Ebook reviews: Why Leadership Sucks: Fundamentals of Level 5 Leadership and Servant Leadership by Miles Anthony Smith and The Agile Product Owner The zealots’ time is over, now let’s make it work (The Leadership Series) by Michael Nir



Books on management practice / personal development are common but good books on these subjects are rare. The issue is “what is good” in this context? I submit that most people will only reach for books on these topics when they are forced to because of some form of training or education. A few of us are interested in reading them for the pleasure of expanding our horizons and to some extent learning about the next challenge that might come along and to prepare to be able to cope with the problems that occur when we get what we wish for in our careers. Essentially, the idea is that we strive to get higher up the responsibility ladder and along the way we are in the middle and get squeezed from above and below and if we get to the top then it is either lonely (bad) or one finds that the squeeze is still on and we had not expected it (good).
In Michael Nir’s latest addition to the Leadership Series he describes how “When I consult to Waterfall based organizations they attack my insurgent Agile ideas, when I work with Agile organizations I am being blamed for being a heretic…I am neither for this nor for that – I am for business delivering value! With any approach/methodology whatever works! This is a practical guide that describes just what you need to make you Product Owner effective.”
For me: Nir has written another well developed and insightful work that looks beyond the system to the underlying foundations of Agile so that we can build up an even stronger approach towards achieving our business goals regardless of whether we lived through the ancestor systems. What makes this special is the mixture of anecdote and case studies that brings a clear and human face to an otherwise potentially abstract and dry subject. This book will either give an aspiring Product Owner very useful insights into their future or as an experienced Product Owner you will find new ways to smooth your path.
For Miles Anthony Smith we have an author who describes himself as “Born a Hoosier, raised an Okie, and currently residing in the Frozen Tundra of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Miles Anthony Smith is a happily married husband of Carolyn and a proud father of three. Now in his mid-30s, he was fortunate to have been given a significant leadership opportunity by his father at the age of 25. He is a classically trained violist, violinist, and composer, with passion in the fields of small-business management, marketing, macroeconomics, servant leadership, Classical education, and Christian apologetics. Miles, a Gen X’er leader, cares enough about organizational health to make the tough decisions, hire and coach the right people, set clear expectations, develop a strong team culture, and strengthen organizational cash flow, exhibiting both humility and fierce resolve. His mission in life is “To Chart the Course, Pave the Pathway, and Light the Lane for Others to Eclipse My Own Success in Leadership.”
The book description “Do you wish you were in leadership, or are you frustrated with being in leadership? Do you wonder why leadership sucks? You are not alone.” is short but punchy enough to get the point across. Miles is not short of fans already, his cover has won awards and there are plenty of reviews of his work but this is a book that I wanted to read because of its theme. It is a well written book and is clearly influenced in terms of style and delivery by the legacy of Carnegie, Covey, Godin etc. and at the same time has sufficient grounding in theory to be educational. Miles gives us quotations and anecdotes that make his point as he is developing a discourse on the proper method of being a modern leader.

Somehow the take home message from book of these books is that one should care about the role that you are in and understand the real position that you are filling. To internalize that the whole point of the work goes beyond the immediate. There is a need to understand the whole and also the part we play. The danger with any type of system is that we become focused on perfecting the system and sticking to it rigidly and forgetting what the system is for. On the other hand running with no system is anarchy. So we have the three options: by the book, maverick or understand the book use what is good.

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