Mind Tools for Managers--100 Ways to be A Better Boss.
Manktelow and Birkinshaw's book makes an interesting value proposition--it brings to the table a collection of one hundred tools and paradigms that help managers develop insights into effective management. One hundred is not a paltry number, given that many of the theories and frameworks discussed in the book have books written on them--with years of rigorous investigations leading to the development of the thoughts. Hence the authors clarify in the beginning that the book takes a 'dip in dip out' format, with a limited peek to a framework, its practical value, and the psychometric test or thought exercise that may be used to measure or develop the related competency--what the authors call Mind Tools. The reader soon discovers that the Mind Tools derive their name from being part of the offering of Mind Tools Limited, a corporate solution provider and leadership development organization founded by Manktelow, which has catered to an audience of over 24 million people worldwide. Drawing on their vast experience in people management and leadership, Manktelow, CEO of MindTools Limited, and Birkinshaw, deputy dean, London Business School, establish the importance of leadership development of a firm, and the process of doing it through focused training interventions. The tools listed are stated to arise from a list of top leadership competencies as identified by fifteen thousand managers worldwide. As the reader moves through the book, the chapters throw up snippets on important leadership paradigms, people skills, and personal management practices--such as problem solving, mindful listening, building trust, and developing situational awareness. The book benefits from its clear focus on application, as most thoughts are accompanied with a small exercise or tool to self-execute, which makes the book interactive and useful for someone looking for hands-on experiences in assessment and evaluation.
The major flaw of the book however lies in its insistence on quantity over quality. If the agenda of the book was leadership development, it soon gets subdued by the inadequate and often sweeping attention to each of the topics. Most of the concepts get a page of discussion at best, with little nuanced discussion on its dynamics, properties, or importance. This, along with repeated references to Mindtools.com as the repository to access and use the tools, often leaves the reader with the feeling of reading a catalogue of the firm, rather than reading a work of genuine literary interest. This cataloguing is an important product in itself, undoubtedly, particularly if one is looking explicitly for such a resource. But for the reader who is looking for insights and critical analysis, the book often leaves a sense of disappointment, not to mention the sense of cognitive overload of being bombarded with one hundred different concepts and frameworks, very little of which remain with one by the time one reaches the end of the book.
Mind Tools for Leaders starts with an interesting premise but limits its usefulness by taking too much on its plate at once. For the larger readership, a focus away from cataloguing to nuanced discussion on a limited number of concepts, along with tools and self-administered exercises, would be a valuable addition to the popular leadership development literature. We look forward to something similar in subsequent editions.
Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Visakhapatnam.