Finely tuned and richly written. A welcome, insightful take on what it takes to be a highly competent leader.

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Simple Habits for Complex Times

POWERFUL PRACTICES FOR LEADERS

Two leadership consultants offer an enlightened view of how leaders must adapt to the complexities of business.

“Complexity, ambiguity, volatility, and uncertainty” are pervasive, according to Garvey Berger (Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World, 2013) and Johnston. Their thoughtful book is a kind of guide for grown-ups; it touts simple habits one can develop but acknowledges there are no simple solutions. First tackling how things have become more complex, the authors weave the start of a cleverly constructed fictional story—about managers who face a crisis—with observations about strategies needed to deal with complexities. They immediately set the tone by suggesting an approach that encourages expansive thinking: “Trying to figure out what questions you’re asking and making an intentional shift to different questions opens up new avenues for exploration in an uncertain and volatile world.” “There is power in knowing the other perspective,” they write, “not just to use it against a person in some way but also to learn from it.” Garvey Berger and Johnston cover accepted leadership practices, such as obtaining feedback, skilled listening, and expressing a clear vision, but their unique value added is the manner in which they broaden the discussion. When the authors address listening, for example, they suggest most people think good listening answers the question of “What does this message mean to me?” In reality, the authors say, excellent listeners should be asking, “What is this person’s purpose, intent, hope in delivering this message? What does this message mean to him?” As for vision, the authors write, “It turns out that a leader in a complex world needs a vision that is directional without imposing too much (or too little) constraint on people.” Such nuances differentiate this book from the typical leadership tome. In the end, the authors impart excellent advice without the sugarcoating of easy implementation, because “being a leader under conditions of complexity is dripping with paradox.”

Finely tuned and richly written. A welcome, insightful take on what it takes to be a highly competent leader.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0804788472

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Stanford Business Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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