* The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market Cure: Why the Future of Business Depends on the Return to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
By John A. Allison
New York: McGraw Hill, 2014.
Pp. x, 210. $28 cloth.
I am not generally a fan of "How I Did It" (call them "HIDI") books by entrepreneurs or successful leaders. One of my favorite Scott Adams cartoons has Dilbert hearing that a dome-headed CEO has "30 principles for success." Dilbert turns to Wally and says, "So he has no clue what success is, or what causes it."
Quite a few HIDI books reveal that the author really does have no clue. Imagine that you hear that someone won the lottery and now has $100 million. Would you go ask that person to describe her "rules" for choosing that winning number? You might hear something like, "Well, the first two numbers were my dog's birthday, and the last three numbers were my locker number in the ninth grade." The person isn't lying; that is how she picked the winning number. But there is nothing in her success that generalizes or offers anyone else information on how to replicate that success. It was luck. "Be very, very lucky" is a fortune cookie, not business advice.
Fortunately, John Allison's The Leadership Crisis is not really an HIDI book at all. From the outset, it diagnoses a problem with the rebellion against materialism as simply a dullness of spirit. Saying that one doesn't want to be governed by an obsession with possessions is one thing; insisting that one should put aside ambition and achievements in the material world is something else. You may not agree with all the claims Allison makes (he claims that monks aren't happy because you can't be truly happy unless you are "in the game and playing hard" [p. 4]). Happiness is out there, but it must be pursued, and it has a big head start. You'd better get a move on.
Allison's conception of a "leader" is broad. Almost anyone can be a leader. In fact, only people who work to become leaders can be happy. But "leadership" is not the ability or even the desire to order other people around. Rather, a leader is someone who has a plan, a mission that lies at the conclusion of a process of reasoned reflection. Allison organizes this process into five steps. Here is the way I would paraphrase those steps:
Who can you be, and why do you want to be that? What is your vision?
What is your purpose, your personal mission for yourself and the organization you are part of?
What are the...