AGL 049: Herding Tigers Book Review

I read, well listen to, a lot of leadership books.  Most of the leadership books I read are either very theoretical, with little practical advise, but very good theory, or very practical, with steps you can take, but not much on the “why” those steps really work.  This book, Herding Tigers, by Todd Henry is the best of both worlds.  I was telling Todd the other day that his writing seems to follow my career.  His first book, Accidental Creative, is about what to do when you find that you’re accidentally in a creative field, when no one taught you how to creatively solve problems and be brilliant at a moments notice.  He talks about getting in your creative rhythm and  F.R.E.S.H. (focus relationships energy stimuli hours). In his second book, Die Empty (which is a lot like a continuation of Accidental Creative, Todd talks about how to empty yourself everyday to create your best work. He talks about leaving a legacy and how empty yourself, because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Todd’s 3rd book, Louder than Words, is all about the steps needed to harness your authentic voice…not find your voice, but mold and create it.  To learn more about this book, check out an earlier interview I had with Todd about it just after it came out.

So all of that brings us to Herding Tigers. This book is about leading creative teams.  In IT, our teams are creative whether we like it or not.  We create solutions everyday, whether it involves writing code, tweaking systems or designing networks.  We must be creative, and our leaders must know how to lead creative teams. This is the book that I wish I had when I made the transition from developer to manager.  This book focuses heavily on going from “Maker to Manager.”  Many things in the book may seem common sense when you read it, but there are things that you don’t think about unless you’ve had good leaders teach you those skills in the past. There are many favorite passages from this book, and I find it to be one of the most highlighted books in my office. The chapters are very story based and theoretical at first, but they end it with “Actions,” “Conversations“, “Rituals” which give you actionable and practical things you can and should be doing as a good leader.

This book covers making the shift from Maker to Manager better than any other leadership book that I have read.  It goes through very practical things that leaders forget about after they’ve been in the a leadership role for a few years, but would be very helpful for those making the shift.  This includes how do deal with confidentiality now that you’re a manager, changing terminology of “my stuff” to “our stuff,” building and keeping trust, creating a stable, yet challenging work environment, how to encourage your team to “fight fair” and much, much more!

One of my favorite parts of the book is actually after the book is finished.  Todd lists out all of the rituals he mentions in the books and puts them in order of things a leader should do weekly, monthly, and quarterly.  This checklist format is very helpful for geeks like me.

I’m not going to summarize the book here, you need to get it and read (or listen to it on Audible) for yourself.  Click here to get Herding Tigers from Amazon.





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