What Keeps Leaders Up at Night: A book review by Bob Morris

What KeepsWhat Keeps Leaders Up at Night: Recognizing and Resolving Your Most Troubling Management Issues
Nicole A. Lipkin
AMACOM (2013)

Here are valuable leadership lessons to be learned from a former barefoot cobbler

In her exceptionally thoughtful and thought-provoking Introduction, Nicole Lipkin confides, “I crossed the line from good boss to bad boss because I didn’t do what I’ve spent my career helping others to do. I didn’t pay attention to what makes our brains tick, to the basic principles of psychology, and to the age-old tenets of human nature.” In other words, she had not practiced in her own life and career what she had preached to others, hence the title of this brief commentary on valuable lessons to be learned from a real person’s experiences.

As the subtitle of her book correctly suggests, Lipkin’s focus is on HOW to recognize and avoid or resolve the most troubling management issues. She relies on an abundance of personal experience and seems genuinely eager to help as many people as possible to learn from that experience, to understand what works, what doesn’t, and why. For example, consider this five-step process she recommends to those in need of developing a skill for proactive listening. Briefly:

Step One: Remember the 2-1 ratio of ears to mouth. Shut your mouth and open your ears. Turn off the voice in your head that constantly makes assumptions, judges the speaker, and contemplates what you will say next.

Step Two: Listen for feelings…Pay attention to words that express feelings or needs and to nonverbal behaviors [e.g. body language, tone of voice] that may reflect how someone feels.

Step Three: Acknowledge what you think you heard by paraphrasing what the person has just said.

Step Four: Offer your own opinion after acknowledging the other person’s contribution. Do it without judgment.

Step Five: Pay attention to any change in body language, verbalization, or emotion that was made after you added your own opinion. Acknowledge anything you have noticed for accuracy and continued discussion.

These are among the dozens of business subjects and related issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Lipkin’s coverage.

o Good Boss Gone Bad Syndrome (Pages 4-5)
o Why Don’t People Buy into Me? (34-43)
o Why Don’t People Buy into My Message? (43-51)
o Threat Perception/Reality (69-75)
o Good Fights vs. Bad Fights (99-112)
o Success Schemas (124-128)
o Panoramic Perspective on Success (135-140)
o Mental Barriers (154-165)
o Emotional Contagion (188-193)
o Avoiding/Counteracting the Traps of Team Dysfunction (199-202)
o Elusive Engagement, and, Misunderstood Motivation (206-213)
o The SLAM Model: Social Connection, Leadership Excellence, Aligned Culture, and Meaningful Work and Life (221-231)
o The Aha Moment (235-237)

I commend Lipkin’s on her skillful use of reader-friendly devices that include a “Wrap UP” section at the conclusion of Chapters 1-8 as well as more than one hundred bullet-point check lists strategically inserted throughout her lively and eloquent narrative, in coordination with several Figures that include “The Most Common Cognitive Distortions” (Figure 3-3, Pages 80-83), “Challenging Negative Thoughts” (Figure 3-4, Pages 85-86), and “STOP LOAFS/excessive social loafing” (Figure 7-2, Page 187). These and other format devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of especially valuable information, insights, and counsel later.

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the information, insights, and counsel that Nicole Lipkin provides. However, I hope that I have at least identified the primary focus of her attention and suggested the thrust and flavor or of her approach to a serious challenge that all C-level executives now face: How to recognize and avoid or resolve the most troubling management issues. As her References (Pages 239-257) clearly indicate, she also makes excellent use of sources that help her reader to understand (a) what makes our brains tick, (b) the basic principles of psychology, and (c) the age-old tenets of human nature.

Posted in

1 Comment

  1. Fred Dempster on August 28, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Thanks Bob – This one just fell onto my Kindle..!

Leave a Comment