The authors of Freedom, Inc. have published a book with a new co-author who, as a vineyard owner (among others), had the ingredients needed to turn it into a captivating learning adventure for a reader on a quest to become a true leader, with intense stories and a complex finish. But contrary to a great wine, the book’s formula makes it possible to enjoy its benefits time and again!
A lot has happened since Freedom, Inc.: How Corporate Liberation Unleashes Employee Potential and Business Performance first appeared in 2009. The book itself has been translated into dozen languages. In France, it won the best business book award and was the No.1 business/management bestseller on Amazon.fr for several years. Since then, the phenomenon has made the cover of leading periodicals, been shown on the evening news and programs of major European TV channels, and been the subject of a 90-minute Arte TV documentary that broke all the records for popularity. But more importantly, it has inspired hundreds of leaders to launch their own corporate liberation in hundreds of companies of all sizes and geographies, including multinationals such as Michelin, Decathlon or EDF as well as dozens of public service administrations.
But ESCP Professor Isaac Getz and his co-author —former Wall Street Journal editor and current business executive Brian M. Carney— didn’t stop there: they associated with Bob Davids, who claims that “the biggest shortage in the world is not oil or food—it’s leadership without ego,” and picked his brain at length to write Leadership without Ego: How to stop managing and start leading. The successful leader of six businesses in fields as diverse as engineering and winemaking, had already been the subject of a chapter in Freedom, Inc. as well as a Forbes article by Isaac Getz, and also given a TEDx talk on leadership at ESCP viewed almost 800,000 times. “Like letting friends who visit Sea Smoke Cellars taste his aging wine from barrels, Bob would occasionally share his leadership insights with a select few, they write in the Preface. With some friends, but also with young CEOs who travel to see him, with journalists and writers. Brian and Isaac, being the latter, loved both Bob’s wine and leadership wisdom. They also realized that unlike his wine —which can be ordered in all U.S. three-star Michelin restaurants— Bob’s wisdom has never been bottled. Hence this book.”
Leadership without Ego is just like Bob’s Sea Smoke wine: it is radical, and required a great deal of thinking and crafting to find a successful formula for presenting the product to the world market. “Like a great wine telling intense stories about its origin and making, Bob’s leadership wisdom is extremely witty, poignant, and narrative. It pours out naturally in Bob’s conversation and calls for a form different from traditional argumentative books on leadership”.
This is a book about a transformation of the idea of leadership in the past two decades —a change of beliefs about how best to lead, along with radically different leadership practices. It has already transformed the fortunes of hundreds of businesses and the lives of tens of thousands of employees —and has a potential to totally transform the way businesses and even government are led: the authors claim it has already transformed the worst government ministry in Belgium into the best. “This change consists of nothing less than turning our common conceptions about leadership upside down, they add. As Bob Davids (…) puts it in this book, ‘If you think you are special, you are not. No one can bullshit the troops. Troops know who you are from your first words. It is best if you are one of the troops. A true leader subordinates him/herself to the staff. In war, the generals eat last’.”
But even with carefully selected and edited excerpts from more than one hundred hours of their recorded interviews, this book’s formula would have been incomplete if the resulting book had not been a captivating learning adventure for a reader on a quest to become a true leader.
The authors thus incorporated a second ingredient: an A-to-Z book form, which they borrowed from Up the Organization, by Bob’s friend and great leadership thinker, Robert Townsend. “It carries the reader from the more basic and accessible thoughts up front steadily toward what a wine taster might call the complex finish. But the A-to-Z book has also an advantage no bottle has. Like Heraclitus’ proverbial river that can’t be stepped in twice, a bottle, once finished, can’t be sipped again. But this A-to-Z book, thanks to its built-in alphabetical index, can be instantly accessed and re-enjoyed, or dipped into as a reference. Then, as Buddha, Heraclitus’s contemporary, said, ’it’s neither the same water nor the same bather’: Every time the reader will dip again into some part of the book, she will do it as a changed person.”