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Book addiction and the elephant in the room.

SELF-HELP EXPERTS SAY THAT ADMITTING YOUR ADDICTION IS THE FIRST STEP TO RECOVERY, But I'm not sure I want to recover. You see, my addiction is books, specifically books about leadership.

It is important to note that I make my living reading leadership books, just as those who teach other subjects must know the latest literature in their specific fields. And, of course, it is important not only to read all books in our content areas, but to understand them sufficiently in order to teach new ideas to our students. So I must know the latest leadership books on the market and the quality and value of each.

A quick visit to an airport bookstore will give you an indication of how many leadership books are published each month. I also use some tried and true references in my classes, so the gurus of leadership theory and practice are well represented on my course syllabi. And in case I take a day or two off from reading, I ask my students to tell me about any newly published leadership books they have encountered.

I want to share with you some thoughts I had about a recent book with a catchy title written by Diana McLain Smith: Elephant in the Room: How Relationships Make or Break the Success of Leaders and Organizations. We all know when there are elephants in the room in our encounters in nursing education and practice. For example, the unspoken barriers to enhancing gender and ethnic/racial integration are elephants that have long influenced nursing education.

As I read this book and reflected on the contents, I had one of those "Aha" moments we talk about as faculty. My reaction had less to do with the book's content than with its basic premise. How could someone not know that relationships are so supremely important?

My thoughts harkened to the teachings of Hildegard Peplau, the nurse educator and leader who died in 1999. Peplau spoke of relationships as the core of successful nurse-patient encounters more than 50 years ago. She taught us that everything in nursing hinges on the relationships one has with patients, families, and co-workers, and her teachings about relationships would apply equally to the management milieu as well as to psychiatric encounters.

Imagine how disheartened I was when I learned that my students had no idea who Peplau was. I had to dig deep to determine their knowledge of relationships as the central concepts underlying our science and professional practice. My students now have that understanding, but I realize that we in nursing have a lot to share with others. We could have written the book about the relationship elephant in the room. Let's consider what else we can share.


Peplau, H. (1991). Interpersonal theory in nursing practice. New York: Springer Publishing. (Original work published in 1952).

Smith, D. M. (2011). Elephant in the room: How relationships make or break the success of leaders and organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Author:Fitzpatrick, Joyce J.
Publication:Nursing Education Perspectives
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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