Leading with emotional courage Leading with emotional courage

Leading with emotional courage
05 Oct 2018

 

 Leading with Emotional Courage book cover

By Peter Bregman

 

Author Peter Bregman – what a guy. “I gave a presentation that received a standing ovation,” he says (page nine). “I was in the locker room, having just worked out in the gym.” (page 62). “Dan started the conversation with a compliment about my latest book.” (page 80).

Bregman prays, meditates, lifts weights, does cardio exercise and yoga (page 215). But it is not just about walking or climbing for him. Instead he leads “30-day mountaineering expeditions” (page 181).

He does not mix with everyday mortals either, casually dropping into the conversation that one of his clients is “the CEO of a company with revenues of a billion dollars” (page 124). Another is “the CEO of a $900 million company”, while yet another is the boss of a “$350 million technology company” (page 141), which incidentally “since we started working together…has grown…to about $1 billion”.a

To be fair, he does acknowledge this self-aggrandisement: “I watch myself drop names of important people I know and talk too much about things I’ve accomplished. I brag” (page 187). It fails to stop him though.

The style is breathless in places, with three or four word sentences and three or four line paragraphs. But while it is hectic, ultimately it goes nowhere.

The author makes ample reference to his Jewish faith (pages 48-49) but the religious underpinnings fail to strongly support the points being made. Speaking of which, although emotional courage drawn from faith is one thing, on three pages (page 21-23) racial prejudice borne of the Holocaust ends with him shouting: “Stop screaming. Stop the hatred. Stop the violence” before acknowledging that: “Gunther isn’t a Nazi. He’s a software developer with a German accent”.

While it is a free world, I am surprised that such sentiments were allowed into print. After stating his desire to kill people because of their accent, Bregman reflects: “Though disturbing, this is a good thing to admit.” Or maybe not.

The reason for mentioning this episode is that the book consists, in general terms, of padding and puff. For example, chapter 12 entitled “How will you measure success” concludes that the answer is based on fun.

“So how do we get our laughter numbers up?” the author asks. “Create the conditions that make laughter more likely.” He then proceeds not to tell us what these conditions might be.

What is the point?

To make matters worse, most chapters start with a story that seems unrelated to any of the points being made. While they attempt to act as parables or be allegorical, they generally fail.

For instance, Rafael Nadal is apparently Bergman’s hero because he cries. Fair enough, but the drama deepens: On taking on board criticism (page 115),“my body began to vibrate…visibly shake…it was simply too much for me to contain and I just burst into sobs”, he says.

In class, things become even more intense: “She lay on a mattress, was physically held down by others in the group, and cried. Soon, she began to speak about her brother who killed himself years earlier” (page 186).

On talking about a leadership workshop (page 157): “Sara was on the floor, cradling the arm and leg she had broken several months earlier, feeling broken herself, crying as she thought about her son who died five years ago. A few feet away from her, Angelo stood with his hands on his chest, also crying, immersed in his experience of alienation from his mother. Across the room, Zoe was huddled with her sister, Chloe, as they felt the pain of losing their own mother and confronted their fear of losing each other.”

Quite where the fun lies in all of this is hard to tell. But despite this less than uplifting sales pitch, the book feels as if it is just another self-promoting brochure written by the author to advertise how great he is. The book is likewise peppered with plugs for his company Bregman Partners, with some of them subtle and some less so: “Even the consultant…is a negligible cost”, he states (page 123).

Undoubtedly some readers may find something useful in there – the alignment of strategies discussion and diagrams in chapter 26 is good if basic. But it is the closest the book gets to being academic.

Some chapters (most only two or three pages long) make no point at all: Chapter 29 “You Can’t Say It Enough” talks of rinse and repeat to reinforce focus. Which is fair enough, but the final paragraph includes that “Counterintuitively, the opposite works as well.”

In fact, the title of chapter 30 sums the book up nicely: “Sometimes it’s better to say less”.

At the end of the book though, it is hard to see where everything is coming from or going to. On page 192, Bergman states his fear “of living in a world where only some emotions are acceptable while others must be stuffed deep down, until our acceptable, acknowledged selves are finally overwhelmed by our ravaged, intolerable, ignored selves, and we either explode or self-destruct. And so I feel. And I write. And I publish.”

But after reading this, I am probably not the only one who rather wishes he hadn’t.

 Mark Northway

Mark Northway is director and courses co-ordinator at Deltic Training, which provides strategic administration and business management courses and accredited qualifications. He is a former director and trustee of the Institute of Administrative Management (IAM), a chief IAM examiner and a Princes Trust Award winner for his role in business mentoring in the UK.

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Kindness in leadership

Mind tools for managers: 100 ways to be a better boss

Real leaders for the real world

 

 

 Leading with Emotional Courage book cover

By Peter Bregman

 

Author Peter Bregman – what a guy. “I gave a presentation that received a standing ovation,” he says (page nine). “I was in the locker room, having just worked out in the gym.” (page 62). “Dan started the conversation with a compliment about my latest book.” (page 80).

Bregman prays, meditates, lifts weights, does cardio exercise and yoga (page 215). But it is not just about walking or climbing for him. Instead he leads “30-day mountaineering expeditions” (page 181).

He does not mix with everyday mortals either, casually dropping into the conversation that one of his clients is “the CEO of a company with revenues of a billion dollars” (page 124). Another is “the CEO of a $900 million company”, while yet another is the boss of a “$350 million technology company” (page 141), which incidentally “since we started working together…has grown…to about $1 billion”.a

To be fair, he does acknowledge this self-aggrandisement: “I watch myself drop names of important people I know and talk too much about things I’ve accomplished. I brag” (page 187). It fails to stop him though.

The style is breathless in places, with three or four word sentences and three or four line paragraphs. But while it is hectic, ultimately it goes nowhere.

The author makes ample reference to his Jewish faith (pages 48-49) but the religious underpinnings fail to strongly support the points being made. Speaking of which, although emotional courage drawn from faith is one thing, on three pages (page 21-23) racial prejudice borne of the Holocaust ends with him shouting: “Stop screaming. Stop the hatred. Stop the violence” before acknowledging that: “Gunther isn’t a Nazi. He’s a software developer with a German accent”.

While it is a free world, I am surprised that such sentiments were allowed into print. After stating his desire to kill people because of their accent, Bregman reflects: “Though disturbing, this is a good thing to admit.” Or maybe not.

The reason for mentioning this episode is that the book consists, in general terms, of padding and puff. For example, chapter 12 entitled “How will you measure success” concludes that the answer is based on fun.

“So how do we get our laughter numbers up?” the author asks. “Create the conditions that make laughter more likely.” He then proceeds not to tell us what these conditions might be.

What is the point?

To make matters worse, most chapters start with a story that seems unrelated to any of the points being made. While they attempt to act as parables or be allegorical, they generally fail.

For instance, Rafael Nadal is apparently Bergman’s hero because he cries. Fair enough, but the drama deepens: On taking on board criticism (page 115),“my body began to vibrate…visibly shake…it was simply too much for me to contain and I just burst into sobs”, he says.

In class, things become even more intense: “She lay on a mattress, was physically held down by others in the group, and cried. Soon, she began to speak about her brother who killed himself years earlier” (page 186).

On talking about a leadership workshop (page 157): “Sara was on the floor, cradling the arm and leg she had broken several months earlier, feeling broken herself, crying as she thought about her son who died five years ago. A few feet away from her, Angelo stood with his hands on his chest, also crying, immersed in his experience of alienation from his mother. Across the room, Zoe was huddled with her sister, Chloe, as they felt the pain of losing their own mother and confronted their fear of losing each other.”

Quite where the fun lies in all of this is hard to tell. But despite this less than uplifting sales pitch, the book feels as if it is just another self-promoting brochure written by the author to advertise how great he is. The book is likewise peppered with plugs for his company Bregman Partners, with some of them subtle and some less so: “Even the consultant…is a negligible cost”, he states (page 123).

Undoubtedly some readers may find something useful in there – the alignment of strategies discussion and diagrams in chapter 26 is good if basic. But it is the closest the book gets to being academic.

Some chapters (most only two or three pages long) make no point at all: Chapter 29 “You Can’t Say It Enough” talks of rinse and repeat to reinforce focus. Which is fair enough, but the final paragraph includes that “Counterintuitively, the opposite works as well.”

In fact, the title of chapter 30 sums the book up nicely: “Sometimes it’s better to say less”.

At the end of the book though, it is hard to see where everything is coming from or going to. On page 192, Bergman states his fear “of living in a world where only some emotions are acceptable while others must be stuffed deep down, until our acceptable, acknowledged selves are finally overwhelmed by our ravaged, intolerable, ignored selves, and we either explode or self-destruct. And so I feel. And I write. And I publish.”

But after reading this, I am probably not the only one who rather wishes he hadn’t.

 Mark Northway

Mark Northway is director and courses co-ordinator at Deltic Training, which provides strategic administration and business management courses and accredited qualifications. He is a former director and trustee of the Institute of Administrative Management (IAM), a chief IAM examiner and a Princes Trust Award winner for his role in business mentoring in the UK.

OTHER ARTICLES THAT MAY INTEREST YOU

Kindness in leadership

Mind tools for managers: 100 ways to be a better boss

Real leaders for the real world