Good Boss, Bad Boss – Learning from Leaders

This September we started the month with the statement that learning is not just for kids.   I promised you a look behind the scenes at some great books that we grown ups can use as tools to tune up our leadership and business skills.  That’s right, the kids are not the only ones who have the opportunity to  learn something new this Fall.  

We started the series with a look at Amilya Antonetti’s The Recipe a fable for leaders and teams. Antonetti’s book is a fable, set in a fictional bakery – demonstrating leadership lessons through the eyes and experiences of the characters.    Now let’s shift gears and look at what happens when you study real life bosses up close and personal.  That’s just what Stanford Professor Robert I. Sutton has done in his new book, Good Boss Bad Boss:  How to be the best…and learn from the worst

Sutton is no newbie on my business bookshelf.  His last book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t was a  smash hit in management circles this year.  As a matter of fact, he got so much feedback from The No Asshole Rule that Good Boss, Bad Boss was written as a result.   Dr. Sutton was kind enough to reach out to me on Twitter (he’s @work_matters ) and to share an early copy with me before the official launch  this September 7th.  So, I got a head start in reading the book.  What a treat! Good Boss, Bad Boss is a great read – full of real life stories and situations that many of us can relate to from our own workplace experiences.  I’ll tell you more in a bit, but first, here’s a clip where you can hear more about the book from Bob Sutton himself: 


(video credit: Stanford Graduate School of Business – via YouTube video link)

Dr. Sutton’s guest posts at The Harvard Business Review have always been favorites of mine because he does not just spout theory or opinion, he bases his statements on real people and real life examples. Good Boss, Bad Boss follows this same winning formula. 

Front CoverAs bosses we all have to do a bit of a balancing act, and I loved the example of the see-saw with “love” in one side and “$” on the other that he shared in his discussion about David Kelley, Chairman and CEO of IDEO.  (I’ve been a big IDEO fan for years and hope that someday I have the opportunity to work with them at one on my companies.)

Further in there is a great reminder to all of us to “Protect Yourself from the Energy Suckers.” (p.120-121) This is one of the lessons I have learned the hard way over my career.  If only I had read this chapter a few years ago!

In Chapter 7 – “Don’t Shirk from the Dirty Work” I found great examples including stories about experiences Ann Rhoades  (founder of PeopleINK and another of my favorite leaders) had at Southwest and later at Jet Blue that illustrate that how you deal with a tricky situation makes all the difference. 

Well, I’m getting close to my word limit (self imposed) or I could go on and on.  But the point is to give you a taste so you will want to check out this book.  Hopefully I have succeeded in whetting your appetite.  It really is worth the read.

Thanks for stopping by.  Stay tuned… There are more peeks inside some great business books coming this September.


Joan Koerber-Walker


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