I’m feeling okay about working in a management book in between each pair of books I read for fun because most of them are pretty short. This one may be the shortest yet at only 134 pages. Written in the form of a fairly lame “leadership fable,” the book has an important message, which can and is summarized as follows:
1. Choose trust over invulnerability. Actively encourage your people to challenge your ideas. Trust them with your reputation and your ego. As a CEO, this is the greatest level of trust that you can give. They will return it with respect and honesty, and with a desire to be vulnerable among their peers.
2. Choose conflict over harmony. Tolerate discord. Encourage your direct reports to air their ideological differences, and with passion. Tumultuous meetings are often signs of progress. Tame ones are often signs of leaving important issues off the table. Guard against personal attacks, but not to the point of stifling important interchanges of ideas.
3. Choose clarity over certainty. Make clarity more important than accuracy. Remember that your people will learn more if you take decisive action than if you always wait for more information. And if the decisions you make in the spirit of creating clarity turn out to be wrong when more information becomes available, change plans and explain why. It is your job to risk being wrong. The only real cost to you of being wrong is loss of pride. The cost to your company of not taking the risk of being wrong is paralysis.
4. Choose accountability over popularity. Work for the long-term respect of your direct reports, not for their affection. Don’t view them as a support group, but as key employees who must deliver on their commitments if the company is to produce predictable results. And remember, your people aren’t going to like you anyway if they ultimately fail.
5. Choose results over status. Make results the most important measure of personal success, or step down from the job. The future of the company you lead is too important for customers, employees, and stockholders to hold it hostage to your ego.