Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: Take the Lead

Book Review:   Take the Lead, by Betsy Myers.   NY:  Atria Paperback, 2011.

This is outside my usual scope of Pennsylvania politics, but Myers did a lot of outreach in the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, and was gracious enough to do an interview with me here on the blog.  I remain impressed enough with that to read her book.

The full title of the book is Take the Lead:  Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You.  It is composed of seven chapters, each devoted to a particular character trait:  authenticity, connection, respect, clarity, collaboration, learning, and courage.  There is also an introduction, a conclusion, a foreword by David Gergen, and an afterword by Warren Bennis.   Gergen and Bennis primarily vouch for Myers’s abilities.    I liked the “c” chapters best, particularly clarity.

Myers does write about her work on the Obama campaign, as well as stories from other aspects of her life.  There is something here for everyone.  Her discussions of the White House Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach were especially interesting.  My favorite anecdote was the choice between having an office in the West Wing, with all the cachet that would contain, and larger offices in another location.  The Office went with more spacious but distant offices because this would allow them to have larger groups of women to come to their office for meetings and networking.

Many of the suggestions included in her book will seem like common sense, but as is so often said, it’s too bad common sense isn’t.   While Myers worldview is a sunny one, her book is not saccharine.  I enjoyed reading it, though parts of it made me feel my age.  Many of her strategies are more likely to appeal to younger people just starting out than mid or late career professionals.  The collaboration chapter would be of lively interest to people going into a first job, or a new job or field.  She doesn't shy away from tough topics, such as encouraging employees whose gifts may lie elsewhere to pursue their dreams in another setting.

She does not limit her view of leadership to those in the corner office.  Her viewpoint is, in a nutshell, “Good leadership Is not about having the most knowledge or power but about how you make others feel” (from the back cover).    From that perspective it is very refreshing.   She also writes, in the authenticity chapter, about the importance of being true to yourself. 

This book would make a wonderful gift for a new college graduate or a more established person going into a new field or simply wanting to invigorate a longstanding career.    However, anyone researching the importance of women in the electorate would find this a useful resources as well.    I recommend it.

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