Leaders on Leadership

In my observation of these things, leadership is obtained in one of two ways: 

1. It is ambitiously sought.  

  • I shall one day lead others! 
  • I will educate and study leadership to qualify myself!  

2. It is achieved: organically, accidentally, and oftentimes against your very will.  

  • I work hard, help others, and set an example – Oh, yeah, I guess I am a leader.  
  • I think outside my role and demonstrate impact to be harnessed. Promotion? Okay, sure!  

While one is not necessarily better than the other, the latter, the, Oh, I’m a leader now? How did that happen? is the one to investigate and nurture in yourself or your team.  

Upon happening into a situation like this myself recently, I reached out to some leaders I know for some bookly advice. I’ve led by example, I’ve embodied servant leadership principles, and I’ve operated in a peer-based feedback position to guide the work of others. Leadership as a concept wasn’t new to me, but the title, the expectations, and the responsibilities inherited from bestowed leadership – maybe a little new, and worth studying up a bit.  

Captain Reman: “I like that Simon Sinek book…”
That Simon Sinek book is Leaders Eat Last 

The Sales Soigneur, (formerly The Sales Cyclist), responded right after Noah. He seconded that recommendation and added, “I would read Tribal Leadership first. (it’s in our library).” 

ET-D2 provided a list of books, too, but made a point to differentiate them by the nature of their storytelling. Instead of how-tos, Jim prefers to read stories about real-life leaders and their challenges. His suggestions:  

  • Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed by Ben R. Rich 
  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing and Nathaniel Philbrick 

The King of Cataloging had books outside the norm to recommend, too. In fact, they were books that he hadn’t even read yet. They were on his list to read in the future, demonstrating in action a tenant I believe in: keep learning. A perennial oversleeper, I was most intrigued by:  

  • The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod 

The Woman Behind the Curtain assures me she has some actual books she’s going to bring me the next time she’s in town, but even without specific recommendations, she’s helped. From getting CCed on relevant communications, being responsive when I’m in a pickle, and providing timely feedback – she’s modeling being a supportive leader each and every day.  

What’s worth observing, outside of the book recommendations themselves, is the diverse way each of my leader peers approached the prompt. Rich with their own personality, style, and preference, I can see here demonstrated much of their approach to leadership.  

And what does The Rhythm of Reman offer in terms of advice on leadership? Learn from those around you, learn from experts, and learn from yourself. My favorite strategy in life, and coincidentally in leadership as well, is to journal. I keep a OneNote tab affectionately called my Work Diary, and pour into it any negative or distracting thoughts, as well as long-term ideas or simple to-dos. In the very early days of leadership, reflecting on my interactions, what’s gone well and not at all well, and how I can approach the next day has helped keep me sane and helped me problem solve some of my own issues.  

Whether you’re a leader already (you are or can be!), or a leader yet to be pulled from rank and file while you were just over there not really minding your own business, solving problems, and finding ways to work smarter, look around you for the knowledge in the room. It’s there with you in the form of a lobby library (if you don’t have one… get one.), your fellow leaders, and in yourself.  


Finding herself at the front,  The Rhythm of Reman realizes she had better know where she’s going. Good thing there are others ahead of her in the distance to look to… for expert recommendations, advice, and just some direction. Comment below or connect with Andee directly.

Why You Should Put a Library in Your Lobby

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones often said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

Books change everything. They contain the answers to questions you’ve been asking yourself for years. They contain new ideas, old truths, and growth opportunities…all for less than the cost of a crappy movie at your local theater.

What was the last book you read? When did you finish it?

I bet it was a long time ago. Too long.

And, if you’re reading this now, you’re probably more likely to have read something more recently than your employees or your coworkers (some of whom haven’t read a book in 20 years). There’s an old adage that says, “The average salesman doesn’t read a book a year. That is why he is an average salesman.”

Don’t be average. And don’t let your employees, coworkers, or customers be average either.

I give books to friends and customers all the time. I usually write a little inscription about why I think the recipient will like the book, how they will profit from it, or what it might do for their life. I do the same for employees. But just a few weeks ago, I realized I had overlooked a simple and inexpensive opportunity to inspire, influence, and improve everyone who works here or visits here: a library!

So, with a couple of clicks of a mouse (and a little light assembly), we now have a library. It’s not a big one. It’s just a shelf. But it contains big ideas. We have begun to assemble the smartest minds, the best advice, the most inspiring examples…from all over the world, from all time. We now have the best mentors available, at our fingertips.

Our library is in our cafeteria. People take a book, leave a book, read a book, and talk about it with each other. Beats playing Words with Friends.

Shoutout to Andee (aka The Rhythm of Reman), for the idea and execution.

You can put your library in your office, in your lobby, in your shop, or anywhere you want, really. If you really want to have some fun with this, give a short book report each week at your meetings and talk about how you might apply what you’ve learned. That’s where the real power of reading is – in thinking about and doing something with what you read. The Irish Statesman Edmund Burke said it best (way back in the 1700’s): “To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting.”

What if somebody steals a book? Then it means the book was valuable to the reader. It means the book meant enough to them that they wanted to keep it and use it. And they’ll always remember who they stole it from because we put our stamp in it!

In reality, I hope people do steal my books. It costs me $10 and I get happy, inspired, smarter employees and customers? Best $10 I could spend!

Want a list of ten books that you should buy to start your library? Click here to download it.


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If you’re reading this now, you’re in better shape than most. What’s in your library or at the top of your reading list? Comment below or share with Captain Reman directly!

Bossypants: The Art of Creatively Hiding Business Insight

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I can’t take it anymore. I have a dirty little secret. And I have to come clean.

I hate business books.

But Aimee,” you say. “This is your 36th interesting and insightful article for Reman U! How can you possibly hate business books?”

First, it’s creepy that you know exactly how many articles I’ve written. I mean, awesome compliment, but totally creepy.

Second, most business books seem self-congratulating and a healthy sense of self-esteem is a huge turnoff.

And, finally, the typical business book has maybe 5 pages of actually useful, actionable information. I can save myself 5 hours and $15 by just skimming my LinkedIn feed. (You’re reading this article, so you totally get what I mean.)

So, if I’m going to read a business book it has to be hidden in a non-business book package. Kind of like the way you have to get creative to hide vegetables in kids’ foods.

Enter: “Bossypants” by Tina Fey.

At first glance, it looks like a regular ol’ memoir about a working class person hustling her way to success in entertainment. Kind of like a Drake song with better prose. And, yeah, that’s the gist of “Bossypants,” but it’s a lot more than that. It’s about overcoming insecurity and kicking a$s in the male-dominated comedy business, all while dishing out some hard truth on leadership, growing a career, and work-life balance.

I loved every minute of it. I mean, with little bits-o-knowledge like these, what’s not to love?

On Going for It:

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”

On Criticism:

“So, my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism, or ageism, or lookism, or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that way. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you.”

On Good Bosses:

“In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”

On Teamwork:

“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. We’ve all worked with that person. That person is a drag.”

On Women in the Workplace:

“If you are a woman and you bought this book for practical tips on how to make it in a male-dominated workplace, here they are. No pigtails, no tube tops. Cry sparingly. (Some people say “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.)”

 

Hey,” you say. “I am a dude. I also do not work in comedy. I also do not cry, I work out. What does any of this have to do with me?

Shhhh, the lady is talking now. (Totally kidding; don’t send me hate mail.) It’s no secret that, like comedy, the automotive industry is a male-dominated one. So, part of the appeal of this book was that, yes, it was entertaining, but it also contained pieces of information that were easily identifiable and applicable to my situation as a woman in this industry.

And, like “Bossypants,” sometimes a book doesn’t have to come from the business section of your local bookstore to find your ah-ha moment – whether it’s personal or professional.

Elon Musk recommends everyone read Walter Isaacson’s “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.” Bill Gates recommends “What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” by Randall Munroe (which is also entertaining and excellent, by the way). And Steve Jobs recommended Herman Melville’s classic “Moby Dick.” Hell, Richard Branson even sited “50 Shades of Gray” as his inspiration for launching ebooks on Virgin Atlantic flights.

What would you add to this list? Has a non-business book helped influence your personal or professional life, outlook, or experience? I’d love to hear what you’d add.


Aimee has a dirty little secret – she hates business books. But even so, she finds a way to glean business insight elsewhere. What non-business books have helped influence your personal or professional life? Comment below or email her directly!

One More Thing Before You Go

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My wife and I read every night with our daughters. When they were infants, we did all the reading. Now, the girls do most of it. Our daughters are among the best readers in their respective grades, but it’s about much more than that. The books they read take them to faraway places filled with limitless adventure, to dinner tables with families from different cultures, and to times past in America…pre-iPhone, pre-television, and pre-automobile. In other words, reading gives our girls perspective.

Books also provide our daughters with ideas, answers, and inspiration. And guess what? Sometimes when we read together, I find that I am learning as much as they are.

This post is inspired by a powerful children’s book by Barbara Cooney, originally published in 1985, entitled Miss Rumphius. I was tired last night and wanted to go to bed. My eldest daughter, Zoe, and I had already read two stories. I kissed her goodnight and she said, “Daddy…one more thing before you go…”

“What’s that?” I said.

“We have to read one more story.”

“OK,” I said, “but pick a short one.”

Man, am I happy I stayed.

Miss Rumphius took less than ten minutes to read cover to cover, but it will stay with me forever. Here’s the summary:

Miss Rumphius is the story of Alice Rumphius and her desire to do three things: live by the sea, go to faraway places, and make the world a more beautiful place. This third desire is instilled in young Alice by her wise old grandfather, and is mostly what this special story is about. After Alice listens to her grandfather’s stories of faraway places, Alice tells him that she, too, will go to faraway places and she will eventually settle by the sea. Alice’s grandfather intones, that is all well and good, but you must also do a third thing:”You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”

After an account of Alice’s travel, very appealingly illustrated, the story moves on to depict the charming seaside town Alice eventually settles in. Here, Alice will do her grandfather proud and start making the world more beautiful.  After a hard winter, Alice realizes that her lupines (a gorgeous flower of purple, blue and rose) have not only survived but expanded, with a little help from the wind and the birds. Alice has her “aha” moment. She orders large quantities of the very best lupine seeds from the very best seed house. When the seeds arrive, Alice fills her pockets daily and scatters the seeds wherever she goes. Lupines flourish and prosper throughout the whole town, thus making her corner of the world a more beautiful place.

 At the end of this story, you realize the narrator is actually Alice’s great niece, Alice. Great Aunt Alice urges her great niece to also find her own way to make the world a more beautiful place.

In Miss Rumphius, beauty is portrayed as physical beauty – flowers, actually. It’s often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps, though, that it is also in the eye of the giver. Knowing that what you are doing in the present will leave a lasting impact on those who come after you is gratifying. And that in itself is a beautiful thing.

Beauty doesn’t have to be something that can be seen. Here are a few ways you might make the world a more beautiful place (starting right in your shop today):

  • By being friendly to everyone you interact with.
  • By creating jobs at your shop so that your employees have the means to raise their families.
  • By treating your employees like family and helping them to accomplish their goals.
  • By painting an old building or cleaning up the sidewalk.
  • By planting flowers or trees.
  • By serving your customers with passion, compassion, and a smile.
  • By creating an environment in which your employees and your customers enjoy themselves.
  • By being fair and honest, even when the opportunity to sell a major job presents itself and you would never get caught…but you know that you could fix the car for a few hundred bucks.
  • By creating a library of books for your customers (and their children) to read in your lobby.

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones was fond of saying, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” I know you meet a lot of people in the automotive service business. What I don’t know is how many books you read. Let me take a guess: not enough.

Everything you are looking for in your life is in a book. Oh, the answer itself may not be there, but the way to find the answer will be. You will learn from the biographies of great men and women who came before us. You will learn from the thinking of great philosophers, leaders, and doers. The more books you read, the more you learn. The more books you read, the more you think. The more books you read, the more you will do. The trick is finding the right book at the right time. And, sometimes, the book you are looking for may be in your kid’s room.

Last night when we finished reading Miss Rumphius, I spent an hour evaluating my life. I thought about the things that I’ve done to help others and to leave a little mark on the world. I wondered, though, had I done anything to make the world more beautiful?

Not so much.

The good news is that I have a few years left (like 50 if I’m lucky), and I plan to get started creating and adding beauty right away.

When it’s your time to go, will you be able to say that you did something to make the world more beautiful?