Book review: “SPARK”: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success
2017 • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt • 224 Pages • Hardcover $27, E-book $14
In a nutshell – Three military Veterans take their experiences and demonstrate how leadership can come from anywhere within an organization, not just from the top.
Who’s it for? – Managers, employees, business owners, human resource specialists.
Author Quote – “If you feel fear, if you feel worry, or if you feel insecurity, the most important thing you need to do is to be able to acknowledge it for what it is, process it, and know that the antidote to that is action.”
In today’s downsized workforce, leadership has become something of a neglected skill. Managers may be thrust into guiding employees with limited leadership training or experience. At the same time, there are many talented employees stifled by their company’s inferior work and dysfunctional teams. Working from the idea that everyone has the initiative to lead themselves, the book “SPARK” goes a long way in reframing how organizations can be motivated by all its team members.
After reading “SPARK,” it’s safe to say that most business professionals don’t possess the leadership skills that entrepreneurs and consultants Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, and Sean Lynch gained during their accomplished military careers. Morgan and Courtney Lynch served as officers in the U.S. Marines, while Sean Lynch was a U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot before he became a commercial pilot.
The book’s major premise dispels the myth that only managers can determine the outcomes of organizations, countering the outdated, top down, military management style that squelches employee feedback. As a noun, a “Spark” can be someone who maximizes their role in a way that benefits their organization. As a verb, “Spark” is the force used in harmony when working with others that can separate high-achieving companies from their competitors.
The three authors’ personal experiences are told as personal stories throughout the book, and effectively demonstrate these leadership behaviors. “SPARK” lays out seven “leadership behaviors” that can be adopted by anyone in an organization:
Character describes where one’s actions and values intersect. Credibility is a combination of being dependable, trustworthy, and committed. Accountability is taking ownership of mistakes and problems. Act with Intent is taking action toward a well- envisioned future. Be of Service is understanding and meeting the needs of others so they can be their best. Confidence is believing in your ability to deal with high-pressure situations. Consistency is the ability to stick to one’s values and intentions regardless of your circumstances.
“SPARK” is most interesting when each of the three authors dovetail their own personal stories into these same concepts. Collectively, these skills can be used for individual self-development and for groups to work more effectively together. Morgan, Lynch, and Lynch today use these same values with their company Lead Star, working with both large corporations and smaller companies.
It’s unique that a book can take contributions from three authors and weave them into a well-formulated and relatable book. And it’s no surprise to see that “SPARK” has held a strong position on the New York Times Bestsellers list for Advice, How-to, and Miscellaneous books.
In the end, “SPARK” reinforces its controlling idea that leadership can be found in “people who may not have titles, but have the courage to see that things can be different, and the conviction to lead themselves and the people they work with to a better future.”
Chris Wendel is a business services consultant with Northern Initiatives, a community development financial institution based in Marquette. Wendel lives and works in Traverse City and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.