The Smart Work

Reading List
More Conversations with Leaders

Call to Action

The Pit




From the Preface:

I have been fascinated for a long time by two things: leadership and stories. I taught communication and collaboration skills in corporate environments, and I met a lot of people who were called leaders. Some of these people deserved the title, but most of them did not, though they may have been gifted managers. I worked with those managers for years, helping them manage better and largely ignoring the leadership issue.

Here and there, however, I saw leaders who did invent new stories, at least for the people with whom they worked. Observing them, I realized the power that came from being purposeful about one’s stories. So when my clients complained about the lack of a clear and compelling vision and its consequences, such as muddled decision-making and lack of focus, I said “Well, if your bosses won’t give you a story, make one up! What do you have to lose? So what if they make you change it in six months? That was going to happen anyway, and you might get some traction in the meantime.”

“Well, okay, how do we do that?” they asked. In one of my better moments, I decided to use a framework for story-building called the hero’s journey. The scholar Joseph Campbell identified this format as the fundamental architecture of truly great stories. I began helping clients create stories their people would want to be part of, stories that opened a compelling future for their organizations.

In preparation for your journey, ask yourself these questions:
What is your personal definition of a leader?
What story or stories are dominant in your life and/or your organization right now?
Are they compelling to you?
Does the telling of a story have to be verbal?
What stories does your organization hold about the nature of leadership?

To continue your own exploration, we invite you to start with this Reading List and then read excerpts from some of the Leadership Conversations held in preparation for writing this book. Those conversations were with a wide range of leaders, from CEO's to people in mid-level positions, school superintendents, dance troupe founders, sergeants, admirals, generals, non-profit directors, government agency heads, governors, judges, street gang leaders and many of the leaders in my own field of organizational and personal change.