What We're Reading: March 2016

Twice through, I made the kind of connection that will stay with me for a long time. What I was reading was that good, that thought provoking.  It demanded a second reading, and then a third with a highlighter. I'm referring to a New York Times Op-Ed column by David Brooks, titled The Moral Bucket List—a piece that was adapted from his 2015 book, The Road to Character.

Although this NYT piece was published nearly a year ago, I found it as current and relevant as ever. It captured my attention, challenged me, and forced me, once again, to consider the very personal and moral nature of leadership.

But, back to the connection…I was just a few paragraphs in when a string of words jumped out at me and grabbed me by the collar:  "I came to the conclusion,” Brooks reflected, “that wonderful people are made, not born—that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments.” 

“Has Brooks been reading The Leadership Challenge?”, I wondered to myself.  I saw how clearly he was echoing some of the supporting truths of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® model. So, I read the piece again, this time through a leadership lens. And that’s when the connections all fell so fully into place, because what Brooks' "moral bucket list" was truly reminding me of was that the best leaders:
  • Are humble and "profoundly honest about their own weaknesses."  
  • Build character and defeat their weaknesses through deliberate, life-long practice
  • Can't do it alone, especially when attempting to achieve self-mastery.
  • Have achieved a "settled philosophy about fundamental things" (yes, LPI® item #26).
  • Are energized by love (remember how Jim often closes his speeches, revealing the secret to success in life).
  • Are propelled by conscience. As Brooks describes, "feel fulfilled only when they are enmeshed in a struggle on behalf of some ideal." Jim and Barry's notion that "challenge is the crucible for greatness" supports this point. . .or even their definition of leadership: “The art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations.” 
There are more highlights, but read the piece for yourself and make your own connections. While David Brooks is often known as a political pundit, I promise this piece will provide a nice break from the mudslinging that seems to be filling our newspapers and airwaves during this campaign year. It may even motivate you to create your own leadership bucket list. 

Lisa Shannon is currently Vice President and Director, Partner Channels at Wiley. She has been nurturing and supporting The Leadership Challenge® brand for over 20 years, and can be reached at lshannon@wiley.com

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