Thursday, January 28, 2016

Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes, and Thinking Big by Ralph Heath (2009)

Note:  I read this book for work, not for pleasure.

Al Gore crack - I thought this was unnecessary and injected a political bias. I'm sure this was meant as a throw-away joke - and old chestnut at that - but it's the kind of joke a right winger would make  (sort of like the left wing would make a Trump joke).  I thought it tarnished his message, if ever so slightly.

He definitely has a very high opinion of himself and what he's done.  It's many examples of how great his company was, and how they succeeded, interspersed with some business motivational homilies.  There was occasional mention of others.  The most interesting was Lance Armstrong, who should never at this point should be quoted in anything motivational.

Chapter 12, "Break A Rib," was the one I thought was the most emotionally stimulating, if not intellectually interesting.  Heath used to frequent a favorite bike shop (of course he rides bike, the rich white man sport now that horse racing went out with the Astors), and they gradually treated him worse and worse until he stopped going.  It packed an emotional punch, because I think it's something we all have experienced as customers at one time or another, and on the other side of the counter, it's an experience in any field of service - whether private or public sector - that you as a administrator/supervisor/business owner are always trying to avoid.  At it's heart, it was about treating customers fairly, giving them all the information upfront so they can make informed choices and not feel cheated.

I did like the idea of "leading from the back" chapter 4, which starts with a quote from Lao Tzu, "to lead people, walk behind them."  Here is another version of the quote:

“To lead people, walk beside them ...
As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence.
The next best, the people honor and praise.
The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate ...
When the best leader's work is done the people say,
We did it ourselves!”

I think it's interesting that Heath chose the quote that uses "behind" rather than "beside" - which have different meanings.  "Behind" implies standing back, watchfulness - he says "Hang back" but to me it has a touch of paternalism; "beside" implies being right in the thick of things, working together.

[both of these "quotes" are the type of internet drivel that drives me nuts; Heath's quote has an attribution to Lao Tzu, but no source, which makes me think he just googled "cool leadership quotes" or some other kind of lazy scholarship; the other quote I pulled from Goodreads, and while I like it - I like them both - this is just as shitty scholarship, as it also doesn't say where this came from.  I guess these people knoew Lao Tzu personally, and are quoting something he told them at dinner - which makes Heath immortal]

He does go on, though, to say "if you want to encourage leadership in others, let them lead.  Be accepting of alternative solutions that are not your own and allow failure without punishment."  I do believe this is one of the best ways to be a leader; how well I practice this, though...  

Other points in this chapter: "trust your team."  "share control."  And "Take a sabbatical" - if it all falls apart when you are gone, something is wrong.


Celebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes, and Thinking BigCelebrating Failure: The Power of Taking Risks, Making Mistakes, and Thinking Big by Ralph Heath
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I celebrate the fact I was able to finish this book of blatherskitery. Blowhardishness. Gasbagisms. I read this for work, or I would have actually stopped a few pages in.

I'm giving it two stars because there was a quote (unattributed, which was lazy on the author's part; too busy bragging to look up references, I guess) that I liked, and a chapter (12, to be exact) that I found at the very least something beyond infuriating.


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