Review: Why Leadership Sucks by Miles Anthony Smith

The book by author Miles Anthony Smith reads as a meaty and backed-up book choc full of crafted points on business leadership – nothing I haven’t read before, but it was all here in one book and documented thoroughly. I didn’t really fully grasp his rendition of the Level 5 Servant Leadership doctrine (I think some explanation is needed further using the originators of this theory as examples such as Greenleaf or Collins – thankfully I am familiar otherwise would have been lost) but thoroughly enjoyed his “start stop continue” team instruction: telling your team where to stop, start and continue is a brilliantly succinct way of putting it. I would have liked more original theory, but I think the fact that Smith backs up each idea with first hand examples does really bring the book alive and makes it stand out from other similar works. And lines do stand out and stick in your mind like reminders,

“When making decisions, stop and ask yourself whether you are trading short-term gain for long-term pain.” In fact, I was on my way back from a huge possible business move meeting, and that sentence stopped me from taking the deal! Thanks Miles!

This book does have a lot of quotes.  For me, quotes are scary. People pick quotes apart; they say things like, “Yeah, that guy said that, but went on to… [fill in the blanks with some ironic and heinous deed that ruins your quote]. I prefer bibliographies, but I guess they are lost to the digital age where it’s all about the bite-size meme. However, Smith takes the correct approach – this book is part of a new wave of business writing.

And therefore a young business senior may find this book much more palatable than many out on the market today, and I am pretty sure if I was starting out and had read this book, I would have made a lot fewer mistakes and have had a much better rep as a leader, maybe. Because it’s all exactly that – bite sized and accessible without reading like a tome on business theory. Thank goodness for books like this.

In fact, this business leadership book could have been a very good book indeed but for one issue which I feel it is my duty to point out as part of an online business community. While revealing religious beliefs and quoting the bible every few pages might be the way certain bubbles of business are done in the US, certainly in the international market it would be considered inappropriate to bring your own belief system into work.

Therefore, one page in, being quoted a passage from the New Testament caused me a fair degree of disappointment, realizing this this was going to be a Christian-based book, rather than a book for the general business market.

Why so disappointed?  Because this book is so beautifully edited, excellently written and makes some good points about the work environment that I have experienced myself, and many points I practice; but for me it was like having my boss in the room, preaching to the team to use Jesus as an example. Now, in my last working environment, I had four different religions on the team and there would be no way to recommend this book to any of them without causing offense.

Of course, there will be those who are Christian and have overtly Christian companies who will take this in their stride, and I am sure within the author’s community it is the norm to talk about Christianity on a regular basis (maybe why he has not realized quite how much his faith is coming across in the text), and for them I am sure that it will be a wonderful set of notes. But unfortunately, for anyone else it might just get a little too much that this book sets about the leadership work environment armed with a Bible and that, for me as a champion of equal rights in the workplace, undermines the book overall as useful for a general audience.

My advice to the author would be to make this book about what it says on the cover, as some might download it and then be faced with the evangelical style notes inside, which could be off putting. Leaving personal belief systems out of the work environment could mean he has one of the best books in recent times about leadership; by the same token making it clear it is a Christian book may also help find a niche audience. Choose one, or perhaps don’t lean so heavily on the latter.

However, despite this point, overall this is an excellent business book with a really knowledgeable and entertaining author that would be a smart choice for a speedy, easy read to get your chops down pat for business leadership.