I never really set out to write ‘The Humble Leader’ – it just evolved, over a number of years, through individual essays, encounters, research projects and conversations.
The actual manuscript, when it came together, was remarkably fast (although, to be fair, it’s also remarkably short). The experience of writing it was significantly more like that of poetry than prose, and i can see that reflected in the sentence structure and thinking too. It’s quite odd, but i think it was the years of reflection that let me achieve a relative simplicity.
I do not think i could add another chapter in anything like the same tone of voice or even style.
I’m not sure what it says for the rest of my writing: possibly that it would all benefit from deeper thought! Or maybe this piece of work was simply ready to be written.
It was publication of ‘Quiet Leadership’ that spurred me into action: the interviews and work around humility had been particularly rich, and more importantly, engaging. People seemed to be keen to explore the topic, and i found that whilst there was almost universal agreement that humility was important for leaders, there was wide divergence as to what that actually means, or how a leader should ‘be’ in practice.
And that is where ‘The Humble Leader’ lands: it’s a guided reflection, based upon my own reflection, and what i have heard others say. But it is ultimately a space to be filled, or a wall to be graffitied.
I set this up in the opening chapters: it is absolutely ok to cross sections of this book out, to tear out a page that annoys you, or to add your own context and story around it.
Any answers will be the ones created by the reader, not held within the printed words.
I like this type of book: whilst some books are sacred, or held static, others are annotated and amended according to need, or in this case, our own thinking.
When reading Arthur der Weduren and Andrew Pettegree’s book on ‘The Library – a fragile history’, i was struck by one aspect of history that they recounted: that in earlier times it was later editions of books that were most treasured: that first editions were cast aside because obviously a later edition had the most up to date thinking!
Perhaps that is how to view this book: i am providing a canvas, but the value is added through the reflection and conversation, individually, or perhaps with others.
I always intended this book to be a beautiful artefact: because the reflection is a valuable one, and i want the journal to be treasured, or gifted (albeit now including hand written notes and torn pages!).
I am not blind to the ethereality of the topic: it’s easy to dismiss it, and i had certainly never intended to write a book about it. Talk of ‘humility’ seems inane in a world that calls us to action, at speed, and seeks to measure everything (without necessarily asking what, exactly, we are measuring, and why).
And yet humility is something that we value, and even sometimes seek, perhaps as a moderator of our actions, or an attempt to calibrate our direction of travel. It is, inherently, reflective.
And that is how to use the book: gently, kindly, perhaps individually, or equally with others, to think about the journey, and how we travel.
‘The Humble Leader’ is being published through a crowd funder campaign, over on Kickstarter. You can find it here.
If you have any questions about how to use the book, or this work more widely, please get in touch.