Critical Book Analysis of The Leader in You

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Authors

Stuart R. Levine: At the time of writing The Leader in You, in 1993, Mr. Levine was CEO of Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc. He was the first non-family member CEO of the company and had worked there for 18 years. In 1996, he left Dale Carnegie to start his consulting firm, Stuart Levine & Associates, LLC. Over the past two decades, he and his company have worked with Fortune 500 corporations in providing expertise and training in many areas, including strategic business planning, mergers and acquisitions, and leadership development. He has written other books, including The Six Fundamentals of Success (2004) and Cut to the Chase (2007). The Leader in You has sold over one million copies and has been translated into 22 languages.

Michael A. Crom was also working at Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc. at the time of co-authoring The Leader in You. He had worked his way up from stockroom clerk to Vice President in charge of all regional centers of the company. He then took the position of Director of the company’s educational services division. Mr. Crom started his firm, Michael Crom Consulting Services in January of 2014. He attended Lafayette College, where he majored in international affairs and has written a second book titled The Sales Advantage (2003) as well as contributing articles to both print and online business publications.

Summary

The main point of the book is that leadership is defined by a person’s interpersonal and communication skills as much as by intelligence or technical expertise, and that these skills can be developed through practice (Levine & Crom, 1993, pp. 15-18). Thus, anyone can be a leader given time to learn and apply these skills. According to the authors, good communication and human relations skills are built on trust, so a leader must have integrity, and must practice certain behaviors such as: taking a genuine interest in others; listening to and respecting other views; setting clear goals and motivating others to work toward those goals by exhibiting a positive and enthusiastic approach; and by maintaining a balanced life, that is, devoting time to one’s relationships and growth outside of work (Levine & Crom, pp. 43, 61-63, 79-81, 114-124, 151-163, 177-197, 213-227). Each chapter focuses on a particular aspect of communication and so-called “people skills” and provides anecdotal evidence to illustrate how effective leaders put those skills to work in both their business and personal lives. Leaders in the business world, sports, entertainment, medicine, politics, and religion tell stories and give their insights into what makes for effective leadership.

Critical Analysis/Discussion

The authors owe much of their content to the ideas of Dale Carnegie; in fact, each chapter begins with a short anecdote told by Carnegie himself. They also put their ideas in perspective by emphasizing certain facts about the period in which they are writing—the early 1990s. The United States had been experiencing a recession, as well as confronting many changes in technology and the global economic scene. However, they contend that the principles of great leadership developed by Carnegie can assist people in coping with such changes and in becoming successful, even under volatile conditions such as exist in the business world of today ( Levine & Crom, pp. 225-227). They note that the uncertainty of world events affects how business is now conducted on a global level. There is a good deal of psychology underlying their precepts as they discuss human behavior. The power of positive thinking, the ability to modify one’s behavior, theories about self-interest—all these ideas are based on psychological analysis. Using Carnegie’s ideas as a guide, the authors analyze human behavior in terms of motivation and their definition of a leader is someone who understands why people behave as they do. Fear, uncertainty, lack of confidence—all these feelings are seen as challenging each person’s attempt to become an effective leader (Levine & Crom, pp. 199-212). However, enthusiasm, dedication to clear and specific goals, and adherence to a code of ethics are deemed sufficient to enable anyone to become successful if they work at it every day over a lifetime (Levine & Crom, pp. 225-227). And the ultimate purpose of that lifetime is to achieve one’s goals in the right way, without stepping on or pushing others aside in the process. This makes the book rather unusual treatise on how to succeed in life.

The advice given in the book is mainly commonsense; the authors’ analysis of human motivation could help deal with people. Given the developments in the global economy over the past ten years, the authors’ grasp of trends in the business world is insightful. The explosion of social media and networking and its impact on the global economy bears out their statements about the importance of personal relationships and good communication as essential components of doing business today. The dot com companies and many start-up businesses today rely on small networks and building trust in a team of people to fuel their growth. The connectedness of people, businesses, nations, etc. bears out the authors’ call for improving communication and interpersonal skills. Of course, the authors’ business background influences their views, but they repeatedly emphasize that these skills, once acquired, bring success in other areas of life as well. According to them, a good grasp of human relations is necessary to live a happy as well as a successful life (Levine & Crom, pp. 177-185). And a thorough understanding of human behavior can help during business negotiations although that alone is not enough.

In general, the book’s conclusions are persuasive on an emotional level although the anecdotal evidence provided is not as convincing as studies and other scholarly materials would be. At times, one gets the impression that a ‘Who’s Who’ is being written rather than a fact-based book. The authors do not provide any contrary views, so their evidence is limited to the personal experiences and opinions of those they interviewed for the book. The various tips given and the aphorisms placed at the end of each chapter seem simplistic at times, so it would be useful to include some actual statistics or other data to support the assertions made here. I found some of the observations insightful; however, many of them would need to be developed more fully and adapted to specific circumstances. For example, it is not enough to tell people to respect others; that should be a given. Doing business requires education, technical expertise, knowledge of different cultures and languages, etc. The ideas in the book are a simple start, but not sufficient to help business leaders succeed in today’s complex global economy. I would recommend the book as a self-help guide to improving one’s interpersonal skills, but one has to be proficient in a variety of areas to compete and prosper in business today.

References

Crom, M. (2014). Online posting. Retrieved from http://www.linkedin.com/pub/michael-crom/6/95b/79b.

Levine, S. (2014). Online posting. Retrieved from http://www.linkedin.com/in/stuartlevine.

Levine, S., & Crom, M. (1993). The leader in you: How to win friends, influence people, and succeed in a changing world. New York: Simon & Schuster.