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Thursday, December 01, 2020

A Slow Leadership Christmas Booklist

There are several reasons for offering you a booklist at this holiday time. You’re probably looking for suitable gifts and any of these books might very well fit the bill, especially for any workaholic friends. You may be wondering whether you need to have some holiday reading set aside for yourself. And reading is a quintessential Slow Leader activity, combining the chance to step away from immediate tasks with the opportunity to learn and develop. Fast types don’t read much, if at all. It takes too long and requires too much concentration. That’s why they stay stuck with limited outlooks and narrow minds.

So here’s the list of books. They’re all worth reading. Clicking on any link will take you straight to the relevant page on Amazon.com.

Let’s start with books directly relevant to Slow Leadership...

Carl Honoré’s “In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed was responsible for starting me writing on the topic of Slow Leadership. It takes a very broad view of “slowness,” covering topics as diverse as working life, raising children and having sex. Sometimes the author stretches the concept of “slowness” almost to breaking point, but it’s always interesting and it contains some great ideas.

Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going, by Dr. David Kundtz is a book I wish I’d found years ago. I wouldn’t have found it now, but for a helpful recommendation from Patricia Ryan Madson (see below). It is truly a book that can change lives. With a holiday approaching, there could be no better time for “doing nothing, as much as possible, for a definite period of time, with the purpose of becoming more awake and remembering who you are.” And if you want practical exercises to help you retreat for a moment in the midst of a busy life, try his companion book: “Quiet Mind: One-Minute Retreats from a Busy World.

Western-style approaches to personal and behavioral problems are often focused on symptoms. The approach called “Constructive Living,” pioneered by Dr. David K. Reynolds, traces its origins to Japan and the quiet wisdom of the East. It’s aim is to find ways to outgrow your problems permanently, not patch them up by means of drugs or therapeutic interventions. Most of it is personal, but it can just as easily be applied to the organizational world. Above all, it’s based on solid, practical ideas and actions anyone can use. As an introduction, try “Constructive Living or “ A Handbook for Constructive Living.

The ideas in “Naikan: Gratitude, Grace, and the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection, by Gregg Krech, also come from Japan. Naikan can enrich anyone’s appreciation of life and the world around them. This book won the award for “Best Spirituality Book of 2002” from Spirituality and Health Magazine.

Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America, edited by John de Graaf, is the official handbook of the national “Take Back Your Time Day” movement. It has articles covering topics from detailed analyses of the reasons for overwork and its consequences to solutions for the workplace and beyond.

And for those who would like something completely different, and far more controversial, you might want to turn to Bertrand Russell, a Nobel Prize winner, renowned mathematician and one of the leading philosophers of the twentieth century. Russell was always a controversial figure, especially for his political views, but he could write with a fascinating mixture of accessibility, rigorous logic and total unconcern for the consequences. “ In Praise of Idleness is an essay Russell wrote in 1932, when Stalin’s communism and Hitler’s Fascism were starting to compete for the prize of world domination. With a combination of logic, historical analysis and devastating candor, Russell makes the case against the work ethic. His politics proved unsatisfactory, but his logic is still difficult to fault.

I can’t end without some “fun” books with slightly less direct relevance to Slow Leadership. But even these have useful points to make.

Let’s start with Lynne Truss’ new book: “ Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or Six Good Reasons to Stay Home and Bolt the Door. If you’ve read her earlier book “ Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation,” you know what a treat her books are. Politeness and listening to others are the first casualties of a rushed lifestyle, so Truss’ attack on discourtesy of all kinds is music to a Slow Leader’s ears.

I’ve recommended Patricia Ryan Madson’s book “ Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up before, but I can’t resist doing so again. Take a careful look at her sixth maxim (pay attention) and her eleventh (act now). Better still, read the book and act on it all. You won’t regret it.

My final recommendation is “Our Inner Ape by Frans de Waal. Drawing on a lifetime’s research into the behaviors of mankind’s closest living relatives, the chimpanzee and the bonobo, de Waal offers fascinating insights into the reasons for human behavior. And when you consider the aggressive, power-based society of the chimpanzee, and the supportive, fun-loving and openly sexual society of the bonobo, you can perhaps understand why mankind has such a split personality.

That’s all. I hope you find some of these books useful.

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