Countdown to ’The Humble Leader’

Yesterday i hit the confirmation button to move to print for ‘The Humble Leader’, with mixed emotions.

I love this book and have spent quite some time on the production to ensure that it’s a beautiful artefact in it’s own right. It’s distinguished by being my shortest book (not bad for someone who is rarely accused of brevity…), as well as the one with the longest genesis (the first words were sketched out in a cafe in San Francisco around 2014).

It’s distinguished in another way in that it holds no answers, nor any real guidance: with the Guidebook series i always include ‘what you need to know’, and even ‘what you can do about it’. With this, there is neither.

If anything, the book, all 3,000 words of it, forms one half of a conversation, over a series of cups of coffee. The other half can be taken alone, in thought, or with others, in conversation.

Humility is one of those odd words that we use widely, without ever really pausing to consider the meaning. I hope that this book will give some people the space to do so.

There is a tension around the Humble Leader: if we seek humility, we may not be humble, and if we think it makes us better than others, then we may lack it.

Ultimately humility is more a judgement than a skill, and one passed by others.

It is inherently a vulnerable book: i cringe myself reading parts of it, over and over again. Unlike most of my work, it is not evidence based, except in the loosest sense of asking questions and attempting to quantify feelings. I feel almost certain that nobody will like or agree with all of it, but equally certain that it will share a certain shape and feel with others too. There will be overlapping edges.

The illustrations are all in pen and ink: i wanted to differentiate it from my other work by being monochrome, and physically illustrated. Stripped back really.

The leaves tie it into my broader work: Quiet Leadership is set in the premise of the Organisation as Ecosystem, and charts the growth of the tree as our power and influence extend. And in Quiet Leadership we lose the leaves, talking about the things that you can let go of.

In ‘Power and Potential’, if you look carefully, you will see the leaves blown around in the storm.

Humility is probably about loss: loss of control, loss of belief in our own dominant truth, loss of ‘self’ in some ways in favour of a connected and accountable system. 

Again, that language of ‘self and system’ has permeated my more recent work. To understand ‘self’ in the context of ‘system’.

I’m excited and nervous to see the printed copies when they arrive: the first edition is just a sequence of 200 copies, and i hope to be able to share it in a couple of months time.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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