The management narrative was probably invented by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson over 20 years ago with The One Minute Manager. The format uses a story to communicate information about management and leadership. The protagonist goes on a quest to discover how to become a better leader, manager, parent, or person, meeting various people along the way who give information and insight. The best writer in this genre is Patrick Lencioni; his characters have depth his situations are realistic. Mark Miller has used this format in four books now. He is not as good a writer as Lencioni, but his style does not get in the way of presenting some significant and helpful leadership principles.
In The Heart of Leadership, Miller brings back young Blake Brown and seasoned leader Debbie Brewster. Blake is stuck in his company, unable to get to the next level. Through mentoring and directing Blake to other leaders, Debbie helps him to see that leadership is less about skills and more about character. Of course, the facets involved in leadership character work out to an easily remembered acrostic (which I won’t reveal or there would be no need to read the book).
Those who read regularly about leadership, management, and change will find little new here, but they will be reminded of some basic and useful ideas. For example, I was confronted again with two key concepts of leadership. First, one does not have to have a title to be a leader. Debbie tells Blake, “[A] title doesn’t make someone a leader—and the absence of a title shouldn’t keep someone from leading.” (p. 81) Second, we should not confuse opportunity with leadership. Debbie says, “Others control many of our opportunities, so that shouldn’t be our concern. We control our readiness.” (p. 39)
Underlying everything in the book is the idea of servant leadership. A leader who thinks that he or she is the center of the universe will be greatly disappointed!
The book is a quick read, a good reminder for a seasoned leader or a primer for one just starting out.