Let’s get one thing out of the way before we go any further. Leaders Made Here: Building A Leadership Culture by Mark Miller is in the form of a business novella. Some people would call it a business fable. Most of the people I know have strong feelings about this kind of book. Some love them and others hate them. If you’re part of the hate group, don’t even bother to read this review. You won’t like the book. If you’re OK with the novella form, read on.
In 1977, Mark Miller signed on as an hourly employee in a local Chic-Fil-A restaurant. He’s risen from that point along with the company. Along the way, he’s written and co-written several business books. He’s had the opportunity to do the things he describes in this book and to help other companies do them. So, he’s about as knowledgeable an author as you’re going to get.
Mark says he wrote this book for “those who can see the value in a strong bench of capable leaders but just lack the strategic framework to make it so.”
The problem with reviewing a business novella is that summarizing the story portion of the book rarely helps you decide whether you want to buy it or not. So, I’m going to hit some of the important points and give you my general impressions of the book.
Mark Miller has a straightforward definition of “culture.” He says that it is “nothing more than the sum of the habits of people.” That’s important because culture is the way people act, not what the statements on their wall plaques and laminated pocket cards say.
He describes a leadership culture by saying that: “A leadership culture exists when leaders are routinely and systematically developed and when you have a surplus of leaders.”
The story the book tells is of a company that went from not having a leadership culture to developing one. As you read the story, you get to watch the team put a leadership culture in place. Miller chooses to concentrate on the Chief Human Resources Officer and the HR team and use them as protagonists in the story. That’s an excellent device, because it allows them to explain their thinking and to bring in different viewpoints by doing research.
One important point that Miller makes is that strong leadership cultures have what he calls “the opportunity.” The opportunity is nothing more than the opportunity for aspiring leaders to actually lead. In too many companies, it’s all classrooms, simulations, case studies, and discussions, until the aspiring leader gets the opportunity to try things out. Companies with effective leadership cultures give aspiring leaders the opportunity to try on the role and incorporate debriefing, coaching, and learning from experience in their leadership development.
In A Nutshell
Leaders Made Here: Building A Leadership Culture by Mark Miller is the fictionalized story of a company defining and developing a leadership culture. The form and the organization make it very much like having Mark Miller explaining his ideas about defining and creating a leadership culture over a glass of wine. They’re good, usable ideas and good reasons to read this book.
You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on my GoodReads page.
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