One of the most important lessons I have learned from strength training and fitness is the difference between Reaction and Response. Not only have I learned that there is a marked difference between the two behaviors, I have learned how to utilize these behaviors intelligently.
Reaction is what I would like to deem an amygdala driven behavior. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for our flight or fight reactions. Reaction is emotionally driven and is a behavior that is limited to instinct.
Response in the sense that I use it, is the cerebral driven behavior. It is based in the ability to skillfully use the forebrain for an intelligence driven behavior. This is where the word “responsibility” comes into play. It means our ability to respond to the circumstances in our lives.
By no means is one behavior better than the other. Each behavior has it’s place. I am a man who is comfortable with his emotions. I am comfortable feeling them and using them to react to situations in which the forebrain is not necessary. This puts me at an advantage over those who are too “heady,” people who live in their head. If you are someone who constantly lives in their head, this puts you in a dead space. The “head” or “intellect” is nothing but dead ideas that tries it’s best to join a party that it’s not invited to. The party of life dances in the river of liveliness.
Now, responding is a wonderful behavior that allows us to use the newest, most powerful addition to the human body, the neocortex. This part of the brain levels us out as human beings. This part of the brain is more intricate and powerful than a computer. In situations where emotion cannot compete, we can use our cortex to respond intelligently and favorably to any situation.
When both of these behaviors are use in conjunction with one another we have a force that can surmount any situation and circumstance.
I’ve been working with my company for seven years now and by no means has it been easy to become an effective leader here. My job is physically and mentally demanding which draws everything a person has to survive if they want to make a living here. To thrive is another story. Over the past seven years, three of which I have spent serving as a shop steward(union delegate,) I have had to develop not only my body but my mind to withstand the daily challenges I face as a shop steward. A shop steward, simply put, is a person elected by a workforce to represent them in dealings with management. This position requires a high level of leadership, discipline, motivation, negotiation skills and a host of other endless skills one has to master to become an effective leader. Personally, I have to deal with at least forty different personalities daily which does not include management personnel. Over the course of these seven years, I have read many books that has helped me earn and keep my role as an effective leader. In this article, I will be listing just seven of these books and the main take away points I got from them. Here are 7 must read books to become an effective leader:
Self-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Forget the “other essays” part, to become and effective leader, one must learn how to think for oneself. One must not be afraid to trust one’s own ideas and put them into action. If we are to be the best version of ourselves, we have to assert ourselves through the ideas we have about the way the world should be. The essay, “Self-Reliance” helps us to realize the immense value in this. My favorite part of this essay is where Emerson states:
“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts…”
How many times have we witnessed a great piece of work by our peers and say to ourselves “I thought of that!” Yes, we may have thought of it first but they beat us to the punch by executing it first. It was not that they were smarter than us, but because they had the audacity to trust themselves in sharing it in its physical form. Emerson comes from a time when writers spoke of “the ether.” We can think of the ether as a huge blob, or sphere of unborn ideas that have yet to be pulled down by the human mind. Everyone has access to it, but all one has to do is think, trust, and act in order to reap the benefits of manifesting it. To become an effective leader, one has to be audacious enough to let their thoughts come out to play.
The 48 Law of Power by Robert Greene: Many people view this book as a way of manipulating others. I viewed this book as a way of studying human nature. Whether people want to admit it or not, they want power. I do not know of anyone who wants to be helpless in this world. The majority of people I know are making power plays any which way they can while dressing it up in sugary rhetoric. Robert Greene warns us of these kinds of people in this book as well as his others. Although this book is Machiavellian in nature, the main take away I got from it is to always be cognizant of human nature. People get too comfortable with the way they want to view people rather than the way people actually are. There exist cold, hard, tangible human nature and it does not care about anyone else except for what it wants. In order to become an effective leader, I had to be aware of this. Human nature is driven by self-preservation. Anyone who tells you differently is flat out lying to you or selling a dream.
The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch: In order to become an effective leader, time management is important. This is a skill. There is no way around it, if we want to be leaders, we have to know how to manage our time in such a way that it is the most effective and the most efficient. The 80/20 principle by Richard Koch introduced me to the “Pareto Principle” which is also known as, “the 80/20 rule,” and “the law of the vital few.” It states that for many situations, circumstances or events, about 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. When I learned this, it changed my life. I started to focus on the small tasks, if done properly, that influences or yields the greatest results. This is an important aspect in to become and effective leader because there are times where one must pick the battle that will have the most profound effect on the war. Understanding the 80/20 principle, one learns how to work in the most effective way, therefore saving time and energy in the long run.
The 33 Strategies of War By Robert Greene: This is the second time a Robert Greene book has shown up on my list and for good reason. This author has had a profound influence in my development as an effective leader. The idea that stood out to me the most was the idea of “self-directed warfare.” I’ll quote:
“To become a true strategist, you must take three steps. First, become aware of the weakness and illness that can take hold of the mind, warping its strategic powers. Second, declare a kind of war on yourself to make yourself move forward. Third, wage ruthless and continual battle on the enemies within you by applying certain strategies.”
I am not one who goes looking for confrontation but when confrontation comes my way, I take great pleasure in going in head first. Confrontation is an opportunity to grow into the best versions of ourselves. This book has helped me to diffuse, negotiate, or neutralize any confrontation I have had in my journey to become an effective leader. This book has also taught me how to take losses. Why was a book with the word “war” effective in dealings at the workplace? Because the workplace is a microcosm of endless battle. Everyone is vying for dominance, a one up, or just pursuing some form of self-interest. When I think of this book, I think of a quote that I’m fond of:
“It is better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war.”
Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute: To be honest, I did not read all the way through this book because it only took me a few chapters to get the underlying theme running through it: empathy. To become an effective leader one has to be aware of not only the thought loops running through his followings heads but how they are feeling at any given moment. The moment a leader loses the ability to know what his group is thinking or feeling, is the moment they lose sway over their group. This book allowed me to think outside of the box by confronting my egocentrism.
Your Forces and How To Use Them by Christian D. Larson: This book is absolutely a must read to become and effective leader. It is well written, kind of abstract and airy, but at the same time if one focuses enough, they will get the most out of this book. This book is spiritual in nature and having some form of spiritual awareness is a must have in order to become an effective leader. What I took away from this book is the idea that we must control our minds and WILL things into existence. This book has taught me to be aware of the forces of my mind in regards to concentration as an important aspect of the mind and more importantly the will. If one has not developed will-power, one cannot become an effective leader, point-blank.
Linchpin by Seth Godin: The main idea of this book is to become indispensable. If we want to be valued, we have to add value. We must be someone who can come up with new ideas and implement them in such a way that we change the landscape around us. This is an important part of becoming an effective leader. A leader is someone who can take the crowd, lead the crowd into another era simply by being original. But it is not enough to be original, one has to be indispensable. Being needed is characteristic of being indispensable. One is needed when one has come to terms with the fact that fitting in is not revolutionary and does not add value to the world or even their immediate surroundings. In order to become an effective leader, one has to be indispensable to those around them. Seth Godin does a great job with driving this point all throughout many of his books.
To become and effective leader, one has to spend hours reading high value material and many more hours implementing them. These are just seven of the books that has helped me to be the leader that I am today. There is still much work for me to do. But so far, the ideas in these books repeat themselves over and over again: time management, self-discipline, courage, originality, spirituality, understanding of human nature, etc.
Drop a comment(s) listing books that have helped you or people you know become effective leaders in their respective fields!