Spark: A book review by Bob Morris

Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success
Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, and Sean Lynch
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (January 2017)

Without ignition, nothing happens and nothing gets done

To what does the title of this book refer?

Its co-authors — Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, and Sean Lynch – suggest that to be a spark, “you must recognize yourself as a leader. Know the pathway to leadership development and commit yourself to it. You’re not chosen to be a leader. You choose to lead.”

They are convinced that the most effective leaders are those who initiate the action that needs to be taken, who create conditions for success, “both their own and that of others.”

As they explain, “Leadership skills, like all skills, take time to develop. They are not innate. None of us are born leaders; we’re made into leaders. Your self-development begins with developing the courage to lead. What we learned in the military is that courage isn’t the absence of fear – it’s the ability to take action in the face of fear.” I agree, presuming to add that a crisis doesn’t develop character; rather, it reveals it, for better or worse.

As indicated, the first step on the aforementioned “pathway” is to choose to become a leader and be committed to that process of development. Here are some other key points:

o Be or become a self-starter
o Understand others’ expectations of you
o Recognize/leverage your primary strengths
o Acknowledge/improve your primary weaknesses
o Embrace personal accountability
o Take full responsibility for consequences of your decisions
o Recognize and meet others’ needs
o Be consistent: no gaps between what you say and what you do
o Expect obstacles, barriers, resistance, etc.

I presume to add relevant wisdom from other sources. Re the last point, Winston Churchill would advise in the strongest terms possible: “Never, never, never, never give up!”

Also, an ancient African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, travel together.”
Voltaire: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”
Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”
Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”
Ann Landers: “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Re the Landers insight, the most valuable lessons to be learned are from setbacks, disappointments, dead-ends, dry wells, etc. Yours are “failures” only if you learn nothing of value from them.

I commend Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, and Sean Lynch on their skillful use of several reader-friendly devices, notably the insertion and discussion of various “stories” that illustrate key points by anchoring them in real-world experiences. Also, “SPARK” and “CHARGING AHEAD” sections at the conclusion of each chapter. These and other devices achieve two separate but very important purposes: they facilitate interaction with the material provided, and, facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of that material later.

Sparks are essential to igniting both individual and organizational development. Hopefully the material in this book will inspire your self-motivation so that you can lead yourself and others to much greater success than you may now think possible. The choice is yours.

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