Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Review of Leading from the Roots: Nature Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today's World

 Nature follows its own rules and norms. Mankind’s activities shape them, for the worse.  We experience the visible impacts of climate change every day. In the wake of such changes, more leaders recognize they can no longer fight nature if they hope to build healthy, vibrant organizations. Instead, they best mimic how it works if they are to succeed in the long term.

Leading from the Roots: Nature Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World helps leaders tackle this challenge. If you're jettisoning outdated ways of doing and being in organizations, it's worthwhile. If you're looking for ways to use natural processes as models, it's also invaluable. 

The author, Dr. Kathleen Allen, draws on extensive consulting experience. That track record does not merely add to the credibility of her recommendations. It also results in an engaging, practical, and readable work. 

Allen inspires us with her picture of the new, generous organization. She elevates the discourse around transparency, interdependence, diversity, resiliency, and authenticity. She imbues them with the gravitas they merit as linchpins of truly forward thinking 21st century organizations. 

Allen has divided the book into eleven chapters. The first nine outline specific characteristics of the natural world. These serve as starting points for key shifts in organization and leadership. I cannot imagine a clearer, more accessible way to present such material. Science written for non-scientists devolves into technical detail. Such minutiae often lay beyond the understanding of many readers. Allen deftly avoids this fate. 

I also applaud Allen’s decision to conclude each chapter with questions. They're designed to help leaders and their teams to think about what they’ve just read. I assume she’s used these same questions in her work with clients. That said, I was unclear how a reader might move from the questions to actual implementation of ideas that come up during related discussions. Perhaps a companion workbook (or Allen’s next book) could establish a broader platform to help readers act on the fruits of their discussions. 

Allen sprinkles references to relevant literature covering leadership, organizational behavior, and organizational design. She provides a comprehensive list of these references as a bibliography. This section is a boon to practitioners as well as academics, as the latter could assign the book to MBA or doctoral students with full confidence in its relevance to scholarly literature. 

Allen might have mentioned The Biomimicry Institute in her bibliography.  It’s an excellent source of information on principles she addresses. I also would have found an index helpful. At times I wanted to refer back to concepts when they were first introduced, rather than when I encountered them later in the work.  

These are minor quibbles, however. In short, I wholeheartedly recommend Leading from the Roots: Nature Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World. It’s valuable to leaders recognizing that the “same old, same old” no longer works. It's valuable to leaders attempting to rethink why and how they operate. Finally, it's indispensable to leaders inspired by the norms of nature to do something different and better for themselves, their people, and their organizations. 

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