The Leadership Book by Neil Jurd
Reviewed by Sarah McEntee
Most people with an interest in leadership, whether military or civilian, will likely find that their bookshelves are groaning under the weight of numerous tomes including those of heavyweights such as Patrick Lencioni and David Rock.
I recommend that you add one more to your collection.
The Leadership Book by Neil Jurd has one compelling objective: to develop better leaders no matter what their walk of life, profession or level within it. Better leaders will, of course, help make the world will become a better place.
For most of his adult life Neil Jurd has either led or worked in leadership development. As an Army officer in the Royal Logistic Corps, he served in Sierra Leone, Iraq, Yemen and Bosnia, as well as being a Platoon Commander at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. Since leaving the Army in 2009, Jurd has worked for the public, private and third sectors and has recently become one of the UK’s hottest names in leadership development.
Jurd certainly knows his stuff when it comes to leadership. His passion for good leadership and its transformative effect shines through on every page. In short, leadership is presented as a force for good to make the world a better place and we are all invited to take an active part. He has managed to distil his teachings in to simple but compelling messages that can be understood by all; from the greenest leader to the oldest and boldest.
The Leadership Book is divided in to three distinct parts: Leadership, People and Leading Teams and Organisations. For me part two, ‘People’, is the most fascinating.
First, know thyself
Before even getting to know your team, Jurd encourages you to take a look at yourself first. His premise is that ‘if you know yourself well, you will understand what drives you. You will be able to harness the strengths that brings and be able to control the potential down-side of your personality’. It makes sense. I admire, and indeed find comfort from, Jurd’s insistence that leaders do not need to be perfect human specimens we just need to commit to developing ourselves and uphold our values. Spending time seeking to understand yourself and also the rest of your team doesn’t just help you to strengthen yourself but will allow you to connect better with others, by getting to know what drives them and harnessing their strengths.
The words ‘empowerment’ and its closely related military cousin ‘mission command’ are written about frequently. They are cited by those being led as the characteristic they desire most in a leader but can find sadly lacking. Jurd underlines that applying mission command when you normally control everything in a vice-like grip is a challenge. It takes courage to change but the benefits of allowing your team to take more control far outweigh its risks. By enabling others, you can maximise your leadership effect by engaging those around you and harnessing their own differing talents and perspectives.
Of course, words on a page are meaningless unless they are translated in to lasting and impactful behavioural changes. The short space for reflection at the end of every chapter allow the reader to reflect on how they can apply what they have learnt, share their thoughts with their team and ultimately focus on a combined commitment to change.
‘Stagnation to excellence’
Most people who have undergone leadership development programmes will be aware of Tuckman’s ‘Form to Perform’ model. Jurd has added his own magic by developing it in to the ‘stagnation to excellence’ model. He stresses the certainty that, in times of change people will naturally dip in to the ‘rebel’ stage; it’s part of life to feel insecure, frustrated and experience friction between people. As a result, he recommends leaders just accept it. Furthermore, through good leadership, the rebellious, storming phase does not need to last forever.
Jurd provides some simple, manageable steps to act as a handrail for those leading in times of change: focus on a strong sense of unified purpose for all team members; encourage and give time for everyone to be open with their feelings; but ultimately drive change through trust, support and empowerment.
A book about how
What both differentiates Jurd’s book from other, better-known publications, and what is its greatest strength, is that key leadership messages are broken down in to understandable and accessible chunks that can be both understood and then applied.
So many leadership books focus on the what and the why of leadership. Sadly, they fail to give the reader time and space to think about how they can realistically and successfully apply the books’ teachings in their own particular environment. The Leadership Book is all about bringing models and theories down to a human level. Jurd then actively encourages the reader to commit to making positive and impactful changes to their leadership, while loving the journey they are on.
Although less than 140 pages long, The Leadership Book packs a punch. As tempted as I was to sit and read it in one session, it is best digested in bite-sized chunks and can be returned to time and again when in need of some inspiration. To me, this book is like an ideal friend; it not only gives you advice and the odd warning but encourages you to be yourself and ultimately flourish.
It is a powerful handbook that I turn to time and again when facing difficult challenges and never fails to light the leadership path ahead.
If you want to know about more leadership books then check out all of our reading lists.