Myself and Other More Important Matters
Charles Handy has been described as one of the world's leading writers on management and leadership. Where other gurus offer glib answers, Handy has always specialised in helping us question what our organizations are for; how best to structure them; how work fits into life and what our driving purpose is.
Handy is the author of The Empty Raincoat, The Elephant and The Flea, The Age of Paradox, 21 Ideas For Managers, and other books that help us stop, think and analyze exactly what it is we are doing at work and what we are for.
This book, Myself and Other Important Matters, is Handy's autobiography so far. It is a pleasure to read, and you learn about leadership, work, management, life, yourself, while you are reading it.
There is a growing consensus now that, after decades of process improvements, what people are looking for in the organizations they work for and buy from is organizations that act more like people and less like machines. It is time for the more human organization to emerge. Handy has been teaching us this for years. If you haven't read him yet, this book is a nice introduction to his thinking.
I've dropped two extracts in, below, to give you a feel for Handy's easy writing style, which goes down like a nice cold, smooth Guinness (he's of Irish origin).
As a PS he and his wife Liz invited me to breakfast at their home a couple of weeks ago to talk about leadership and he told me that a story about him in my book The 60 Second Leader never happened. It's an urban myth and they don't know where it came from. "But, it's a good story anyway", they were kind enough to add.
Here are three short extracts from Myself And Other More Important Matters:
ARE LEADERS BORN OR MADE?
“One of the big debates in psychology is whether we have a core identity that is sitting there in our inner self, waiting to be revealed, or whether our true identity only evolves over time.
One of the perennial questions that bug organisations is a derivation of that debate – are leaders born or made? The truth, as in most thing, is probably a bit of both. The battery of personality tests that purport to show whether we are introvert or extravert, whether we like structured situations or a bit of chaos, are based on the idea that our real identities are formed by early adulthood and that a good life is about finding situations that fit our characteristics.
There is some intuitive truth in this. We do grow up, or inherit, some predispositions. One of the more appealing categories of these predispositions, by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point, suggests that we are all a mix of what he calls the Maven, the Connector and the Salesman, or, more simplistically, those who are clever and interested in ideas, those who are social and relate well to people, and those who are persuasive and charismatic, with all of us usually more one than the other.
…On the other hand, we do develop as we learn from experience and it does feel as though we are doing more than revealing our inherited selves. We are perpetually filling out our identities, which get firmer and more consistent as we age, and begin to discover the spheres of life that fit us best.
I think now, on reflection, that I was always mainly a Maven, interested in ideas and knowledge but hankering after more of a Connector’s life and wistfully dreaming of being a Salesman. I also discovered, however, both by examining myself and by researching some successful entrepreneurs, that passion can make Salesman and Connectors out of the most unlikely people. If you care enough you can and will learn to do almost anything.”
WHAT IS HAPPINESS?
"To Aristotle, Eudaimonia was what the good life was all about. This complex Greek word is usually translated as ‘happiness’, but Aristotle meant something else. Happiness to Aristotle is not a state but an activity. It is not lying on a beach with a glass of wine and a book...Eudaimonia is better translated as ‘flourishing’, or doing your best with what you are best at…Our task in life is to make the most of what we start with. Everyone can be successful. Thomas Jefferson understood this very well. His grand declaration of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness as the three cornerstones of the American way of life was not a recipe for self-indulgence, but a call for all citizens to make the most of their lives.”
"Great leaders seem to live with a mix of humility and confidence, which includes the ability to admit on occasion that they are wrong."
You can buy the book on Amazon or, as they say, in all good book stores.