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The Work Revolution: Performance and Leadership in the Modern World

Whenever an author has ‘PhD’ after their name, there’s a good chance the book will either be a deep dive into complexity or a revelation that shifts your worldview. “The Work Revolution” by Males sits firmly in the middle, mapping out key issues workers face today and offering a collection of familiar yet practical models and stories to help us live better professional lives.

Whenever an author has ‘PhD’ after their name there’s a good chance that the book I’m about to review is either a sea of complexity and depth, or a ‘behind the curtain’ revelation that changes my world view. This is borne from the fundamental question of ‘should every PhD be a published book?’ Debate amongst yourselves… Where does the Work Revolution sit on my spectrum? Firmly in the middle.

This is going to sound cruel (it’s not meant to be) but there’s nothing really new in this book. It maps out some of the key issues that we, the workers, currently face, and brings in structure to help us figure out what’s going on. Then it’s off at a million miles an hour, with concepts, models, stories and opinions flowing like liquid gold. I don’t see a research stream running through it – it’s more a collection of approaches designed to help us live better professional lives.

Many of the models are familiar, and Males does a great job of weaving them into stories and practical ‘here’s what to do’ moments that are aimed at getting us active, making changes and taking ownership for who we are and how we show up. And the author doesn’t try to position the content as unique – the second line in the ‘About This Book’ section labels it as a mix of ‘curation and creation’.

So, then, the question for me is how well does Males bring all of this together into one coherent package? Actually, pretty good as it turns out. The chapter flow, the volume of content and the practical elements are well balanced, and the pace is just about right. As I say with a number of books I review – ‘read it twice’. On the first pass, turn every page, experience the content and understand the flow. On the second, dive into specific passages that make most sense to you and start taking action. The book is so rich, if you try and build a plan around the first section, you’ll never get to the end.

Is it a book for leadership? Probably not exclusively, and I get the sense that (yet again) the publishers have added on a strapline that they think will sell more. And that’s a shame, because the content in the book is relevant for anyone at work, and the majority of people are not managers. I think there’s an opportunity to turbo-charge the content, make it more accessible and appeal to a much wider audience with little change. And that’s a good thing.

Annoyingly, it saved the most fascinating model until the penultimate page – The Doughnut Economic Model – I gazed at it in wonder for five minutes, trying to make sense of it, then appreciating its beauty. I’m busy Googling it now, and you can expect to see it on a slide in the near future.

In summary, a great book, if slightly confused about its purpose. Don’t let the cover picture put you off (or the PhD – it is highly accessible) and look past the ‘Leadership’ tag to dive in as an individual. There’s a bounty of ideas and guidance contained in it, and the prose is warm and easy on the eye. It just needs a bit more help to unlock its potential.

Reviewer’s note: I’ve only ever looked on in awe at people who achieve PhDs – keep going folk.

Published by Spiramus Publishing

Reviewed by Chris Preston, a culture expert and one of the founding partners of The Culture Builders

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