Leadership Library Review: Leadership from the Inside Out

March 2012

Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman (Berrett-Koehler, 2008)

What are the big take-aways?

Kevin Cashman identifies seven “masteries” of leadership, and how to cultivate them in yourself and nurture them in others. Cashman argues, on page 22:

Unfortunately, many people tend to split off the act of leadership from the person, team, or organization [author’s emphasis]…The view of this book is different. Leadership is not simply something we do. It comes from a deeper reality within us; it comes from our values, principles, life experiences and essence. Leadership is a process, an intimate expression of who we are. It is our whole person in action.

The seven masteries that Cashman outlines are: Personal Mastery (Leading with Awareness and Authenticity); Purpose Mastery (Leading on Purpose); Interpersonal Mastery (Leading through Synergy and Service); Change Mastery (Leading with Agility); Resilience Mastery (Leading with Energy); Being Mastery (Leading with Presence); and Action Mastery (Leading through Coaching).

Why did I like it?

Leadership from the Inside Out is really a workbook as much as it is an exposition on leadership. One by one, Cashman defines each of the seven masteries, providing real-life examples and supporting evidence from various research disciplines. Every chapter has two or three shaded “reflection” boxes in it that encourage the reader to stop and think about how the mastery under discussion applies to his or her own situation, which engagingly individualizes the reader’s experience. At the end of each chapter, there are more shaded boxes labeled “Leadership Growth Plan” that invite the reader to reflect more deeply and create action steps.

A reader who completed all seven Leadership Growth Plans would have a very thoughtful and comprehensive snapshot of where s/he currently stands in terms of overall leadership development, as well as a multi-faceted roadmap for the future including new commitments, practices, timelines, and measures of success.

One other thing I like about this book is the frequency and diversity of provocative quotations sprinkled throughout it. There are some beautiful, obscure gems. (An example from page 42: “The ideal is in thyself; the impediment, too, is in thyself.” – Thomas Carlyle)

In what situations would this be useful?

While a potentially very powerful tool for any leader, I recommend this book to corporate leaders in particular, as it is that sector (rather than the public and non-profit worlds) from which Cashman primarily draws his examples and bases his assumptions about time, money and power structures. Also, I would recommend it more for mid-career professionals rather than for those who are just starting out, as the book’s reflection and growth-plan exercises require quite a bit of work experience and perspective in order to take full advantage of the questions posed by the author.

Leadership from the Inside Out is ideal for leaders who have hit a roadblock of some kind and are curious and motivated to make real changes in themselves. This book would probably be most effective for leaders who are committed to reflecting on their performance and who are willing try new techniques, some of which may be uncomfortable. In my opinion as a leadership coach, it is appropriate either for use on its own as a self-coaching tool, or in conjunction with a qualified coach. This book would be least effective for leaders who are looking for specific implementation guidance on technical skills (e.g., strategic planning, time management and other concrete “how-to’s”).

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

Three contemporary leadership classics that immediately leap to my mind for readers who appreciate Cashman’s perspectives are: Bill George’s True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2007); Ronald Heifetz’s Leadership Without Easy Answers (previously reviewed in the Leadership Library); and Boyatzis and McKee’s Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope and Compassion (also previously reviewed here).

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