Ewing’s management manual focuses on the service element of leadership.
“Leadership is the bedrock of organizational effectiveness,” writes Ewing in his nonfiction debut, but too often people in leadership positions settle for merely managing their followers, moving them around like cogs in a mechanical design. “Your followers are people,” Ewing’s book reminds its readers, “complete with messy emotions, backstories, families, friends, hobbies, and lives outside of the workplace.” Ewing advocates the kind of involved, detailed, hands-on practice of management that’s exemplified in the phrase “going to gemba” (gemba is a Japanese term for “the real place”); i.e., successful managers walk around, make contact with their employees where the work is actually getting done, and witness potential problems firsthand. The end goal, according to Ewing, is managers who display “deep personal humility with intense professional will.” In concise, well-illustrated chapters, Ewing breaks down the tactics and strategies of truly inspired group guidance. The key characteristic that crops up repeatedly is humility. A good leader will manage people, but a great one will serve them, inspiring great loyalty and output. Citing Disney’s often repeated slogan “gratitude improves attitude,” Ewing stresses that insightful leadership will be always be based on others, not oneself, reflecting the “necessary reciprocal relationship” between leaders and followers. Although some readers, particularly those who’ve had experience in corporate power structures, will raise an eyebrow at Ewing’s contention that humility is essential to really effective leadership (nearly all of the famous business leaders he name-checks are well-known to be ferocious despots to their subordinates), anyone encountering this book will be impressed not only by its thorough research—every page is buttressed with footnotes—but by its earnest presentation. There’s much food for thought here, particularly for middle managers aspiring to improve their work ethic.
A comprehensive, thought-provoking call for emphasizing the humanity in management.