MOXIE: A book review by Bob Morris

MOXIEMOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership
John Baldoni
Bibliomotion Books + Media (2015)

How to develop leadership qualities of being exceptionally mindful, opportunistic, innovative, empathic, and engaged

As I began to work my way through John Baldoni’s narrative, I was again reminded off a scene early in the Mary Tyler Moore Show series when Mary Richards (Moore) is being interviewed by Lou Grant (Ed Asner):

Grant: You know, Mary, you’ve got spunk.
Richards: Oh thank you, Mr. Grant.
Grant: I hate spunk!

Not everyone appreciates spunk or moxie but I agree with Baldoni that the most effective leaders have it. The word may be derived from the brand name of a bitter, non-alcoholic drink, 1885; perhaps as far back as 1876 as the name of a patent medicine advertised to “build up your nerve.” Baldoni interviewed a number of senior-level executives and shares much of what he learned from them in this book. As he explains, “Leaders with moxie are those who have competence to do their jobs, credibility to bring people together, and confidence to believe in themselves as well as in the strengths of others.”

His focus is on an acronym: Mindfulness, Opportunity, X-factor, Innovation, and Engagement. Those leaders who put MOXIE into practice “are those who prepare themselves for the constancy of change and set an example for others to follow. Moxie then becomes a principle by which individuals can put their leadership selves into gear in order to accomplish a goal for themselves, their teams, and their organizations.”

I presume to add that, whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations need effective leaders at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. Moreover, it is no coincidence that most of the companies annually ranked among the most highly admired and best to work for are also among the companies annually ranked as the most profitable with the greatest cap value in their industry.

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Baldoni’s coverage:

o Mini-profile of Nelson Mandela (Pages 2-7)
o Self-Awareness, and, Self-Knowledge (7-11)
o State of Mindfulness (15-17)
o Mindful Leadership (18-19)
o Making the Most of Serendipity (26-27)
o Mini-profile of Ben Hogan (28-31)
o Facing Adversity, and, Leveraging Adversity (31-34)
o Making Things Happen: Three Case Studies (34-38)
o Mini-profile of Margaret Thatcher (53-56)
o Five Other Factors: Creativity, Intelligence, Compassion, Humor, and Ambition (60-71)
o Make the Most of a Challenge (78-80)
o Mini-profile of Sergio Marchionne (80-83)
o Obstacles to Innovation (83-85)
o Discipline of Innovation(87-88)
o Introverts Know How to Engage Others (100-102)
o Mini-profile of Dolly Parton (102-105)
o Engaging with Purpose (106-108)
o Engagement: The Leader’s Responsibility (110-113)
o Mindful Engagement (115-116)
o Engage with Your Presence (119-120)
o Fostering Engagement (125-126)
o “Your Moxie Handbook: Making Moxie Work for You” (131-143)

In Leading with GRIT: Inspiring Action and Accountability with Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth, Laurie Sudbrink explains that, in her research lab, she and her colleagues focus “on two traits that predict achievement: grit and self-control. Grit is the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals. Self-control is the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses in the presence of momentarily gratifying temptations or diversions. On average, individuals who are gritty are more self-controlled, but the correlation between these two traits is not perfect: Some individuals are paragons of grit but not self-control, and some exceptionally well-regulated individuals are not especially gritty.” The same is true of moxie so beware of simplification and stereotyping.

Readers will appreciate Baldoni’s skillful use of the “Closing Thought” section that appears at the conclusion of all five chapters. He also includes some formulae (e.g. “Innovation = Creativity + Application”), followed by “Leadership Questions” and “Leadership Directives” that serve two separate but related purposes: They facilitate the reader’s interaction with key points, and, they facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of important material later.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the abundance of valuable information, insights, and counsel that Baldoni provides. However, I hope that I have at least indicated why I think so highly of this book.

One final point: You won’t acquire moxie by reading a book but you can locate it within yourself. You already possess it. The challenge is to develop and enrich it. How? By sharing the experiences of high achievers whom John Baldoni interviewed, such as Donald Altman, Doug Conant, Chet Elton, Mark Goulston, Ryan Lance, and Rich Sheridan. They and other high achievers overcame all manner of problems with self-doubt, anxiety, and even terror. Most human limits are self-imposed. That is probably what Henry Ford had in mind when suggesting, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

The choice is yours. It always has been

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