There are many books on good leadership skills, each with its own merit. Become: The 5 Critical Conversational Practices that Shift ‘Who You Be’ as a Leader by Sameer Dua seeks to invoke and evoke ‘missing conversations’ that often block the way for good leaders.
The book is filled with many practical examples that define what these ‘missing’ conversations are and how leaders must have them. It takes a very empowering approach to leadership, where good leadership skills encompass much more than textbook principles.
The book uses the COACH approach (Care, Observe, Actions, Commitment, Holding Space of Conversation) to illustrate this unique model of good leadership skills. All these five elements are the conversational domains that leaders need to work on.
Bookedforlife chats with author Sameer Dua on his unique take on good leadership skills…
‘BECOME’ is an interesting name for a book that talks about good leadership skills. What made you choose this title?
As I have stated in this book, “Leadership” is not a job category; it is a set of conversational practices. Every conversation is a new opportunity to practice and apply the critical leadership conversational skills elaborated in the book. In my assessment, as a leader you never fully arrive. You are always in the making. As a leader, you may be a beginner, minimally competent, competent, expert or even a master – at each stage, you are in the process of ‘becoming’ the next stage.
In the book “Mastery”, George Leonard states, “Mastery is not really a goal or destination but rather a process, a journey”. Masters are always in this ongoing process of ‘becoming’, by going deeper in their subject.
If you are not in the process of ‘becoming’, then you reach a dead end. And that is the beginning of your decline.
What is critical for leaders to recognize is that you don’t ‘become’ by knowing more, you ‘become’ by shifting your practices, and in case of leadership, by shifting and creating new conversational practices.
You mention at the onset of the book that “if people around us are not delivering results, we are not having the required conversations with them”. It is refreshing to see this shift toward a more internal locus of control. Yet, why do so many people in leadership positions miss this point?
It’s easy to take a posture that “I have done what I could do. Now, if the results have not happened, it is because of something or someone external to me”. This is ‘comfortable’ posture, even if this posture does not deliver results!
The posture I am inviting the readers to take in this book, that is, “we are responsible for generating any result we want that matters to us” is confronting. It challenges you. It makes you think. It makes you start to question yourself. Look around the world we live in – everyone is blaming external circumstances. Very few choose this posture.
And those who do, generate results – for themselves, their teams and their organisations.
“Become” invites people to a new practice –of taking responsibility rather than that of blame; of looking for what may be missing in their actions, rather than look for what may be missing in someone else’s actions.
This book is all about ‘missing conversations’. How would you define a missing conversation?
My claim is that the path from where you are to where you want to be is that of ‘Conversations’. You will notice every result – big or small – the genesis of that result is in conversations. So, if the genesis of every result is in a conversation, and if your results are not being generated; then there is a missing conversation.
A missing conversation can be a conversation one has with oneself, or with another. This is tied in with my response to your earlier question – as a leader we need to take a posture to look for these missing conversations. If your conversation does not give you the desired result, then ‘that’ was not ‘the’ missing conversation. Start looking again. Till your conversations give you the desired result.
We either look for the missing conversations and have them, or we face the consequences of not having these conversations.
You speak about generative practices, that are conscious practices that shape a new habit or behaviour. You also mention journaling as one of the generative practices you use. Could you elaborate a bit on this?
Let me borrow from Stephen Cope’s work in his book, “The Great Work of Your Life” where he interprets the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagwad Gita. He states, “Mastery is almost never a result of mere talent” He goes on to add that “a certain quality of sustained and intensive effort is required – a quality of effort that has come to be called ‘deliberate practice’” When you engage in these ‘deliberate’ practices, you shift your automatic behaviours and habits.
And journaling, I assess, to be once such practice. When you journal, you engage in a conversation with yourself. And like most conversations, you never know what new possibilities can emerge through that conversation. Begin the conversation with yourself. And when you get stopped – ask yourself a new question. My claim is that when you sit to journal, the ‘conversation’ starts to flow. Often, you will be surprised with what you come up with. This is not just my experience, but that of many of my program participants who actively engage in this practice.
‘Become’ is a book filled with many questions. There are reflective questions at the end of each chapter. But, even during the course of a chapter you have put in varied questions. Do you feel this style of writing somehow leads the reader to assume a more active stance?
For me reading a book is engaging in a conversation with the author. When you are in a conversation, you do take an active stance. I’d like my readers to connect what is in the book with their life. And hence, the reflective pauses, the powerful questions, and the practices in each chapter. I believe it is in moments when your experience is stretched beyond your comfort zone is when you have greatest potential for real learning.
What is the next book you are working on?
I am currently working on two projects simultaneously. I am consulting a global organisation and supporting their leaders in generating a result that they have historically never delivered before. I believe the fundamentals are the same. I want to make this work a case study and come out with a book on this work. I believe it will be of value to many leaders and organisations. The second book is on certain irrefutable laws of leadership. These laws are blind to leaders within organisations. And because they are blind to these laws doesn’t mean that they are not paying a price – the price of this blindness is that they are not delivering desired results.
Well, this is not a book to simply read and put away. It is a book you need to work on if you want to get the full advantage of imbibing the good leadership skills described here. It is replete with questions for reflection and points to consider. There are several case studies as well to illustrate the points mentioned. To aid understanding, there are many diagrams, tables and relevant infographics that make the reading easier. Here’s a toast then, to good leadership skills!