By Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones (2006)

Pages: 256, Final verdict: Should-read

If there are two topics that dominate the shelves of the non-fiction section of any bookstore - besides those on cooking and bulletproof 14-day diets that promise the "Instagram beach body" you've always dreamed of - are on the realms of leadership and management.

A book that aims at taking a different approach by bridging extensive theoretical research with direct access to real life leaders of all levels, Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones attempt to decode authentic leadership. At the end of the day, the question their trying to help you figure out is simple...why should anyone be led by you?

The struggle for authenticity

Leadership is in low supply. And although management oriented and bureaucratic organizations dominate the business landscape, top executives recognize that true leadership is in real shortage.

Why Should Anyone Be Led By You aims to depict both the conventional and unconventional ways which make leaders great.

The greater part of the book is dedicated to the continuous struggle of how to be an authentic leader. Don't expect to find a futile attempt to deliver a list of attributes that a leader should follow. Instead, the book broadens the horizon of leadership with topics ranging from the importance of taking personal risks to the importance of carefully displaying one's weaknesses.

Most theories and points exposed throughout the book are combined with stories from the business world, through experiences lived by leaders in organisations such as GE, BBC or Nestlé.

Interestingly, and as wide as the stories on leadership attempt to go, all topics covered throughout most of the book are carefully encompassed within these 3 key areas:

Knowing yourself | Managing Social Distance | Situation Sensing

Reading Why Should Anyone Be Led You will not make you an expert of any particular subject related to leadership. Instead, what it will do is bring you closer to understanding the trade-offs, decisions and inner search that accompanies a journey to be an authentic leader.

"What a leader needs to have is not a set of rules but a good method of analysing the situation in which he must act" - Rob and Gareth

The hidden art of being a follower

One aspect I found unique about the book is the importance it lays on the follower's end of the relationship with the leader. And while some of us are blessed with the chance to lead our team, the truth is that we're all followers. Therefore, and as important as it is to understand what makes a great leader, one should not disregard what people expect from someone in a leadership role.

Be it a decisive person who can turn the organisation around or someone who is patient to let their people blossom with time, the relationship between followers and leaders is contextual and will not follow a simple recipe. Based on their research, the authors categorize the "follower's needs" into these 4 elements:

  • Authenticity: The most explored concept throughout the book, once again we are exposed to a leader's need to be authentic, one that reveals what makes him/her distinctive and is not afraid to show his/her weaknesses.

  • Significance: Everyone wants to feel they are part of something bigger. A leader's job is to inspire their followers with the overarching purpose of their actions, recognise effort and achievement of their team and give timely feedback that will boost their performance and motivation.

  • Excitement: People seek a leader who can infect passion and excitement on their team. Icons such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Jack Welch were masters at this, with their ability to electrify their teams with the vision of the organisation and excite them to go beyond what was conventional.

  • Community: Hardwired in our social needs is our craving to "belong" to something. People generally feel more comfortable in an environment where they feel connected with their peers, and it is the trait of a great leader to understand how to understand this need a foster a sense of community in the organisation.

"Leadership may ultimately be about overarching purpose, but it's consistently about people and relationships" - Rob and Gareth

Bottom line

"Be yourself-more-with skill". The ultimate advise from the authors of Why Should Anyone Be Led By You is as simple as it is bland. And if leadership is a complex web of the intricacies of decision making, communication and expressions of self, perhaps the overarching message of the book could not be more appropriate.

Why Should Anyone Be Led By You will make you reflect on the leadership landscape around you and prompt you to search within yourself for ways to be better. And for all its merits on how the book portrays key areas where leaders display mastery, it practically ignores other fundamentals areas of leadership, such as decision making or strategic thinking.

An elegant and clean narrative coupled with a myriad of ways to help you become a better leader make this a great use of a few of your hours. As for me, I'm still searching for why people should be lead by me. It's probably going to be a never-ending quest..

Further learning:

Happy reading.