Myths of Leadership

Myths of Leadership by Jo Owen

Now, from my memory, this is the first book review I have written since I had to choose one for my Year 5 English homework. As you may have gathered from that opening sentence alone, I wouldn’t describe myself as much of a book worm. You’ll only ever find me reading a book when I’ve got course work due in or an exam coming up.

From the minute I opened this book, I found it easy to read and more enticing with every point. From the first myth, I found myself interested to read about the many misconceptions that people associate with leadership. That may sound like nothing new as there are thousands of books about leadership out there. But rather than just talking about one leadership theory, Owen’s book discusses over 50 ideas from all over the leadership landscape, including myths about characteristics, roles and success. Because these are all different myths and misconceptions it does not matter if you’ve put the book down for a short while and come back to it; you don’t need to know what’s come before to read on. Basically, you can start reading from anywhere within the book and it will all make sense.

In the introduction, it mentions how this book is meant to be thought-provoking, with the intent to make the reader a more successful leader. Now, I can’t comment about my success as a leader since reading this book – as I’ve only just read it – but I certainly think I will be a better leader as a result of it. Straight away with the first myth, my mind was off, all the cogs turning, debating whether anyone really knows what leadership is. As Owen says:

“There is no theory of leadership that can stand up to scientific challenge.”

The classic myth of ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ also rears its head in Owen’s book. I liked how real examples are used. Here, it talks about alumni from companies like McKinsey and how they have filled the CEO role for 150 top firms with over $1billion turnover. Conclusions from this justify this as a semi-myth, as who you know can have an impact on how your career progresses.

Not only is this an easy-to-read book that makes you think, but it contains light-hearted humour to make the reading fun as well as interesting. Owen makes a great joke early on while talking about how not many great leaders succeed when they move into a different industry, implying that the United States is testing this myth to see if the opposite is true –

“can a rich business person be a successful political leader?”

So, there you have it, my review of Myths of Leadership by Jo Owen. I’d personally recommend it to anyone interested in leadership; book worms and less frequent readers alike. It’s a laidback yet thought-provoking book that you can pick up and put down whenever you fancy.

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