BOOK REVIEW: ‘Finding Time to Lead: Seven Practices to Unleash Outrageous Potential,’ by Leslie Peters

Finding Time to Lead, by national leadership authority Leslie Peters, opens with a truth that should capture every leader’s attention: there is no CEO school. There’s no degree to earn or school to attend that will ensure your success as a CEO. Instead, taking on a leadership position, says Peters, is very much like being pulled as the star center of a varsity basketball team to coach soccer. As the team’s new leader, you believe you’re making the right decisions, based on your past success and what you think great leaders do. But basketball isn’t soccer; it’s a whole new game. You could be going about it all  wrong.

And many leaders  do.

Finding Time to Lead is a fresh look at our long-held—and erroneous—beliefs about leadership, replacing them with practices and tools that mirror what great leaders actually  do.

Peters, a CEO herself, has worked with top-tier leaders and CEOs for over twenty years. In her writing, she’s the everyman’s CEO, a good friend who’s pulled up a chair to chat over coffee. While written for executives, her book easily does double duty for leaders at any level, both in and outside of the business  world.

The book is divided into three parts to coincide with the three big “shifts” she sees every great leader go through. These shifts, explains Peters, are similar to adjusting the lens on a camera from a macro to a panoramic view. When you can see more of what’s around you, you have additional—and often better—options at your  disposal.

The first shift involves moving from doing to being. We’re all familiar with doing: crossing off those to-dos that will help us reach that big goal. But in the world of CEOs, explains Peters, that goal is just one of many that need to fit into an organizational whole. “Doing” doesn’t work in a complex system. Instead, Peters nudges leaders to “be” in each moment, allowing time and space for decisions to roll out, and for solutions to  emerge.

This may sound like a counterintuitive approach, but it’s a good one. “Being” requires a new set of skills, which Peters lays out: new ways of listening that get to the heart of an issue; asking, “Who do I want to be right now?” to open up options in how we respond to others; and even inviting others to hold us  accountable.

The second shift, moving from knowing to understanding, explores our genetic hardwiring to pursue certainty, as Peters puts it, “like a heat-seeking missile.” Leading organizations into unchartered waters means we can’t always be certain of the outcome. There will be many times, says Peters, when different points of view are simultaneously real, important, and true. And each needs to be understood. Embracing this disequilibrium and making people feel safe during this process, Peters insists, is a leader’s most important  job.

The third, and last, shift involves moving from reacting to responding. Our society is built on “fast and now.” But should our CEOs rely on knee-jerk reactions? We want our leaders to respond with thought, foresight, and understanding. It’s here that Peters points out another counterintuitive approach: dare to say, “I don’t know,” while asking others to step forward and contribute their knowledge and experience—a technique Peters refers to as “including the wisdom in the  room.”

Peters packs Finding Time to Lead with countless real-world stories, tips, and advice to help leaders show up as the best version of themselves in every situation. If you have any inclination toward leadership, this is a book for  you.

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