In Eve Poole’s book, “Leadersmithing: Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership,” she proclaims her book is “for anyone who wants to improve their own ability to lead or to help others.” The book is divided into two parts. Part one is about leadership theory and part two is the application of those principles by putting it into practice. One does not necessarily follow the other and Poole states in her introduction that the book can be read in any order. This includes all of the chapters, each stands alone. The book is unique in this way, the reader can jump into any chapter in any order and still benefit from the book’s wisdom.
This work is also unique in that it does not assume that all the readers of this book are in the same place of maturity and influence in their professional lives. The book has different chapters for readers in different leadership development stages. This is explained in a pie-chart format in the ‘How To Read This Book’ section. Although this seemed gimmicky at first, the book does a good job of tailoring its practical discussion of leadership to her potential readers. The forward (written by Dr. Liz Mellon) says, “It’s all about learning. Not sticking with the same old bag of tricks, but discarding stuff that no longer works and adding new practices that do.”
Published in 2017, the book is a free-ranging collection of ideas and strategies on leadership gathered and collected while teaching at the Ashridge Business School. However, the best classroom for all developing leaders is found in the daily working life of a thoughtful professional who is striving to learn and improve. The author warns that there are no shortcuts or magical pills to swallow. Transforming leadership is gained by hard work done on a daily basis, with a desire to progress. Her advice given throughout the book is, “Manage yourself, lead others.”
The book discusses at length the time-tested dynamic of the master and apprentice relationship. We learn best when we see wisdom put into practice by others. This relationship over time instills in the next generation of leaders the principles that will last. And on it goes, always paying it forward. Poole would no doubt agree with Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:8, “Freely you have received; freely give.”
The book also points the reader to several effective resources to continue their learning. A quick glance of the bibliography demonstrates the author’s wide-ranging influences: from Steven Covey, to Tina Fey; from Rudyard Kipling to David Brooks; from Machiavelli, to Sheryl Sandberg. The author reads widely and deeply and if any individual desires to grow as a leader, they too will read widely and deeply.
The book concludes on a practical note and proves to have an abundance of sound advice. The conclusion admonishes the reader to make four lists about their professional fears and aspirations. Appendix four has a template to develop these ideas and it is geared towards those who do not have a clear idea of where their professional lives are heading. This has been my experience and I wish I had something like this when I was struggling in my twenties. In my professional trajectory, there have been many surprises and opportunities that I could not have predicted. My way forward has always been obscured by a mist; one step at a time with Christ, trusting that it will all workout. I have been envious of the college freshman that has a perfectly clear idea of what they want to do for a living: a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, then they pursue it with a deliberate focus. I wish I had a clear idea of professional direction and even though walking with Christ is always by faith, the chart that Poole develops in appendix four is helpful to teach the reader how to think about their futures. The book ends with wisdom that has proved true in my life: “Leadersmithing takes a lifetime—so be a tortoise, not a hare” (p.181).