Your IndustryMay 30 2013

Book Review: You Can Be a Leader

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ByMatt Timmins

Web entrepreneur and digital marketer, Fredrik Arnander attempts to persuade us that we all possess the capacity to become successful leaders. You Can Be a Leader is pitched within a more Scandinavian business culture, and in a personnel structure which is flatter than the more hierarchical US models typical with this style of book.

Located firmly in the 21st century, Mr Arnander affirms that the success of a company today: “Does not derive from the authority of a few in formal leadership positions but relies on a flat approach where everyone takes responsibility, drives innovation and acts proactively”.

In other words, Mr Arnander says that the culture of the modern business becomes a driving force in its direction, and a determining factor in its success. We can hear clear echoes of the culture of Apple, which is often noted as more closely resembling a start-up than a multinational. With this in mind, in a flatter structure, leadership can be a quality held across the board, and not just the board of directors.

Breaking from the approach of more conventional personal development books, Mr Arnander structures his contribution to the genre through 100 ‘leadership concepts’. The main strength of this approach is its practicality. Broken down into one and two page chunks, Mr Arnander's concepts poke fun at the frequency of TLAs (three letter acronyms) in business speak with titles such as Control Upset Emails (CUE) or, Don’t do Lunch (DDL).

This is particularly refreshing as many ‘business Bibles’ suffer from delusions of grandeur before disappearing behind walls of abstract parables or neat, but hollow, maxims. By contrast, Mr Arnander offers compact, real life situations, examines likely responses, and attempts to recalibrate his reader’s choice of reaction to that of the leader.

To support some concepts, Mr Arnander provides case study overviews of actual businesses and leadership structures that have succeeded or failed – “Too many chefs? – Blackberry famously had two CEOs . . . they combined their expertise in sales and technology but failed to adapt to changes in the mobile market and were replaced with one CEO”. There are many instances where Mr Arnander’s applicability is reinforced and given substance by relevant examples.