“Many prescriptions for leaders are often more problematic and invalid than generally recognized . . . much leadership training and development has become too much a form of lay preaching, telling people inspiring stories about heroic leaders and exceptional organizations and, in the process, making those who hear the stories feel good and temporarily uplifted while not changing much of what happens at many workplaces” (pp. 4-5, 6)
Even so, there are extensive studies and research-based books about leader development. The problem is what leadership scholars have learned rarely finds its way into easy-to-understand trade books and popular media. An exception is the work of Ron Riggio, Claremont McKenna College, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology, Director and architect of the acclaimed Kravis Leadership Institute. For over a decade Riggio has blogged a popular column on Cutting-Edge Leadership for Psychology Today. Those blogs are the foundation and inspiration for his latest book.
Daily Leadership Development: 365 Steps to Becoming a Better Leader is a practical guide and handbook to develop as a leader and build leadership in our teams. It is organized in quickly read sections by day and by week, structured to be used in a personal development program of daily or weekly leadership reflections. Or one can turn to almost any page for sage insights. This is not a book designed to just sit back and read cover to cover.
Riggio starts with context: the difference between leader development and leadership development, growth through self-awareness and self-reflection, “leadership as a journey, not a destination.” Succinctly and clearly he covers the essentials from the literature produced by leadership scholars such as ways to conceptualize leadership (e.g., roles, competencies), various theories (e.g., LMX, servant, authentic, transformational), characteristics of leaders (e.g., self-insight, grit, personality), and various related topics (e.g., types of intelligence, extraverts). Occasionally he provides URLs for online self-assessments.
There are numerous readings on team development as well as readings about bad bosses. Some of the readings are leadership lessons gleaned from a variety of sources from sports to films to Steve Jobs. Traditional management readings include training and development, appraisals, motivating others, and other human resource topics. Several readings cover practical tools such as goal setting, brainstorming, and active listening.
Most of the research on leadership does not operationally differentiate between management and leadership. As Riggio states, “Successful and effective leaders and managers should do the same things” (p. 60). This book is an essential guide to being a better leader, a better manager.
1. Daily Leadership Development is unlike any leadership book on my shelves or that I have encountered. This book can up anyone’s game, regardless of the position you have now or how long you have been a leader, a manager.
2. Reading in chunks, reflecting on what you read, and applying insights gained to your daily life is a great way to grow and develop. For some people, personal reflection is difficult. Fortunately to aid in reflecting, Riggio ends most sections with a short paragraph “For Development:”.
3. Read Daily Leadership Development with a highlighter in hand. Riggio recommends keeping a journal as you read. I recommend you keep a journal regardless of what you are reading or where you are in life. Abraham Maslow did not start journaling until he was in his fifties. Some of my most important insights have occurred reading journals from earlier in my life.
4. I personally benefited from the URL for online versions of the Big Five dimensions of personality. Oddly I have studied and written about the Big Five model but I have never taken it until now. For anyone interested, my scores are here.
5. The only topic where I would like to have seen more coverage is coaching. While much of the book is relevant to coaching, I did not see it directly addressed. Also I should mention I purchased through Barnes & Noble as I did not find on Amazon.com.
6. Daily Leadership Development is a major contribution to leader and leadership development. It belongs in the personal library of everyone who wants to grow and develop into a better leader. Other leadership books advertise they are essential. Daily Leadership Development actually is.
Pfeffer, J. (2015). Leadership BS: Fixing workplaces and careers one truth at a time. New York: Harper Business.
Riggio, R. E. (2020). Daily leadership development: 365 steps to becoming a better leader. Barnes & Noble Press.
Image,"Daily Leadership Development". © John Ballard, PhD, 2020.
Blog, © John Ballard, PhD, 2020. All rights reserved.
Decoding the Workplace “deals with principles and practices that are timeless . . . Is this a must-have for managers and would-be managers? Yes.” Academy of Management Learning & Education, June, 2018. Available as ebook, hardback, paperback, and audiobook. The best-selling audiobook is narrated by Timothy Andrés Pabon,