We promised you some book reviews so here is the first one! Feel free to contribute your own or to point us towards other good reads by commenting on this post… It is always tricky to review a book written by a colleague: if you enthuse about it you can be accused of nepotism and there is the inverse risk of being too stern and therefore equally unfair. Jonathan has edited all four books published by the Association for Coaching to date and I am a Council Member of the AC in the UK. With this out of the way, let’s start with my take on the book: it is a clear 5 star if you are interested in leadership coaching. It is largely irrelevant if you are after either a practical or an academic tome on leadership theories. The introduction looks at how leaders build their own leadership model from a palette of readings and experiences: if coaches want to be able to empathise with their clients, they need to have read the same books or at least know what the big themes of leadership are. For example the Servant Leadership model provides a useful framework to capture the three areas of interpersonal skills, outward relationships and strategy/long term thinking. This allows the practising coach to ‘hang’ his or her existing learning to key areas of focus of the practising leader. Other chapters (e.g. Ch 3) present alternative ‘non partisan’ models of leadership which will be invaluable to coaches who do not have their own model or robust research to rely on. Each chapter follows a pattern of model description, research/supporting evidence, case study, and how to put into use. The academic backup is usually robust and there are numerous references to additional reading for those who want to dig deeper into a given theory. Beyond the non-partisan models described above, the book presents three other types of themes:
- Psychology-based tools which may be highly relevant to leadership coaching. For example, understanding the possible sources of egotistic or narcissistic behaviour will be very relevant to coaches without a psychology background.
- Situational coaching: chapters on how to coach politicians, African or Asian clients provide a refreshing departure from the mainstream Western business perspective of leadership. This is rounded off nicely by a chapter on coaching global top teams.
- Proprietary leadership models applied to coaching: these are probably less useful chapters. In most of them, the author looks at a fairly narrow leadership perspective and then draws applications to coaching situations. I found several of them simplistic and others impractical. As I hinted above, there are better places where to look at well-researched leadership models.
Ultimately, this is a manual for practitioners who will dip into it on a need basis. There is enough to keep coaches from both ends of the psychology/business background spectrum interested. Definitely recommended.