What Keeps Leaders Up At Night? by Nicole Lipkin

What keeps Leaders upIncreasingly I get sent books to review, usually on women’s issues and women in management etc.  Most of them never make it onto these pages as I only review books I think will be genuinely helpful to my readers, and not cure their insomnia…

If I’m honest it took me a while to get into What Keeps Leaders…which was nothing to do with the book itself, more an indicator of my workload. Plus, it is an American book, and not specifically aimed at women so not my usual book review fodder. But when I did sit down and read it I was so pleased I had: it’s good. I’m currently working with a new management group on their individual development and I will be recommending it to each and everyone of them.

You’ll be beginning to realise by now that I liked it…

The author is Nicole Lipkin; she has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology as well as an MBA and she speaks with authority. No pyschobabble and almost all her assertions/advice are referenced with relevant research. Right up my street! There are no spectacularly new revelations but more a gathering together in a coherent and helpful form information you will probably know somewhere in the recesses of your mind.  For example, the theory of confirmation bias is well explained in the context of leadership. She does introduce some new constructs of her own, like SLAM, as a way of thinking about keeping people engaged and involved:

S Social Connection
L Leadership Excellence
A  Aligned Culture
M Meaningful Work and Life

She says of SLAM:

It incorporates all of my experience and the latest research in the field into an easy to remember and useful tool for creating and maintaining engagement in the workplace. Its holistic point of view respects all of the important aspects of human psychology, physiology, emotions, attitudes, and behaviours.”

As well as references you’ll also find some stories within the pages which really help to bring the book alive and make sense of its points. I loved the stories. I thought as I began reading it that we were getting a genuinely gender neutral book as she talks easily of both men and women and uses stories from both; she pretty much pulls it off. This makes the promotional video  a bit disappointing as it features mainly men, and women with kids or cake making. (You can check it out at the end of this post and see what you think). I wonder how much control Nicole had over that? I hope I’ll be interviewing Nicole soon and will get a chance to ask her. (If you have any of your own leadership questions do send them in.)

Back to the stories; the author uses them to great effect: it stops the book becoming a turgid tome and makes it easy to read in chunks. Here’s an illustrative extract under Control and Hardiness:

In the late 1970s, Dr Susan Kobasa, a clinical psychologist at City University in New York, studied executives at the Bell Telephone Company who were experiencing high levels of stress due to the government-mandated restructuring of the company that broke up the monopoly of ‘Ma Bell’ into the many ‘Baby Bells’. She found that 3 personality traits could actually protect someone from the negative effects of stress…. Kobasa found that executives with (a) a strong sense of commitment; (b) a belief that they could exert control over their situation, and (c) a tendency to see the opportunity inherent in a problem experienced a 50% decrease in their risk of developing a stress-related health problem compared to their more pessimistic counterparts. The three traits increased their hardiness, their ability to weather a stress storm. They felt stress, but they did not let it drag them down into despondency. Anyone can develop this sort of learned optimism.

She then goes on to give a story which illustrates this point perfectly. This is her style throughout the book which enhances your learning and understanding and breaks up the factual information.

If you are in any type of role where you have to exert some leadership or work influentially with others, take a look at this book. I’m very pleased to have it on my bookshelf and it will be much loaned out!

Oh that video? Here it is:

If it isn’t displaying correctly click this link

Book details: available at all good bookshops and on Amazon. Published by Amacom – American Management Association

Thinking of expanding your training business? Are you passionate about empowering women? I have a brilliant opportunity for you! To find out more, click here


Posted on August 27th, 2013 by

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