"Do you think Martin Luther King, Jr. could have rallied a nation if he'd said 'I have 10 measurable objectives' instead of 'I have a dream'? I haven't had much discretionary time lately, so my "To Read" stack is a bit thick lately. However, on a cross-country flight this past Thursday, I read Robert H. Thompson's book: "The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable."
As the name implies, the book is about a leadership offsite, and it's written in a narrative, fable form similar to books like Lencioni's "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" (another great book that I've read a few times but haven't reviewed here).
The Offsite is a bit slow at the beginning - there is a lot of setup to help you get to know the characters better - but it gets interesting about a third of the way in, including some unexpected drama that happens away from the offsite, which the story even more interesting.
The Offsite takes us through a set of techniques through which a couple of "flatlining" organizations seek to break out of their performance problems. Through the story, I really felt myself identifying with a couple of the characters and was nicely drawn into the story. In fact, I wanted to go find the VP of Sales in the story and shake him for being such an idiot at one point!
5 Practices for success
Through this story, I learned about 5 "practices" that help people become excellent leaders:
- Model the Way
- Inspire a Shared Vision
- Challenge the Process
- Enable Others to Act
- Encourage the Heart
These 5 simple titles don't really do justice to the ideas they represent, but I think the author does a good job of bringing out the essence of each of them in the book. These practices are based on The Leadership Challenge, which was created by Barry Posner and Jim Kouzes.
The concepts in this book helped me better understand "servant leadership," which I've heard a lot about but haven't yet researched enough to do it justice (but I assure you I will now).
Overall, this book was a great read and went very quickly. In addition to driving me to dig into an assessment tool called the "LPI" (Leadership Practices Inventory) which figures prominently in the book, I really liked several concepts from the book.
- The Commitment Circle, which deals with expanding the people involved in your decisions, projects, etc. to bring in a much broader perspective within your sphere of influence;
- Several exercises that are modeled in the book, dealing with establishing goals and specific actions to achieve them (yes, I know - every personal development book has that - but this one does it well);
- A tremendous illustration about the power of being "vulnerable" to you staff and letting them know what you need help with, what you are struggling with, etc.
One of the anchors presented in the book is a clear, inspring, unifying vision (whether for one of the many teams you may be a part of, or for yourself). A couple of sentences from the book sum it up nicely:
"Do you think Martin Luther King, Jr. could have rallied a nation if he'd said 'I have 10 measurable objectives' instead of 'I have a dream'? Leaders share their dreams, folks. They breathe life into their visions and communicate clearly for understanding."
The Offsite is a great addition to your reading list if you want to become a better leader, are struggling with ineffective leaders in your organization, or want to learn techniques to energize and unify a team.