Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to your top questions.
Why did you write this book?
We believe that in a tough world we need better leaders who can both care about others and make progress on challenging issues. There are books (and leaders) who care. There are books (and leaders) who can make progress. But few leaders skillfully promote progress while demonstrating care for others. So, we hope to spur on that conversation, transcending that tension to collaboratively accomplish things few thought possible.
There are plenty of books written about the "soft side" of leadership, oriented around emotional intelligence and the servant leadership model. How is yours different?
Well, the subtitle is actually, “beyond servant leadership”. We see emotional intelligence and servant leadership as a great foundation, but we need to take the next step by candidly addressing issues that seem to be in the background of those movements. For example, we address financial issues front and center in one chapter; in another, we focus on how to transform pushback into progress.
What did you discover in writing a book?
We talked to a lot of people about the ideas and found that many leaders shared the frustrations we addressed. For example, everybody believes in “good listening,” but many leaders sensed there was almost a “faux listening” movement sweeping the office place. Ditto for collaboration.
Why do you think there is so much faux listening and faux collaboration?
That’s a very complex question but we’ve isolated two primary challenges: First, many people might learn about the behaviors associated with collaboration, for instance, but neglect to develop the corresponding fundamental beliefs. Leaders need to believe in the power of embracing uncertainty to genuinely collaborate with others. Second, there are two aspects of leadership skills: those that are visible to others and those that are more subtle. Effective leaders blend the two. Asking the right questions is a visible practice that enhances listening. A more subtle practice would be simply remaining silent at the right time.
What's been the reaction to the book so far?
We’ve had two interesting responses. First, some people found a fascinating topic in the book, like “toxic positivity”, and detail how they have a better understanding and action plan to address the issue. Others tell us that you really have to read the entire book to fully understand the integrated perspective. It’s not just one topic, but the integration of beliefs and practices that prove most meaningful for some leaders – it’s one of those, “oh, I see how this all fits together” transformative, life experiences.
How did you collaborate to write the book?
We’ve worked together for decades on various executive development and organizational issues. And we’ve observed each other “in action." Plus, we’ve written two other books together. So, that formed a strong foundation, but there are always issues to hash out. Writing a book forces you to clarify your thinking and observations in profound ways. It’s never easy but it proves rewarding.
Does the pairing of a business executive and professor present any special challenges?
Sure. We have different lens through which we view the same issue or situation. In general, that adds depth to our mutual understanding but sometimes it creates tensions that we need to resolve. For example, we had long discussions about maximizing employee performance. We had some differing perspectives about how to deal with people who were underperforming but we ended up with a nice integration of our views.
What represents the biggest challenge to leaders who aspire to lead with care?
That will depend on the leader. But two issues are worth noting – self-deception and culture. It’s easy to read a book like this or even scan the table of contents and simply say, “Yes, I do all these things.” That’s self-deceptive. And, that’s why we included self-reflection questions at the end of the chapters. Better yet, have your team rate you on those issues. The other issue is organizational culture. You can only practice these principles in organizations that, at the very least, tolerate if not embrace the core tenants. We doubt leading with care makes much sense to Putin’s army right now.
The illustrations in the book are thought provoking. Was that part of your writing process?
Yes. For every topic we crafted this challenge: How could we visualize the challenge or recommendation in a single visual image? So, we thought about this in the design of the project.
How does your book relate to the current crop of political leaders?
Well, politics is a very tough world but the leading with care approach has direct relevance to how to better address the complex challenges our world faces. If politicians and bureaucrats don’t solve problems in the right way, the solutions are not sustainable, regardless of how laudable they might be.
Do you think this book will be the final word on leadership?
No. After all, we start the book with a discussion on the power of embracing uncertainty. But we do think the book can take leaders to the next level, beyond servant leadership. And, maybe we can all do our part to make this a little better world.