Book Review: Extraordinary Influence

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There’s a lot to like about Extraordinary Influence: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others by Tim Irwin. In fact, there was so much to like I kept reading, even though the author does things that make me slam a book shut.

Tim Irwin describes the major thesis of the book:

“We gain an extraordinary ability to transform others when we affirm them versus when we apply what might euphemistically be called constructive criticism.”

A couple of pages later, he says, “Common practices in management today are strikingly different from what new science teaches us, and should not be ignored, even by those with a track record of success.” And a few pages after that, we get, “Research has shown that affirmation from others whom we respect forms beliefs in our core that guide our actions.”

The last quote contains a hint at the problems with this book. Irwin says we form beliefs “in our core.” I wanted to know what a core was. I know what “core” means in common language, but Irwin uses the term in a more specialized way. He doesn’t share that special definition for almost 50 more pages.

Then he says he uses the word core “as a metaphor for the person inside us.” He talks about the core as a “metaphysical” place. All of that is fine, he can define things the way he wants, but waiting 50 pages to define a core (I couldn’t resist) term you use a lot is bad writing.

Irwin does that a lot. He uses a term for many pages before he defines it. Sometimes, he doesn’t do much defining at all. Among his special phrases are “core,” “words of life,” and “Alliance Feedback.”

He passes up opportunities to define a term or flesh out a concept. Instead, he tells you he will get to it later in the book.

I wondered if using terms in a unique way was Irwin’s attempt to brand them. At other times, I thought it was a way to avoid precision. In either case, I didn’t like it very much.

There was one more infuriating thing. Irwin says we can’t deliver words of life (which I take to mean effective affirmation and praise) to another, unless we have an “intact core.” What that says is that you can’t put this book into practice until you’ve made yourself a pure vessel. That’s nonsense. If that’s true you should only read this book if you both have an “intact core.”

So, why did I keep reading? The research. Irwin mentions a lot of research, sources it, and explains it well. That was enough for me to put up with an otherwise infuriating book.

In A Nutshell

Extraordinary Influence: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others by Tim Irwin has a lot of good information. You’ll like this book if information is your overriding purpose for reading. If you’re bothered by writing that doesn’t define terms the first time they’re used, non-standard terminology, and logical flaws, you should skip this book.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on my GoodReads page.


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