Smart Leadership: Four Simple Choices to Scale Your Impact by Mark Miller. Matt Holt. 272 pages. 2022
I have read and benefitted from all of the author’s books. Packed with helpful content, this book is unlike any of the other books I’ve read by Mark Miller, who was the sixteenth employee hired by Chick fil-A, and is now Vice President of High Performance for the organization. His previous books have been written as leadership fables.
This book is organized around four Smart Choices:
- Confront Reality
- Grow Capacity
- Fuel Curiosity
- Create Change
After an introductory chapter on each choice, there are two chapters, each devoted to a best practice. These chapters are intended to help you activate your Smart Choice. At the end of each chapter is a short paragraph entitled “Be Smart!” The intent is to give the reader one or two ideas for immediate action—ways to move the choice from your head to your hands.
The author states that most leaders he knows are facing a growing list of challenges, many of them unprecedented. He lumps all of these obstacles into a metaphor: quicksand. Throughout the book, the author shares information from a wide variety of leaders who have successfully navigated these challenges.
The author tells us that the ability to make choices should be among our most prized human abilities, and that a few of our choices have extended our reach and inﬂuence. These few, far-reaching choices impact other choices, creating ripple eﬀects in your life and leadership. If applied consistently, they will also create the story arc of your inﬂuence and determine your legacy. These choices are what he calls Smart Choices.
The book is about raising the reader’s awareness and personal discipline regarding the choices we make. Smart Choices are the ones with high impact that require the most focus and energy to make them. The author states that if you can keep your eye on these choices and choose wisely, you will experience multiple benefits. Rather than choosing to stay in the quicksand of mediocrity, exhaustion, and helplessness, you can move to the high ground of increased inﬂuence, opportunity, and impact.
Among the many topics addressed in the book are: meetings, values and beliefs, influence and impact, goals, role clarity, asking good questions, curiosity conversations, margin, energy management, life-long learning, a commonplace book, vision, ongoing communication, a growth mindset and recognition.
I had many helpful takeaways from this book, and I commend it to all leaders. It would be an excellent book to read and discuss with other leaders or aspiring leaders.
Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
- Your choices determine your impact.
- If done well, meetings can significantly multiply a leader’s impact and results.
- Reality is a leader’s most precious ally. What is true about you, your team, your organization, and your industry matters.
- Leadership is fundamentally about challenging what is, with an eye on what can be.
- If you do not stay relevant as a leader, you will be ill-prepared and ultimately left behind.
- One of the most valuable life skills a leader can acquire is the ability to ask good, thought-provoking, and challenging questions.
- People are most often attracted to leaders who believe in the possibility of a preferred future—a better future. We want leaders who can tell us where we are going and why it matters.
- Great teams are the product of leadership, strategic intent, and thoughtful design. No team drifts to greatness—they are built for success.
- Margin is simply the practice of allocating enough time to reﬂect, assess, think, create, and plan. We must create sufficient capacity for this critical work. Our leadership depends on it.
- Management and leadership are both required for an organization to succeed. However, the role of the manager and leader are diﬀerent. A manager’s responsibility is generally focused on control while a leader is focused on growth. Managers are focused on today whereas leaders are primarily concerned with tomorrow.
- Your purpose is why you believe you were born. Your purpose is what gives ultimate meaning to your labor. Your purpose should give you the courage to do the hard work of leadership.
- If you have the most compelling vision in the world and cannot communicate it eﬀectively, it is of little value.
- To Create Change in service of a better tomorrow is our calling and our contribution. We help make people, organizations, and the world better by the change eﬀorts we lead.