Review of Build Your Leader Identity by Suzi Skinner

One of my favourite expressions is “Leaders are readers” so like many readers I have stack of unread books sitting on a shelf. I have promised myself to clear the stack by the end of the year.  I am halfway through when I came across Skinner’s book.  When I got the book I cannot remember but having just facilitated a Harvard Club Masterclass on Practical Emotional Intelligence for Leaders I felt I would have to review the book.

The subtitle of the book is “A Practical Guide To Leading Authentically From Any Position.”  On the green cover there is the image of 11 flying geese, 10 are black and 2 positions from the front there is the white goose who has the potential to be come a leader.  The key message of the book is that by developing new ways of Being, Beliefs. Principles & Life Experiences (as in the diagram) we can all become leaders.  Skinner provides a series of exercises in the book to achieve this goal.

Therein lies the problem.  The book contains 29 exercises that require answers to 203 questions.  The questions are good, the problem is there is so many of them.  As soon as I saw the green cover I suspected that Suzi might have a lot of Engineer in her temperament and as I waded through the book my suspicions were confirmed.  I am not sure I would describe the book as practical; “thorough” might be a more descriptive term.

The book has a positive mindset and contains good advice about building authenticity and becoming change ready.  Suzi defines leadership as influencing others in a positive way.  She asserts that the qualities of leaders exist within us all and great leaders not only recognise their own qualities, but they also personalise leadership.  I must confess I place much more importance on genetic factors.  Social influences do play a role but genetic factors such as intelligence and temperament are twice as important.  The typical mantra is that leaders are made not born.  Sorry but I think are some people born with “officer qualities” that increase the probability of being a successful leader.  Social factors can play an enhancing role but it is difficult to believe that they can be a replacement.  Also I cannot rid myself of the image of the solitary white goose on the book cover.  One can be white but not the other 9 followers.

Funnily enough it was the chapter on derailers that resonated with me.  Derailers are defined by Suzi as the obstacles that can destabilise your leader identity or even halt your leadership formation.  Among the derailers you may face are a toxic organisation culture, hierarchical organisations, caring responsibilities, excessive workload, lack of boundaries in the work-life balance and entrenched self-limiting beliefs.  In this chapter Suzi provides a lot of useful advice on overcoming derailers based on a combination of theory and her own experience.

First published on LinkedIn



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Chris Golis - Author


"Put in a sales perspective, I loved your presentation! I got a lot from what you talked about and I will read your book."

Peter Morris, Executive Officer, Lomax Financial Group

Your presentation on 'Lifting your Level of Emotional Intelligence" to 10 CEOs scored an average 8.9 out of 10 for the topic and 8.5 for the presentation which is great. A couple of the attendees gave you a 10 out of 10, and the comments were:

- Great presentation. Very informative.

- Excellent presentation.

- made me think.

Christi Spring CEO Institute. - web