Sunday, November 1, 2020

A Passion For Leadership by Robert Gates - Book Review & Summary Take Aways

Robert Gates On Leadership

Reading the book A Passion For Leadership by Robert M. Gates, my book review is more a summary of the take aways, like Cliff Notes or bullet points. 

First there are not a lot of ratings on this book, as you can see by the six (as of 11/9/2020) on Amazon. Robert Gates himself in Chapter seven said, never miss a good time to shut up. This leads into his own big take aways in chapter 7, which are: 

  • need to listen
  • need to empower subordinates
  • knowing when to keep quiet
  • knowing when to keep your hands off the steering wheel 

There is gold in learning silence and restraint, self control, how to stop talking and dominating meetings and asking for comments at the end when everyone just wants to leave. Gates like to bid his time before offering opinion; the lesson being to wait until you know where others in the room stand before speaking to be more strategic. 

Gates is big on responding with yes, or no, and if he would like to elaborate, his response is, simply no  - gaining him a reputation for being stone cold. 

While the tips on leadership from this book are interesting, Good Reads highlights how it is more a book about bureaucratic  leadership: "A Passion for Leadership is an advice manual for those who want to enact reform from a position of leadership in a bureaucratic organization." 

Gates spends much of his time talking about leading big orgs like A&M, which some operating in executive roles within gov or corp may find useful, but much of it boils down imo to saying less, doing less, being more strategic, holding back, letting your people take the credit and just do their job well, delegating more and meddling less. Definitely no asking staff to do personal favors or crossing the line and being petty by demanding too much from those operating "under" you by asking inappropriate things of them. He points out too, times he has seen figures like admirals going on a rage when the smallest things aren't done for the leader, like for example keeping a glass filled. This seems obvious, but it is good that he points out how common this kind of autocrat / ego driven behavior can be from those who are in charge. 

Gates is the consummate professional who listens and offers more self restraint than the guy charging in on a white horse to force change on everyone (which he says doesn't work  - that you have to come in and make alliances and get people to change with us, helping to usher in the needed change).  

What did you think of the book?

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