The Financial Times’ management editor’s new book is that rarest of things: a jargon-free management book.
Leadership feels like it is in short supply these days, making it a good time for Andrew Hill, the FT’s management editor, to launch his new book on the topic. Formed around a selection of his weekly columns, the book is an accessible read with a lightness of pace that more technical works lack.
Broken out into eight chapters, each focusing on a single act of management, with simple headings such as planning, shaping and coping. The titles are an indicator of the simplicity with which the author communicates his thoughts.
Each chapter has a narrative stitching together the columns that act as practical highlights, explaining points in greater detail. The chapters end with a handful of leadership lessons in the form of a short, numbered list. The structure helps the author roam widely yet retain focus.
From the collection, my favourite columns included one from 2014 about ‘purpose’ being the new, preachy buzzword. In 2016, with ‘purpose’ rapidly becoming buzzword of the year, it’s a reminder that ideas float around for quite a while before they become mainstream. As well as an excellent explanation of the strengths and pitfalls of the ‘purpose’, it contains a great example from Du Pont, where a production line worker making Kevlar (which is used in bullet proof vests) saying what his company does is save lives.
Another strong column covers the lessons from the integration of IBM’s laptop business into Lenovo – where management even changed the loos to help smooth the process. The insights shared by Hill, about flexibility, research and the importance of people above all else are useful for those working with teams across different regions too.
In an early column from 2012, Hill looks at the lessons business can take from the military. From the idolisation of Sun Tzu to the endless use of military analogies (war chests, campaigns, etc.), business people are obsessed with war so it’s interesting to look at some practical examples. The article looks at the flexibility of military leadership and its long-established move away from command and control, a style still all too prevalent in the business world.
Future of Leadership
The final chapter looks to the future of leadership. Hill identifies two influences on leadership in the 21st century: new science and new people. With science, he refers to the growth of technology and data which both informs management and needs to be managed. With people, he refers to a body of data that supports the idea that there is a generational shift in management style, from old school managers who hoard information and power, to newer managers who are happier in systems that are less hierarchical and more distributed.
If you’re looking for an accessible book on leadership in general, this is an excellent place to start. It’s easy to read and packed with examples that perhaps only a senior business journalist would be able to share.