Leadership is a Relationship: How to Put People First in the Digital World

Leadership is a Relationship: How to Put People First in the Digital World

Author: Michael S. Erwin & Willys DeVoll
Review by: Dani Bacon

I can always tell if a book has me hooked.  The good ones always have me stopping to take notes as I go along so I don’t lose the nuggets of wisdom contained within.

The book is by Michael S Erwin and Willys Devoll.  Michael served in the US Army and founder of Team Red, White and Blue, co-founder of the Positivity Project and CEO of the Character and Leadership Center.  Willys is a writer, creator and speak and founder of Will Digital, a writing and design agency.

The premise of the book is that leading people well requires genuine personal connection but the Information Age makes creating that connection profoundly difficult.

The book is a collection of stories / case studies from leaders in a variety of settings but the common theme through them all is a commit to prioritising the building and maintaining of genuine relationships with their people – often in ways that run counter to expectations and the culture of the industries and settings they are working in.

Several of the stories are drawn from sports and military examples.  This  would usually switch me off,  but the learnings are surfaced so well that the book kept me engaged and interested throughout.  There are also stories from people in education settings, not for profits and consulting.

The book is easy to read.  Each chapter focuses on one of seven different themes.  Accountability, Forgiveness, Resilience, Trust, Coalition-building, Loyalty and Stability in relation to leadership.   With 2 or 3 stories shared for each theme.   One Big Lesson is highlighted for each story and each chapter ends with a summary of the key takeaways and some insightful, thought-provoking questions for reflection.

The chapter on accountability was particularly strong.  It neatly highlights how  accountable is more than just the act of ensuring people perform and meet expectations.  It talks of accountability as daily practice – not just a set piece activity and surfaces the importance and value of strong relationships in building true accountability. The chapter also discusses how our culture has weaponised accountability rather seeing it as an integral and natural part of cultivating strong and caring relationships.

The book was positioned as a book about leading people well in the digital age so if you are expecting tips on how to handle Zoom calls etc then this won’t give you want you need.  What it will give you is ample evidence that the way to bridge the isolation and disconnection that the digital age can cause is simply by building strong and genuine relationships with the people around you.   The keys to doing that are the same whether you are in the same office as someone or thousands of miles away.

Published by Wiley

Dani Bacon is an Organisation Development consultant, co-founder of Distinction Consulting and co-host of the Distinction podcast