Book Review                                      Online Exclusive


Leadership and the Art of


How Great Leaders Grow through Challenge and Adversity 

by Steven Snyder, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, Calif., 2013, 222 pp., $19.95 softcover


Steven Snyder, an early leader at Microsoft, the founder of Snyder Leadership Group and the winner of the first-ever World Technology Award for Commerce, believes “failure is a great teacher.” Leadership and the Art of Struggle, a book that developed from years of research and personal experience, is Snyder’s testament to that motto.

The book’s principles are well-organized and easy to follow. Snyder separates his research findings into three sections: Grounding Practices, Exploring Practices and Deepening Practices. He also identifies “change,” “tensions” and “being out of balance” as the three defining elements of struggle.

In addition to the leadership lessons gleaned from his own experiences, Snyder introduces readers to other educators’ research, such as Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence and Carol Dweck’s studies on fixed mindset versus growth mind-set. The abundance of practical information reminds education administrators that they are responsible for making difficult choices and for implementing and managing change.

The author acknowledges that decisions affecting others or bringing change to a district may lead to confrontation or failure. He says it’s natural to experience a sense of fear in such situations.

Snyder provides an avenue to help leaders be honest with themselves and others when making decisions and when making mistakes. Part of being a good leader, whether in a company or in a school, is developing what he calls the “ABC’s of Resilience: Adversity, Beliefs and Consequences.” He warns of leadership blind spots: experience, personality, values, strategic and conflict.

Though Leadership and the Art of Struggle is written for corporate leaders, it is an excellent read for leaders in any professional field. For those in school systems, the main takeaway is that we should reflect on our leadership practices, admit to our shortcomings, learn from our mistakes and make the necessary changes to improve ourselves and our organization in a kind and gentle manner, remembering to put people first.

Reviewed by Lylia King, principal, Mary Jo Sheppard Elementary School, Mansfield, Texas 


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