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Simple Habits for Complex Times by Jennifer Garvey Berger

Simple Habits for Complex Times

Powerful Practices for Leaders

by Jennifer Garvey BergerKeith Johnston

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0804788472
Publisher: Stanford Business Books

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.