I have been a bit quieter than usual on the Internet these past weeks, somewhat for family reasons but also because I am working on an exciting new project. So, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and healthy 2013, one filled with interesting projects and positive outcomes.
In theory at least, I am now in the middle of a planned quiet time with no foreign travel, focusing on being with my family in Switzerland, on catching up with my piles of reading, and on exploring a few new contacts. I say quiet “in theory” because each day seems to get filled with activity.
In fact, while remaining inactive for these few months in terms of speaking engagements and travel, I have been turning a good deal of attention to my 2013 book project, a study of how leaders use their personal stories of identity to inspire others.
I am enthusiastic about this work for two reasons. First, my co-author, or “with” author is Patricia Ward Biederman, whose writing I have admired for a long time. Pat is a former Los Angeles Times reporter who now does freelance writing. Her most recent work is the widely acclaimed Still Surprised, a memoir of the life of Warren Bennis. For a number of years, Pat has worked closely and written extensively with Bennis, whom I consider one of the very top scholars of leadership today.
One can find numerous examples of Pat’s work by searching the Internet. Other than Still Surprised, one of her books that I particularly like is Organizing Genius. In this extraordinary tome, she and Bennis examine six “great groups” whose work affected and sometimes changed the modern world. All of the groups described present fascinating stories of teams with a sense of mission, astute leaders, and a sense of pragmatic optimism. Each story is well told and insightful, with lessons for all.
Pat is such an experienced and accomplished writer that I am indeed happy and flattered that she has chosen to work with me. In a sense, her willingness to collaborate on this book is already validation of the quality of my work.
Writing this book with Pat is truly a tale of modern collaboration. We were introduced several years ago, virtually, by our common friend Jim O’Toole, a leadership scholar and teacher whose work I recommend highly. Jim had read my doctoral dissertation and suggested that I get in touch with Pat to see about writing a book on a similar topic. Though Pat and I have never met in person, we began to talk regularly, and we developed a long-distance friendship. Finally in 2012, we decided to get serious about doing a project together.
Other than the opportunity to work with Pat Biederman, the second reason for my enthusiasm is that this will truly be “my” book, one that reflects who I am and what I do, far more than anything I have published in the past. In it, we tell something of my life and of my own personal stories of identity. We are using some of my stories because Pat insisted on it. She often probed me about my life experience, saying that revealing pieces of myself would make for a more interesting publication. For me, her questioning was quite a role reversal, as I am usually the one asking my clients to use their stories of identity, and to tell them in deeper and more personal ways.
While this book is intended for a business audience, its core concepts apply to anyone, in any field, who would like to have more influence in his or her world. That world may be a business, a work group, a humanitarian or religious organization, even one’s family or friends. Its stories come from a wide variety of leaders, in various fields, organizations, and countries.
Of course, I will keep you posted on this blog as we get closer to publishing.