Reality-Based Leadership" by Cy Wakeman, book review

"Reality-Based Leadership: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace, and Turn Excuses Into Results" by Cy Wakeman

 I was fortunate to see Cy Wakeman’s keynote speech at the 2014 NAEO conference in March. I actually picked up her book, Reality-Based Leadership: Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace, and Turn Excuses into Results, a couple weeks before the conference as I was intrigued by the title alone: “Reality-Based Leadership…” It brought all kinds of questions to mind, most of which can be boiled down to: “what exactly does she mean by it?” After seeing her speak and reading her books, I feel she has many keen observations and valuable guidance for leaders. She uses experiences from her life to weave bits of storytelling into a whole lot of straight talk. One of the best parts is that she includes exercises for identifying and working with present realities!

Wakeman’s skills in working with and understanding human behavior are evident. Her writing paints interesting and colorful pictures. (Wouldn’t you rather fill out a form called Measuring Your Office Freak-Out Factor than, say, Current Morale Index Measurement Matrix?)

One of Wakeman’s assertions is that “Reality-Based Leaders are part of an inner peace movement.” I feel part of the charm of this idea is that it emanates from a basic truth. With an unquiet mind, leaders are usually unable to make sensible decisions in the moment, or articulate a vision for the future. Yet, as leaders, we often are trying to do just this. So, how do we identify this and stop before we act? She has many, many suggestions on how to do this.

One of her suggestions will sound very familiar as it promotes the use of self-talk. She suggests that we embrace our own inner storyteller and use it to stay on course. “If you are feeling deflated at the end of your day–or even sometimes at the beginning–I guarantee you that the stories you are telling yourself are like little holes in your tires letting all the air out. On the other hand, if you tell yourself at the end of each day that you have had an impact and you dealt with reality all day, you will leave work energized.”

I could continue on for quite a bit about the content in Cy’s book(s), so I’ll leave you with a list of the principles included in Reality-Based Leadership.

Reality-Based Leaders:

refuse to argue with reality
know that the stress in life is caused by thoughts, not realities
greet change with a simple “Good to Know”
value action over opinion
work with the willing
lead first, manage second
work to bullet-proof employees so that they can succeed, regardless of the circumstances
Make the news, rather than report the news
Are very careful about what we think we know for sure
Work to be “Happy” rather than to be “Right”
depersonalize feedback–whatever the source
Ask others, ‘How can I help?’ instead of judging and blaming