As an executive coach, Amy Jen Su brings to HBR a different perspective to personal development. Her experience with professionals around the globe, from middle management to the C level, led her to write “The Leader You Want to Be”. An interesting title, which turns upside down the classical personal development philosophy. Why? Usually the managers are oriented towards the organizational objectives – so they would try to mold themselves based on the organization’s culture, goals and pressures. Amy Jen Su advises on a different starting point in your re-invention journey. That point is coming from a reflection on your own values and strengths – and how one can leverage them to increase the impact. No need to say that this represents a fairly different approach to the classical career ladder one.
Without spoiling too much, it should be mentioned that the book focuses on five key leadership elements: purpose, process, people, presence, and peace. Of course, during the process the leader should combine both the internal capabilities with the external environment possibilities – to increase his/her impact potential. This is not easy – the process resembles mostly to juggling with more balls at a time. Interestingly enough, Amy Jen Su recognizes this and also brings the “peace” element into the evaluation – one should be at peace with the decisions taken at the end of the day. Replenishing your inner self is an essential leader task – without reflection and retreat, it is very difficult to stay focused on the task.
“The Leader You Want to Be” draws also a lot on very old philosophies such as Taoism, Buddhism and Greek classics (such as Aristotle). I resonated particularly well with the concept of a beginner’s mind in Buddhism – one must stay humble and accept we are a permanent work in progress – in other words, our leadership work is never 100% done. From this perspective, “The Leader You Want to Be” reminds us timely that it is good to anchor yourself not only on the latest management fads. All the ancient mankind wisdom is there to be used – and this becomes a journey, not a goal.
These being said, leaders should not only embrace their limitations, but also try to expand their capabilities. This is where the “people” element comes in – all of us need to be able to expand our circle of influence so that we can achieve more at the end of the day.
“The Leader You Want to Be” is also a very practical book – it offers practical solutions to some of our daily struggles, together with stories from the reality of various leader’s lived. It comes from very diverse backgrounds to build a wide story – the author combines experiences from CEOs, artists, athletes and written accounts. Towards the end of it, Amy Jen Su recognizes that there are no experts in the leadership field – only persons better at it then others. So I guess we should all “up our game” and give it a try – we can only get better during the journey.