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The Self-Evolved Leader by Dave McKeown opens with a very common problem. Through a combination of factors like personality, expectation, fear, and ego, many leaders act in a climate of urgency as fixers and that fixing activity makes them appear and feel like hero’s, but it ends up creating mediocre teams and organizations. In a way, the self-evolved leader is the antidote to a self-involved leader. How do you know that you are a self-involved leader? McKeown states that this kind of leader will have many distinct signs such as swinging for fences (thinking one big win will be a cure-all), confusing business for progress, having all the answers, savior complex, learned helplessness, and dis-empowerment.
McKeown's contribution is to become a leader focused on:
Growth - A leader is committed to their personal development, and a pattern of practice, feedback, and reflection
Vulnerability - Leaders are open about their strengths and weaknesses openly
Empathy - Leader's recognize the emotional core of their team and the power states have on performance
Connectedness - Leaders recognize that their teams form interconnected systems that require support at multiple levels to operate toward the same goal but with different purposes
Operate from their locus of control - Leaders recognize high priority and leverage activities for themselves and those on their team
The second half of the book is dedicated to brief discussions on the mastery and maintenance of a self-evolved leader. McKeown contributes insights that respect the systems that exist in organizations. He does not use terms like macro, mezzo, and micro like a social scientist, but his recommendations address these levels and the need for leaders to assess how these systems interact and affect each other. Another primary contribution by McKeown is his reinforcement of the emotional forces in people and their systems. He recognizes that fear, tension, and anxiety are primary forces for dis-empowerment. The leader has a great influence on what an organization does with its emotional load of anxiety and tension.
The book is a helpful guide for a leader who is struggling with complex teams and personalities. I recommend it for those who have relied on expert power to attain their leadership roles but continue to struggle with the interpersonal dynamics of performance. The self-evolved leader will be familiar to fans of emotional intelligence and human resiliency work. McKeown's incorporation of these concepts into a work for the wider business world is very much needed. One limitation is that the book may make a leader more fluent in new concepts, but the book is only a start at the practice, reflection, and development needed for true mastery.
**The book will be out on January 28th, 2020. I was provided an advance copy of this work for review purposes.