Editor’s Choice Books
The Busy Leader’s Handbook:
How to Lead People and Places That Thrive
Reviewed by Dr. Terry Kibiloski, Editor, Computer Times
When I reviewed Quint Studer’s book, The Busy Leader’s Handbook: How to Lead People and Places That Thrive (Wiley, October 2019, ISBN: 978-1-119-57664-8, $28.00), I was pleasantly and professionally surprised. In the past 40 years, I have held several leadership positions in the military and the private sector, and currently serve as a university professor with a PhD in leadership, as well as a motivational speaker focused on leadership. In short, I have a thorough understanding of effective leadership. In my professional opinion, Studer excels where so many other authors have failed when it comes to explaining the difficult, and many times misunderstood, areas of leadership. Quint Studer’s new book, certainly deserves our coveted Computer Times Editors’ Choice award.
Like many successful coaches and military leaders, Studer understands that effective leaders recognize discomfort as a positive catalyst for change, and self-disruption as a positive leadership strategy. Studer challenges the status quo and as a result appears to be a living example of Albert Einstein’s statement that “Great spirits have always encountered opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”
As Studer explains, “Over the years, as I have interacted with many individuals and groups, I have recommended various actions that, if implemented, would improve performance and lead to better results. Quite often, I get pushback. A common response is ‘I am not comfortable doing that.’ But much of a leader’s job is spent being uncomfortable and leading others through discomfort as well.” If you want to be a highly efficient leader, I highly recommend that you read and heed the leadership advice Studer provides in his excellent tips below.
Realize that discomfort is normal. As M. Scott Peck wrote in his book The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult…Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult.”
It’s best if disruption comes from you and the organization and not from outside sources. Make time to work on the business, not just in the business. Reevaluate your company regularly. Take it one department at a time. You are likely to find that what you think is happening inside your company—perhaps even the very basic fundamentals—isn’t happening. This will give you a chance to step in and make needed changes—to disrupt yourself.
Get in the habit of asking questions. Regularly ask employees: What might the company do differently? What is holding us back? What is working well? Also, question customers on how you can better serve them, when and where you’ve exceeded expectations, and what problems you solve for them. Never be afraid to ask questions for fear you might not like the answers. If you don’t ask, you won’t know what you need to improve.
Own the messages that unsettle you and others. It is easy to blame someone else. As a leader, you have a choice: You can deflect the pressure (and ease the discomfort you feel) by blaming corporate, or you can carry the message yourself. Those who carry the message themselves and take ownership of it are the real leaders.
Understand and explain the why. Once people understand the why behind what they’re being asked to do, they are almost always willing to push through the discomfort and adopt the behavior. As leaders, it’s our job to convey the why in a way that people can truly hear and understand.
Make it a cultural standard to immediately admit to mistakes. This is one of the most valuable things leaders and employees can do, because owning up to mistakes allows you to quickly fix issues and course correct. Yet the prospect of admitting mistakes is deeply unsettling to people. As a leader, model this behavior. Say, “I was wrong,” when needed. And make sure it’s psychologically “safe” for others to do so as well by not punishing mistakes. Make it clear that mistakes are a necessary part of learning and growth.
Urge employees to get in on the self-disruption, too. The beauty of regular self-disruption is that it creates a culture inside your company in which people continually look for a better way to do things—a culture in which no one is satisfied with anything less than the best. Creating this kind of culture is worth the uncomfortable feeling of being a little unsettled.
Don’t forget to recognize and celebrate what’s going right. As you constantly seek to disrupt and unsettle yourself, you will also find that some things are going right inside your company. This allows you to celebrate the “wins” with employees and also to praise and reward your high performers. This keeps engagement and morale high and encourages employees to work even harder and smarter.
“Leadership means unsettling ourselves and others,” concludes Studer. “The most effective leaders realize that being unsettled is part of the process of life, and they work to understand and role model this truth.”
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A personal note from Dr. Terry Kibiloski: While Quint Studer has many words of wisdom in his newest book, in my opinion, chapter 27 is one of his most important. In this chapter, Quint dispels the unfair and inaccurate stereotypes of Millenials (ages 19 to 39), so many times ignorantly echoed by authors worldwide. Quint recognizes that Millenials are no different than every younger generation before them, stating that “I like, respect, and value the vast majority of these young people.” As a Baby Boomer myself, who has lived through decades of many “younger generations”, I wholeheartedly agree with Quint. I caution leaders to study the Pygmalion Effect, where their negative expectation of a follower can become a self fulfilling prophecy, as the targeted follower becomes the negative person you expect them to be. Millenials, like all followers, will respond positively to your respect and recognition of their strengths. One of your main tasks as a leader is to motivate, challenge, encourage, and groom each of your followers into the best they can be. As Peter Drucker taught us decades ago, leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, raising a person’s performance to higher standards, and building a person beyond their normal limitations.
About the Author:
Quint Studer is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller The Busy Leader’s Handbook and a lifelong businessman, entrepreneur, and student of leadership. He not only teaches it; he has done it. He has worked with individuals at all levels and across a variety of industries to help them become better leaders and create high-performing organizations. He seeks always to simplify high-impact leader behaviors and tactics for others. Quint is the founder of Vibrant Community Partners and Pensacola’s Studer Community Institute. He currently serves as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the University of West Florida. To learn more, please visit www.thebusyleadershandbook.com, www.vibrantcommunityblueprint.com, and www.studeri.org.
About the Book:
The Busy Leader’s Handbook: How to Lead People and Places That Thrive (Wiley, October 2019, ISBN: 978-1-119-57664-8, $28.00) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and direct from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945. In Canada, call 800-567-4797. For more information, please visit the book’s page at www.wiley.com.