The Leader’s Pocket Guide: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: November 7th, 2012 by bobmorris

The Leader’s Pocket Guide: 101 Indispensable Tools, Tips, and Techniques for Any Situation
John Baldoni
AMACOM (2012)

Valuable reminders for effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise

Those who have read one or more of John Balboni’s previous books (notably Lead Your BossLead by Example, Lead with Purpose, and 12 Steps to Power Presence) and/or his blog posts already know that he is among the most intelligent and most knowledgeable of contemporary business thinkers.  I hold both him and his work in very high regard.

What we have in his latest is a “little” book offering huge value. Each of his 101 tips and techniques could well be indispensable in almost any given situation, depending on the circumstances, of course, but all are based on the scope and depth of Baldoni’s real-world experience. He has an insatiable curiosity to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why so that he can then share what he has learned with as many other people as possible.

The material is carefully organized within three sections: Self (Tips 1-20), Colleagues (21-53), and Organization (54-101). As Baldoni explains, that sequence is obviously intentional and eminently sensible: “Leadership has often been defined as a journey. The journey begins with the starting point, and that starting point is the self…One of the challenging aspects of leadership, if not the most challenging, is leading one’s peers…Since few leaders do anything by themselves, it is necessary to build a coalition of willing partners who believe in your cause – and what’s more, believe in you…What does it take to lead an organization? A commitment to service, specifically a willingness to put the organization first so that it succeeds [and a] commitment to making the positive difference for oneself, the team, and the organization.”

I appreciate Balboni’s skillful use of several reader-friendly devices that include a “Research Says…” section to introduce (i.e. set the proverbial “table” for) each of the three sections, then “Think About…” sections within all of the chapters, each of which is devoted to one of the 101 Tips. He also inserts dozens of appropriate quotations throughout his narrative as well as diagnostic exercises that enable, indeed facile interaction between the reader and the given material. The “Action Tips” sections all by themselves are worth far more than the cost of the book.

For experienced managers, the 101 Tips offer few head-snapping revelations but can serve as valuable reminders. As another holiday season approaches, I highly recommend this book as a gift to those who have only recently embarked on a business career or are now preparing to do so. I also highly recommend this book to owner/CEOs of small companies, presuming to suggest that they purchase copies for their key people. Here’s another suggestion: Schedule a “brown bag seminar” and assign a few chapters in advance  — those that are most relevant to the given company’s current situation — as preparation for a group discussion. Just a thought….

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