The Secrets of Leadership

Yesterday, Michael Larsen posted a review of Weinberg’s book, The Secrets of Consulting. I’ve been meaning to share a few thoughts about this book for at least year, so I thank Michael for spurring me to finally share my thoughts and experiences with TSoC.

If you haven’t read this book, I bet it’s because the title scared you away. You’re probably thinking, “I’m not a consultant, this book is irrelevant”. For those thinking that, or for any others reading right now, I’ll tell you this. I have read (and in some cases studied), over 40 books on leadership – and this is one of the best I’ve ever read on the subject.

When people get to “Senior” roles at Microsoft, one of the things we expect is an ability to influence without authority, work through others, and basically make those around you better. For our introverted tech geeks, this is often a big wall to climb. Inevitably, when one of these Senior non—manager folks tracks me down and asks, “How can I get better at influence?”, or “How can I get others to accept my ideas?”, I hand them a copy of this book (I’ve done my best to pad Mr. Weinberg’s royalties with the dozen or so copies of this book I’ve purchased over the years). You see, being a good consultant, and being a good leader are pretty much the same thing. Some of my takeaways are below (adapted heavily to my usage over the years).

Good consultants know how to define the real problem at hand – they see what’s there, and what’s not there, and come up with a solution (or multiple solutions). I would hope, that if you’re a leader, you’d do the same.

Good consultants are humble – they don’t pretend to know it all, and know when to admit when they don’t. Your fee (or your title if you’re not a consultant) doesn’t mean you’re always right. It does mean, however, that you always need to help the team improve.

Establish and maintain trust. I can’t say enough about how much I value trust as a leadership attribute. The chapter on trust is critical for any leader.

Worry about the accomplishment, not the credit. This one rings home at MS, where our (ahem) review system often drives people to focus on credit rather than outcomes. The punch line, is that in my experience, the weight of the accomplishment always outweighs the weight of who did what. Just worry about making your projects successful, and the rewards will follow.

And given the hundred or so bullet points of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book, I’d say the meta-takeaway is that you have a good leadership toolbox. If something doesn’t work, doing it again louder won’t help – do something different. Use another leadership tool, or experiment. Nobody has time (or money) for a one-trick pony.

Now – to be fair, several points in the book are specifically for consulting – but if you read this book looking for leadership advice, that’s exactly what you’ll find (and you’ll barely notice the n/z sections).

What are you waiting for – go learn how to be a leader.

7 Comments

  1. Glad to have been an inspiration in this, Alan :). I agree, the title confuses people. We need to step back and realize that we are all consultants in a real sense. Every one of us provides a service to clients. We may quibble over the titles and the arrangement (contract vs. full time employment, consultant vs. worker) but we all at the end of the day work for ourselves and offer our services to those who need them and will pay for them. For this reason, TSoC is a book that everyone in the workforce should read. I also agree it’s a book about leadership and just plain dealing with people and situations.

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  2. Agreed, it’s a great read. Put it together with his Becoming a Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-Solving Approach book and you have a great base

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  3. Thanks, Alan. You guys make me blush, but I’ll survive. I just hope your reviews halp others find my books and encourage them to read those books. Believe me, I’m not writing them for the royalties, but for the help I can give readers in becoming more effective leaders (consultants).

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    • At least I got interested right away. Thanks Alan for recommending this, and thanks Jerry for writing it and using Smashwords. That allowed me to buy the book right now on my way to work.

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  4. I am currently a consultant (working towards having my own company), so Mr. Weinberg’s book is very relevant to me.

    I remember that yesterday I was having a call with one of my clients, and she asked me on how I did one thing, I told her that I did it the wrong way first, and then, I did it the right way – and that’s why the work took more than anticipated. She didn’t complain, in fact, she was telling me that she fell in a similar trap before.

    Communicating the truth, being humble, and being fair is an excellent secret to a great and a thriving consultancy business.

    Reply

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