UT Prof's New Book Aims to Take the Mystery Out of Leadership
To many, “leadership” is like the old test for obscenity – you might not be able to describe it, but you’ll know it when you see it. A University of Texas professor is aiming to take the mystery out of what makes a good leader with a new book being published this month.
“Habits of Leadership,” a 50-page mini e-book, will be released Jan. 29 by Perigree Books, a division of Penguin, for e-readers like Kindle, Nook and iBook.
“The book is designed for people who do not have a background in psychology but are interested in improving their leadership ability,” said the book’s author Art Markman, a UT Psychology professor and author of “Smart Thinking.” “So, the book is aimed at helping people with their careers and with understanding their strengths and weaknesses as leaders.”
The book offers readers the opportunity to assess aspects of their personalities and then examines how those characteristics influence their abilities as leaders and innovators and how they can become better ones. One thing Markman found is that the most effective innovators seem to share two characteristics – an openness to new experience and being high in need for cognition, meaning they put themselves into positions where they’re forced to think.
“People with this combination of traits generally explore new ideas in depth,” Markman said. “That helps them to make new and interesting connections when they are faced with a difficult problem.”
The book emerged from part of a class Markman teaches for Procter & Gamble called Achieving Peak Performance, which examines the relationship between personality characteristics and leadership performance. His aim in publishing the book is to help people learn not only about themselves but also the people around them.
“It is unfortunate that we don't teach people much about psychology, and then we ask them to think for a living and to influence other people,” Markman said.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet to becoming a good leader; the key point, Markman said, is to understand the habits your personality creates.
“It is important to understand when those habits are helping you to be an effective leader and when they are getting in your way,” he said. “When your personality has focused you on habits that are not good for leadership, then you need to find ways to change those habits.”