This book review is also available on the Training Journal website.

Seconds Away From… Outstanding Leadership

By Molly Harvey

Published by: Infinite Ideas Limited

ISBN 978-1-906821-78-4

Having run leadership programmes around the world for almost 20 years, Molly Harvey has now distilled her wisdom into this book. She believes that many of today’s challenges stem, at least in part, from a leadership that is ill-prepared to deal with the current complexity of a fast changing world. The old systems of power are crumbling and organisations are looking for a new kind of leadership. The new ‘outstanding leader’ leads with courage, vision, imagination and heart – and must be real, honest and transparent, claims Harvey.

Her book contains six main chapters – corresponding to the six steps to becoming an outstanding leader, Chapter one looks at self-leadership and how to deal with things day-to-day. The next few chapters discuss what it takes to be an outstanding leader and the final chapter focuses on action and what actions leaders need to take every day. Each chapter contains tips and ideas, along with ‘points to ponder’ and an ‘actions list’.

In identifying the key components of an outstanding leader, Harvey highlights: presence; rituals; discipline; ‘trust the inner satnav’; collaboration, and focused action. In essence, her advice about ‘presence’ is: Show up and be yourself; discover what you are here to do and dedicate your life to it; remember everywhere you go your presence leaves a resonance behind; your mind is a double mirror of your outer and inner worlds; live on your own terms, not on those of someone else, and presence has a radiance and inspires people with hope.

The rest of the book contains inspirational and didactic stories, along with concise pieces of wise advice – most of which applies equally to those who want to lead as those who are happy to be led.

Having rightly advocated the benefit of ‘sweating the details’ in chapter two, the book would have benefitted by ‘tighter’ editing. For example, page 101 contains a summary of chapter five – not four – and the summary of chapter six on page 122, breaks with convention and the book’s own style by calling it ‘chapter 6’, not ‘chapter six’.

That minor point aside, this book does, indeed, contain a great deal of wisdom. It is set out in a simple, readable and thought-provoking way. There is little doubt that, read with understanding, this book should inspire and energise a new generation of leaders. Realism suggests, however, that the weak links in this chain are the readers’ understanding and interpretation of the book’s contents.

By Bob Little