Book Reviews,  Growing as a Leader

What to Ask the Person in the Mirror

“The most successful leaders are very good at knowing how and when to ask the critical questions…” (Kaplan, p. 12)

As part of our recent Chicago 7 gathering we read What to Ask the Person in the Mirror by Robert Steven Kaplan.

Kaplan’s a former Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs Group, Inc and currently professor of management practice at Harvard Business School. After being assigned to read Kaplan’s book by John McAuley of Muskoka Woods the first thing I did was to scan the description of Kaplan and his professional background. I don’t judge books by their covers but I do often make snap judgments based on their authors.

In this case I mistakenly believed What to Ask the Person in the Mirror would be a theoretical book best suited for very large organizations.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. In a very clear, concise and practical way Kaplan lays out the key questions leaders must ask and the critical roles they must play if they’re to effectively lead an organization – large or small, profit or not-for-profit.

The book begins with questions related to the articulation of the vision and priorities of an organization. This discussion becomes the foundation for the rest of the book with the topics working together to build a comprehensive plan for a leader and an organization to follow.

The topics include time management, receiving and giving feedback, succession planning, delegation and evaluation. Then Kaplan concludes with an important discussion of leaders as role models and the importance of a leader understanding their “talents, personality, values and passions.”

It’s an appropriate conclusion to a very practical and insightful book, a book that I will continue to sit on desk so that I can reference it in my ongoing efforts to becoming a more effective leader.

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