A technology executive offers a creative take on business leadership.
Hassenstab’s debut business book doesn’t have a lot of new ideas in it. In fact, they’re intentionally “old,” because they’re based on “old school” beliefs about leadership, such as “Be Honest, Upfront, and Candid” and “No Second Chance to Make a First Impression.” The novel twist, of course, is that the author points out that these tenets are timeless, and he does a masterful job of making them relevant to today’s workplace. He writes that he learned 10 wisdoms more than 30 years ago while he was at Texas-based technology company Electronic Data Systems, where he first had to lead a team of engineers. The book devotes one chapter to each, followed by a lucid discussion and a closing “Reflection,” designed to “help you internalize the wisdom and actually put the wisdom into practice in your approach to leading your teams.” The author admits that the concepts he describes have been delivered by others in many forms before, but this isn’t a weakness; rather, it demonstrates that the best leadership counsel does indeed stand the test of time. Hassenstab quite appropriately enhances each topic with his own experience, which personalizes the work and transforms the wisdoms from simple platitudes to action items. For example, in “Wisdom #2: Leaders are in Charge,” he admits that leaders must sometimes provide motivation, if not pressure, to get important tasks accomplished, but he also cautions that “wise leaders are ‘fire-preventers’ first, and ‘fire-fighters’ second.” In this chapter’s “Reflection,” he asks some pointed questions, including “Are you missing an opportunity to elevate the leadership skills of others?” Other wisdoms unfold in much the same way, with healthy doses of informed counsel, accompanied by commentary and questions that will undoubtedly incite introspection. In the closing chapter, Hassenstab acknowledges that a modern leader must often be an “organizational change manager,” and then he relates that reality to a reiteration of all 10 wisdoms, tidily reinforcing their relevance.
A concise, tightly constructed work that effectively highlights past leadership principles while updating them to meet contemporary standards.