Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Have You Ever Participated in a Leadership Book Club?

In 2018, thanks to Twitter, I met Katherine Spinney, a fellow advocate for effective leadership. We collaborated on two Q&A posts here on my Blog, and we also collaborated on a TweetChat held on Twitter in April 2020 (all three links appear at the end of this Q&A).

During the crazy covid era, Katherine created and led a leadership book club during the summer months of 2021, and I learned a great deal by reading the chosen books and participating in the discussions. However, as time went on, I wondered how Katherine chose six books (out of thousands on the topic), thus the impetus for this Q&A, which follows a brief intro about Katherine.

Katherine Spinney has spent over a decade in executive leadership positions and now has the great privilege of supporting leaders to develop them and their teams more effectively. Through a trademarked model of leadership, Lead with Your MIND, Katherine goes beyond the traditional model of skill development and combines it with work around mindset, investment, and desire. Her vision is to help build leaders' confidence and impact to better serve their teams and ultimately better serve their clients. Katherine believes that work should provide a source of satisfaction, and she is confident that it can and should be possible for everyone. Visit her website at https://www.katherinespinney.com/ and connect on Twitter and Instagram @CoachKat2017 and on Facebook /CoachKat2017.

QUESTION: Why did you decide to create the leadership book club?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: Although I have been an avid reader most of my life, I had never been in a book club. During the pandemic, I was suddenly part of several and loved them! That sparked the idea to create a leadership book club. A central theme in the work I do with leaders is the importance of consistent investment in growth and the exploration of different ways to grow. Reading is just one of these ways, and it can be a powerful one, particularly combined with reflection and discussion with other leaders.  

QUESTION: How did you choose the six books?

KATHERINE SPINNEY: It was a little selfish in that I wanted to choose books I hadn’t read yet (all but one), but mostly I was looking for books that focused on leadership from a variety of perspectives through a variety of voices. One could be considered a classic, while the rest were more recent, but all were highly acclaimed. One focused on management, others on leadership, and some on where the two intersected. One was about the rules (or “laws”), and another was about breaking the rules. Despite the different perspectives, there were consistent themes that I hope became clear to those in the group.

QUESTION: Which book did you enjoy the most, and why?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: I fell in love with “First Break All the Rules” from Gallup, which was not a surprise because I have followed their research for years and really appreciate their approach. As a team leader, it can be so overwhelming, especially at the beginning, and it can be challenging to move beyond the minutiae of the day-to-day. This book challenges us to really get to know our team members, understand what they bring to the table, and then make sure we are giving them every possible opportunity to contribute those gifts. I also really appreciated their framing of talents and their place at work. I highly recommend (and have!) this book to all team leaders.

QUESTION: Which book disappointed you, and why?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: Laws of Leadership was disappointing in some ways. It is a classic, and I suppose it’s easy to pick on the establishment, but there was one moment in particular when the author awkwardly tried to humble himself by drawing an equivalence between his leadership strengths to the many other strengths of his wife. And before he described those strengths, I just knew they were going to be something traditionally feminine and home related, which they were. He lauded her fashion sense and decorating ability, both skills to be sure, but his attempt to make it seem that he believed these to be of equal importance to his leadership skills rang insincere to me. Other concepts in the book seemed outdated, and I did not find the laws particularly inspiring or thought-provoking.

QUESTION: From First, Break All the Rules, what did you think about the Q12 index/statements?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: The Gallup12 came out of extensive research on 1,000,000 workers across the country. The goal was to try and understand what helped people feel satisfied at work. The 12 statements are the result of that research. I share the Gallup12 in my sessions all the time and encourage team leaders to use them in their work with their teams and their individual team members to understand what they need. It is a wonderful tool to spark discussion and improve team leadership and culture.

On a related note, here’s a link to a previous post on this Blog featuring the Q12 Index, in which I interviewed Michelle Braden (@CoachingLeaders on Twitter) in March 2013:

QUESTION: From John Maxwell's book, which of the 21 irrefutable laws was the most important to you, and why?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: Most (arguably all) of the laws are fairly standard and non-controversial so they all have their place in understanding what makes leadership effective. If I had to choose one that was most important to me, I would choose law #5, The Law of Addition, which simply states that leaders provide value by serving others. This is the entire purpose of leadership and it takes a while for many leaders to embrace that. Traditional views of leadership where one person gets to make all the rules on behalf of those they lead have thankfully been proven ineffective, though unfortunately they continue in practice. When I work with leaders, we spend a lot of time discussing their motivation and vision. If it doesn’t center their team, I know we have a lot of work to do!

TWEET THIS: Leaders provide value by serving others. (Credit to John Maxwell’s Law number 5 – the law of addition.) ~@CoachKat2017 #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: My favorite book from the six was The Leader's Guide to Unconscious Bias. I would go so far to say that it should be a "must-read" for everyone who works with people. What was your favorite take-away from that book?
KATHERINE SPINNEY: The authors state early and often that confronting unconscious bias is not about placing blame or feeling guilty, but instead, being part of the solution. We are so quick to get defensive at the mere thought of being biased, and the authors do a great job of normalizing this bias while not absolving us of the responsibility to do something about it. I also loved the concept that we are “blind to our blindness” and that we need to work with other people to help us see what we are unable to see.

QUESTION: Did reading these six books further clarify the differences between managers and leaders, or muddy the waters even further?

KATHERINE SPINNEY: Only in the sense that it has deepened my inability (stubbornness?) to see the importance of stressing the difference. Great leaders need strong management skills, and great managers need leadership skills. All the charts and Venn diagrams on the subject have done nothing but reinforce my belief that it is a false dichotomy and one that does not help those in important positions to support and serve others.

TWEET THIS: Great leaders need strong management skills, and great managers need leadership skills. ~@CoachKat2017 #LeadershipTip #EmployeeExperience #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog

My gratitude to Katherine for creating and leading an incredibly insightful leadership book club and for appearing here on my Blog – here’s hoping that she creates and leads another book club one day soon!

Image Credits: Debbie Laskey and Katherine Spinney.


2021 Q&A:
Leadership Is ALWAYS About Those You Lead!

2018 Q&A:
How Can Leaders Help Employees Exceed Expectations? It’s All About the Culture!

2020 TweetChat Highlights:


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