Book review: The leadership gap by Lolly Daskal

I read a considerable number of books about leadership. My own feeling is that a lot of the time if there is a mismatch between the organisation’s culture and memory, and the leadership style, no matter what the leaders do, they aren’t going to get anywhere. And organisation culture? Well, most of the time this is about the bottom line and not about something that has to be healthy to those within the organisation. Why do I say that? Because if you look at the directors of most organisations, they tend to be people with a background in finance/accountancy/law. They don’t tend to be people who have experience in social policy/psychology/psychiatry or any other area that is person-centric. I am far from a cynic, I just think organisation’s and leaders put way too much pressure on individuals to explore who they are (with the implication it will help them progress/develop/survive at work), without being transparent about what they actually want. And therein lies the heart of leadership in most workplaces around the world – it is set within a structure that values power and prioritises the end rather than the means.

This book by Lolly Daskal does not try to interrogate any of the above and in fact relies heavily on power imbalances. The author chooses to use the pronoun ‘he’ for much of the book, which did provide a flavour of the reading market and age group this was skewed towards. In fact, I feel that for people who want a more compassionate, sustainable and reasoned guide to leadership, they should stick with books such as Up the Organisation by Richard Townsend. It is also easier to read and replete with examples which you can convey to staff across hierarchies and age groups.

That said, there are some things in Daskal’s book that a few of you may find useful to consider and reflect on. She looks at different styles of leadership that tend to be used and explores how they can be improved upon. So for example, what she terms ‘rebel leadership’ often has a gap that is self-doubt. She argues that while confidence is believing you are able, competence is knowing you are able, and this is where rebel leaders need to close the gap. There is also an interesting chapter on leaders who are inventors and how this mindset intersects with integrity. This is perhaps a useful takeaway for those trying to manage people with integrity as opposed to those who are more mercenary in their approach.

Overall I think this book would be useful to those who like to consider who they want in their team – it provides models to distinguish one type of leadership from another. So someone right at the top may want inventors, navigators and rebels with them in order to introduce an innovative product. Whereas someone in a more traditional industry sector may want to stick with knights and heroes. Below is a chart from the book to help you ‘pick your winning team’ and enable them to explore ‘their gaps’. A word of warning, I doubt very much that Gen Y and Gen Z would willingly sit within any of these categories.

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