’s life narrative starkly highlights the true meaning of military service from his perspective: to protect the principles behind the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  I like that Khan – an attorney who put himself through the Harvard Law School LL.M. program – rises above and beyond political party affiliations to lend an inspiring and reaffirming voice to these wobbly times in our democracy.

From the interview transcript:

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me – describe for a moment the Declaration of Independence, where you first read it. And that, you talked about Jefferson, so we’ll bring his work on the table here. What was that like the first time you read it?

KHIZR KHAN: I was 22 years old in Pakistan, had taken a course in Comparative Study of Constitutions of the World. Among the materials, the very first page was the Declaration of Independence. I looked at it. We come from in Asian countries then from colonized part of the world. Amazing, amazing document I read.

Is there a nation on Earth that declares its independence? Independence is given. Independence is attained. Independence is politically argued and received. Is there a nation? So that love affair started in 1972. And I am still in awe. Those 1,338 words of the Declaration of Independence, I implore all Americans to read it, how we founded this blessed nation.

JOHN DICKERSON: Finally, you have stepped into the political arena at the Democratic Convention. What has it been like since then?

KHIZR KHAN: It has been journey of hope, bridge building, interfaith dialogue, standing with those who truly care for the values of this country. We will prevail. I have seen the hope and aspiration in the eyes and in the hearts and in the minds of the people that I have dealt with throughout this nation. We are blessed to have all this.

I remembered the moment, and we explain that in the book in much more detail, when I became citizen of United States. I wish every American reads the Oath of Citizenship that I took. I had nothing when I went in human dignity terms, nothing when I went to take that oath. I came out blessed with all dignities that a human being aspires to have. It’s that story that we write in the book.

In what situations would this be useful?

I’m in the midst of reading that book, An American Family, which is beautifully written in lovely, intimate and candid language.

Khizr Khan’s family odyssey would be useful in a variety of situations involving formal and informal leadership, including as a compelling example of being the “leader of your own life.”  It’s a narrative about persistence, self-respect, love, risk-taking, compassion, creating and seizing opportunities, taking a stand for your values, and grieving honestly.  One of the most illuminating aspects of leadership that Khan articulates is the role of gratitude in maintaining resilience while living with perhaps the most devastating of losses: the death of a child.  This is not unrelated to the leadership wisdom of his beloved son, Captain Humayun Khan, who once offered this sophisticated observation about a fundamental paradox of leadership at an ROTC ceremony (p. 200):

I’ve found success not a harbor, but a voyage, with its own perils of the spirit.  The game of life is to achieve that which you set out to do.  There is always danger of failing.  The lesson that most of us on this voyage never learn, but never quite forget, is that to win is sometimes to lose.  Don’t lose sight of your humanness.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

It may seem like an odd pairing, but the first book that leaps to my mind is Margaret Wheatley’s Who Do We Choose To Be, previously reviewed in the Leadership Library.  In it, she explores what it means to be a Warrior for the Human Spirit, and summons us “to be leaders for this time as things fall apart, to reclaim leadership as a noble profession that creates possibility and humanness in the midst of increasing fear and turmoil” (p. 8).  Her message is delivered very differently from Khizr Khan’s, but in my view they resonate with each other in surprising and provocative ways.

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Leadership Library Review: The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead

October 2017

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
by Michael Bungay Stanier (Box of Crayons Press, 2017)

What are the big take-aways?

With robust humor, sneaky homages to A.A. Milne, and lots of pithy quotations from a multi-disciplinary array of wits, Michael Bungay Stanier makes one of the strongest (and most practical) arguments I’ve ever heard for why “You Need a Coaching Habit” in your workplace. As the blurb says, “This book gives you seven questions and the tools to make them an everyday way to work less hard and have more impact.”

What’s the biggest take-away? The author writes on page 59, “If this were a haiku rather than a book, it would read:

Tell less and ask more.
Your advice is not as good
As you think it is.”

Why do I like it?

The Coaching Habit is funny, astute, quick-to-read and – in my professional coach’s opinion – focuses on the right things. In my view, effective coaching by a leader in the workplace is direct, deeply curious, and doesn’t try to take over someone else’s problem by relating to it or prejudging it or imparting wisdom about how to fix it. This is hard to do! It can require breaking habits that are deeply-ingrained, persistent, and seem to actually work really well (in the short-term).

I especially appreciate the coaching habit discussed in Chapter Two, “The AWE Question.” In fact, it’s a question that I use in various forms at some point in almost every coaching session: “And what else?” (A.W.E.) I notice that if I repeat it a few times, I can reach the borders of my client’s creativity – and occasionally beyond that, to his growth edges – until he inspires himself by giving voice to fantastic ideas he had been suppressing out of a fear they would sound scary, unrealistic, or nuts. Often, these ideas are the seeds of real breakthroughs. Equally importantly, if not more so, they are inevitably ideas I never would have thought of, myself.

In what situations would this be useful?

Maybe you’re a leader who thinks that coaching is not her style. Well then, this is the book for you! I recommend The Coaching Habit to any leader, because its strategies can swiftly make you happier and more effective than ever in your role; and even if you read the book and choose not to adopt new habits, then at least you are making a conscious decision rather than sleepwalking in reliance on all the default behaviors that you have – understandably – accumulated over the years.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

A couple of my other favorite coaching books for leaders include Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams (previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library) and Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore (4th ed., Nicholas Brealey, 2011). I successfully used Whitmore’s GROW (i.e., Goals, Reality, Options, Will) model when it was chosen by my client as the basis for an in-house coaching program I helped to pilot at a large international nonprofit.

Another great book about how to change certains habits, beyond the workplace context, is Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Ballantine, 2008); you can preview it in this excellent blog post at Maria Popova’s “Brain Pickings” website.

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Leadership Library Review: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

September 2017

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (Curator: Lonnie Bunch)

What are the big take-aways?

One year ago, the newest Smithsonian museum opened on a corner of the Mall, close to the Washington Monument.  I was able to visit it for a few hours when I was in D.C. for business last November, having reserved the required (free) timed ticket many weeks in advance.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture is a triumph of continuous leadership through many generations.  After almost a hundred years of fits and starts – which are all fascinating in and of themselves as a timeline of African-American progress through the 20th century, but too many to recount here – in 2003 the museum was finally approved by an act of Congress signed into law by president George W. Bush.  The slogan for the N.M.A.A.H.C. is “A People’s Journey – A Nation’s Story.”  Consistent with the museum’s intent, my main take-away was that it offers a comprehensive history of the whole United States via the authentic African-American experience.  It is painful, uplifting, poignant, beautiful, brutal and awesome.

Why do I like it?

I liked the museum’s refreshing and disorienting perspective on its own subject; the displays are emotional, artful and stimulating, but they don’t tell you exactly what to think or feel, or how to interpret what you’re seeing.  You must make your own meaning from them, or not, as you choose.  The museum’s curator, an extraordinary leader named Lonnie Bunch, was interviewed about this last year by Vinson Cunningham for The New Yorker.  Cunningham writes:

Bunch’s framing of black experience, as a lens through which one may better see some static American text, sidesteps more than a century of scuffles over the nature, and the meaning, of that experience. Between the accommodationism of Booker T. Washington and the activism of W. E. B. Du Bois, the romance of Zora Neale Hurston and the social realism of Richard Wright, the defiance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the caution of “respectability politics,” there has always been something along these lines: go along or fight back, persuade or condemn, love or leave, use a common language or create one of your own…..Bunch may be a fighter, but he seems eager to avoid such a clash—the cost, perhaps, of doing business with Congress, on whom so much concerning the museum depends…Bunch told me about a meeting he had with Jim Moran, a former U.S. congressman from Virginia, who initially opposed the museum: “He says, ‘O.K., Lonnie, I don’t wanna be rude, but I don’t think there should be a black museum just for black people.’ And I said, ‘Neither do I.’ Blew him out of the water.”

Whatever the motivation behind Bunch’s inspired choice not to offer an over-arching interpretive stance, the museum he created from a black “Antiques Roadshow” of artifact donations is truly an American history museum for everyone.  (Many of the most stunning artifacts and their contributors are beautifully photographed in this interactive New York Times article).

As an aside, I will also mention that I loved the museum’s excellent restaurant, Sweet Home Café, which features menus from four different traditional African-American cuisines.

In what situations would this be useful?

I will speak for myself, and say that the museum vastly expanded my perspectives on my whiteness, on the North American continent’s centuries-old discomfort with its tortuously conflicted narratives, and on the continuing challenges the United States faces to define democracy, citizenship, fairness and belonging.

Ultimately, my experience of the N.M.A.A.H.C. fortified feelings of hope for our culturally divided nation.  As a visitor, you start in the cramped and dark underground-level exhibits of the “middle passage” era – echoing the belly of a slave ship – and then, slowly, you literally elevate level-by-level through the chronology of agonizingly incremental gains in civil rights, and wind up on top of the building surrounded by breath-taking art and objects from a dizzying array of contemporary cultural icons.  In short, the museum helped me realize that the 400-plus-years-long struggle of African-Americans for human and civil rights serves as a powerful long-view map of not only where we’ve all come from, but also of possible pathways forward for our country.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

The museum building is an architectural wonder; for an enlightening interview with the lead architect, see this piece from the New York Times.

For some historical context on last month’s events in Charlottesville offered by N.M.A.A.H.C. curator Lonnie Bunch, click here.  Another important but under-told story about leadership in the wake of Charlottesville is that of Christian Picciolini (and many others like him) who – as a former skinhead and violent white supremacist, himself – is dedicated to helping extremists who want to leave hate groups and make positive life changes.  One such organization, co-founded by Picciolini, is Life After Hate.

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Leadership Library Review: Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity

August 2017

Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity by Margaret J. Wheatley (Berrett-Koehler, 2017)

What are the big take-aways?

Teacher, consultant and leader Margaret Wheatley – the best-selling author of Leadership and the New Science – takes another whack at how to live and lead honorably in a troubling world in Who Do We Choose to Be?

Following up on her valiant call-to-action in So Far From Home five years ago (previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library), which she then referred to as an “invitation to warriorship,” in Who Do We Choose To Be Wheatley updates and further defines what it means to be a Warrior for the Human Spirit in 2017.  She says this new book “is born of my desire to summon us to be leaders for this time as things fall apart, to reclaim leadership as a noble profession that creates possibility and humanness in the midst of increasing fear and turmoil” (p. 8).  Elaborating, Wheatley asserts on the same page:

I know it is possible for leaders to use their power and influence, their insight and compassion, to lead people back to an understanding of who we are as human beings, to create the conditions for our basic human qualities of generosity, contribution, community, and love to be evoked no matter what.  I know it is possible to experience grace and joy in the midst of tragedy and loss.  I know it is possible to create islands of sanity in the midst of wildly disruptive seas.  I know it is possible because I have worked with leaders over many years in places that knew chaos and breakdown long before this moment.  And I have studied enough history to know that such leaders always arise when they are most needed.

              Now it’s our turn.

Why do I like it?

Who Do We Choose To Be is a riveting romp through Wheatley’s unique ability to gracefully connect diverse observations from science (especially physics and biology), organizational development (from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, to the U.S. military, and beyond), various spiritual traditions (Native American, Buddhist, Christian and others) and theories of technology, civilization and collapse, in order to bolster her positions.  I don’t agree with everything Wheatley argues in this book, but as a leadership coach and consultant I think Who Do We Choose to Be is a masterpiece of the manifesto genre.

What marks this particular volume as distinctly more resonant with me, personally, than Wheatley’s previous work is that it holds itself – as well as its ideas – much more lightly.  (E.g., early on, Wheatley quotes paleoanthropologist Andre Leroi-Gourhan: “I should like to think that prehistoric man’s first invention, the first condition for his survival, was a sense of humor.”)  Indeed on page 266, one of Wheatley’s bullet points in the elevating principles behind her conclusory roster, “The Faith and Confidence of Warriors,” is that “[w]e encounter life’s challenges with a sense of humor, knowing that lightness and play increase our capacity to deal with suffering.”  So true, albeit difficult!  (And if you wonder what this lightness-amidst-suffering looks like in real human leadership terms, Wheatley refers to the exiled Dalai Lama of Tibet and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa as two living examples.)  Also, see her lovely segment on joy (pp. 234-36).

In what situations would this be useful?

If you’re a leader perplexed by the state of affairs in Western civilization and the globe, and you find multi-disciplinary approaches and systems theory appealing, Who Do You Choose To Be could give your spirit the intellectual boost it needs to commit to a new way of being that is, itself, a form of action.  If the following statement speaks to you (p. 256), then the whole book likely will: “Throughout time, warriors arise when the people need protection.”

The final two chapters deeply define exactly what Wheatley means by a Warrior for the Human Spirit, and why you – reader – already are one or can become one if you so choose.  (She doesn’t mention BLM, but in my opinion, probably the largest organized group currently in the U.S. who most closely embodies and engages in the kind of widespread gentle warriorship Wheatley describes is Black Lives Matter.)  Wheatley offers a number of inspiring nudges toward confidence, compassion, hope, taking a stand, etc., as well as solid coaching questions (a favorite: What do you want to be remembered for?), to remind you that you already know what to do and how to do it.  Your choice now is whether to draw upon your courage to be a Warrior for the Human Spirit.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

A complement to this book which leaps to my mind is journalist Krista Tippett’s nourishing Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living (Penguin, 2016), which I loved as a similarly affirming and differently wide-ranging contemplation on the state of humanity.

Also, because leading with emergence has explicitly shown up in some of my other conversations lately, and Wheatley points to it in her chapter on “Interconnectedness,” I suggest that anyone intrigued by this concept check out Joseph Jaworksi’s Source: The Inner Path of Knowledge Creation (previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library).

 

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Leadership Library Review: A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas

July 2017

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
by Warren Berger (Bloomsbury, 2014)

What are the big take-aways?

A More Beautiful Question is a thorough and enlivening “inquiry into inquiry.” The book insightfully explores how our Western culture relates to questions (and question-askers), and how it could use the inspiring power of well-crafted questions to even more greatly benefit our businesses and our lives. I share the author’s assessment that our culture is overly focused on answers and does not pay nearly enough attention to the transcendent value of questions. The heart of Berger’s incisive book is probably Chapter Three, “The Why, What If, and How of Innovative Questioning,” which provides pragmatic guidance for discovering, (re)framing and experimenting with the kinds powerful questions that create transformative results.

Why do I like it?

I’m biased about the astounding potency of good questions, so I like this book. As a leadership coach, the tools of my trade are open and curious questions that are designed to leverage the strengths and talents of my clients as they work to enhance their leadership effectiveness – through both their triumphs and their growth edges. For my information and my clients’ I am especially drawn to the chapter on “Questioning In Business” (e.g., Will anyone follow a leader who embraces uncertainty? Should mission statements be mission questions?) and to the chapter on “Questioning for Life.” The latter addresses topics which are critical for agile leaders:

  • Why should we live the questions?
  • Why are you climbing the mountain?
  • Why are you evading inquiry?
  • Before we “lean in,” what if we stepped back?
  • What if we start with what we already have?
  • What if you made one small change?
  • What if you could not fail?
  • How might we pry off the lid and stir the paint?
  • How will you find your beautiful question?

I like that A More Beautiful Question promotes strengths-based approaches to business purpose and life purpose; and to the extent those purposes are connected, parts of the book – in my opinion – offer superb career-coaching questions.

In what situations would this be useful?

I recommend this book as a modern classic in leadership literature, applicable to any leader or organization. That said, it strikes me that it might be a particularly positive and refreshing “lifeline” to an organization or leader who feels intractably stuck. Inquiry – especially the subgenre of appreciative inquiry – is Goo Gone for managerial stuckness! And while many of us have a natural tendency to reflexively avoid some types of questions when situations seem ambiguous, unclear and confusing, this is when inquiry can serve us best. As Berger writes (page 186):

If you fear not having answers to questions you might ask yourself, remember that one of the hallmarks of innovative problem solvers is that they are willing to raise questions without having any idea of what the answer might be. Part of being able to tackle complex and difficult questions is accepting that there is nothing wrong with not knowing.

The notion that “there is nothing wrong with not knowing” is a counter-cultural, counter-intuitive, and – in some contexts – subversive idea, indeed! I will also note here that, by the same token, asking questions without knowing the answers is a central characteristic of effective coaching.

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

If, like me, you often consider leadership growth through the lens of adult development theory, an excellent pairing with this book might be Jennifer Garvey Berger’s Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Practices for Leaders (previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library). For more about leadership and appreciative inquiry theory, I highly recommend Appreciative Leadership by Diana Whitney, et al. (previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library).

I haven’t read it yet, but if you’re a leader interested in adopting or adding coaching skills to your toolbox, Michael Bungay Stanier’s new book, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, comes highly recommended by some of my esteemed colleagues from the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program.

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