Are leaders born or made? According to author and leadership consultant Charley Swords, people have the capacity to grow and develop their capabilities to become transformational, “soul-centered” leaders.
Transformational leaders, Swords notes, put people first. For her, employees – not shareholders or customers – are the center of every business. She believes that businesses can produce transformational results when leaders recognize the full humanity of their employees.
Her book is divided into three parts. The first deals with leaders themselves: who they are, what they value, and how they can realize their highest aspirations. The second portion covers employees, especially how leaders can coach and develop them as an ongoing discipline. The third part deals with how to create transformational change in an organization and how best to serve customers.
In a chapter on communication, Swords advises leaders to write in short sentences, free from jargon and acronyms, and without extraneous storytelling. She practices what she preaches, delivering a clear, concise, and readable text, a rarity in the business genre. However, sometimes she relies on truisms that shed little light for leaders at the level she’s addressing. For example, she writes, “In today’s competitive and dynamic market, no business can survive without satisfied customers,” a comment that surely goes without saying.
Another drawback of Swords’ work is that her steps to make her counsel actionable often involve filling in a table she has developed. However, the qualities of leadership she discusses, such as self-awareness and self-reflection, are too subtle and complex to fit into any table. She digs deep to understand the challenges, but her solutions aren’t always congruent with the depths she plumbs.
Nonetheless, Swords’ manual on transformational leadership will help businesspeople of all levels bring a new level of self-awareness to the workplace and foster a culture of respect. Readers will benefit from her experience, acumen, and humanistic approach to the modern enterprise.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.