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  1. Falter, Elizabeth (Betty) MS, RN, CNAA, BC

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Essentials for Great Personal Leadership [horizontal ellipsis] No-Nonsense Solutions With Gratifying Results, Wendy Leebov. Chicago, IL: Health Forum;2008. softcover, 109 pages, $32 for nonmembers, $26 for members.


The author directs this intentionally practical leadership book toward executives or, in her words, "to provide practical, bite-sized tools for swamped ever-learning executives" (Preface xiii). The author has 30 years of experience in healthcare and this is her getting-down-to-business book. It is not theoretical nor is it inspirational. It is what it is. Before managers dismiss this as a book for executives, I do not. I think today's managers have more responsibility and in the era of transparency and alignment, operation from a book is not a bad idea. The tools are checklists, questionnaires, meeting plans, scripts, and coaching techniques. Some of you will look at the book and say, "I don't need this" but "I know someone who does." The book is more than a compilation of the author's columns in journals. The book is not about dashboards and scorecards or strategy or market share. It really is about the soft side of leadership. If the adage "the hard stuff is easy, the soft stuff is hard" applies to you, then this book may be for you.


In reading the book, I compared the advice with that of our lunchtime executive speakers' at the Leadership Academy. None of them talk about having tools and checklists, but they do talk about the right thing to do. The book gets you from what is right to do to how to do it. The purpose of the tools are more about executives having their attention drawn in so many directions, even the best can use a helping hand so as not to have to reinvent the wheel, hire a consultant, or call their executive coach [horizontal ellipsis] or at least minimize those lifelines. This book is like having a ready-made "ask the audience." It is quick, easy, and probably correct in 80% of most situations.


The book is around 11 chapters. Within each chapter, there are tools and additional tools to apply that chapter's ideas. To give you a flavor, some of the chapters are:


1. Walking the Leadership Tightrope [horizontal ellipsis] finding balance between being supportive and making difficult change (page 1)


2. Four Ways to Get a Grip [horizontal ellipsis] applying 4 specific strategies (Focus, Flow, Reflection, Courageous conversations) (page 12)


3. Inviting the Soul to Work [horizontal ellipsis] the time is now to rekindle the soul at work[horizontal ellipsis]. Soulful work is key to employee satisfaction and retention (page 20)



And last but not least:


* Chapter 11. A Five-Point Plan for Breakthroughs (page 93)


* Zero tolerance for horizontal hostility and respect


* Stop diplomatic immunity


* Encourage difficult conversations


* Get real about pressures, scrutiny, and challenges frontline staff face


* Repeatedly ask every member of your team select, transforming questions



The author even gives you the words to say for different situations like rounding units and interviewing staff or meeting with your team and a space in your worksheet for your own words. Even if you already know what to do, or if you intuitively do the right thing, you may sometimes find yourself so busy that you just want to reach in, grab a quick idea for a soft but tricky situation, and this book does that. As the author tells us in Chapter 11, "Many organizations spend thousands of dollars on 360-degree surveys to get data on executive performance problems, when, let's face it, everyone in the organization already knows exactly where the problems are" (page 94). If you have that person on the executive team, perhaps they are the ones who need the book the most. And, it costs no more than $32.


Outliers [horizontal ellipsis] The Story of Success. Malcolm Gladwell. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company; 2008. hardcover, 309 pages, $27.99.


"The Rosetto Mystery" opens this foray into the world of extraordinary achievement. Why exactly do the residents of this small-town oasis in Pennsylvania experience a bucolic longevity that confounds the medical experts for years? The answer, it turns out, is culture-a force that transcends the actions or efforts of any single individual. Gladwell seeks to disabuse the reader of any notion that intrinsic characteristics such as ambition, talent, or genes are the primary determinants of success with compelling examples from the business world, academia, and athletics. Such seemingly innocuous, shared environmental circumstances such as the time and place of one's birth are suggested as more powerful factors in shaping of one's eventual level of accomplishment. For "outliers," those whose records qualify as truly exceptional, these factors make all the difference. Two equally prodigious intellects result in the respective emergence of the creator of the atomic bomb and a relatively obscure bouncer by virtue of one having been raised to engage opponents with charm and the other with violent challenge. The preponderance of Canadian hockey players rise over peers to National Hockey League stardom by virtue of a birthday early in the calendar year. Gladwell also examines "outlying" spectacular failures as well as remarkable success: seventy-three passengers lose their lives in a plane crash because of a cultural propensity of a Columbian copilot to deferential speech when dealing with assertive New York air traffic controllers. A similar pattern of catastrophe emerges when examining the airline safety record of South Korea, another deferential culture.


Gladwell's suggested course of action in light of these revealing patterns is to reexamine our educational and competitive processes. For example, staggering application cutoff dates for athletic and academic programs would allow youngsters to avoid competing against nearly year-older peers who possess significantly greater physical and mental development. Furthermore, Gladwell implies that greater overall accounting for cultural and other environmental factors in human and organizational performance will strengthen results. James Flynn, and other experts in the field of mental ability, are cited in the case the author builds that "extraordinary achievement is less about talent and more about opportunity." At a minimum, Gladwell asserts that the public should shun traditional notions of level-playing fields when a closer examination of the circumstances suggests that the field actually has a distinct tilt in the direction of factors unrelated to personal merit. The specific directions that follow from these implications have yet to be determined, while older notions of giftedness remain "central to the way we think about success."


Elizabeth (Betty) Falter, MS, RN, CNAA, BC