Quick Take: The Leaders Climb by Bob Parsanko and Paul Heagen

As I have noted here before, if I have met someone or interacted with them in some way and find they have written a book I am usually compelled to read said book.  If someone you know writes a book it just seems like you ought to read it. Now, if I hung out with authors a great deal perhaps this would change.

I bring this up for two reasons 1) to explain how I came to read The Leader’s Climb: A Business Tale of Rising to the New Leadership Challenge and 2) to offer something of a disclosure to this explanation.

I met Paul Heagen during my one and only (and not all that successful) stint as a CEO (or in a leadership position where you are at the top of the organizational chart). He seemed like a nice and interesting guy so when I heard he had a book out I thought: “Hey, I should read it.” Even though it was unlikely to be directly applicable to my career in any immediate way at that point.

Here is the publishers blurb:

“Adam was stuck.” And with this simple phrase, The Leader’s Climb introduces the reader to an engaging tale of how leaders often ascend quickly to the top, only to unknowingly slip down a path of decline—until it is too late. In this novel approach to the subject, set against the backdrop of a rock-climbing vacation gone awry, executive coaches Bob Parsanko and Paul Heagen draw from decades of success with business executives to reveal an all-too-familiar path of leadership struggles. The protagonist, Adam, is capable and well-meaning but has a confidence bordering on hubris, and blind spots that could be the end of him. That is, until unlikely encounters with a park ranger and a home handyman, who become confidants and mentors, reveal new insights to Adam. Through their wisdom, and the realities of the hard knocks of business, Adam gets “unstuck” and begins to turn around his life and career with three fundamental principles of personal growth: awareness, acceptance, and abundance.

It turned out to be an interesting exploration of leadership through fiction. Basically the authors focus on a fictional CEO and seek to use his activities and perspectives as a way to illustrate how leaders can get “stuck” – intent on barreling forward and failing to stop and consider other options. They then use an epilogue to outline their basic philosophy.

As noted above, my CEO experience is quite limited but my sense is that this fictional portrayal could be an effective way for executives, or others in leadership or seeking those positions,  to see their challenges from a fresh perspective. By watching Adam navigate his business and family challenges they can reflect on whether they have similar challenges and/or if they are making similar mistakes.

I am not sure how believable it is that a CEO like Adam would be so open to the advice of rangers and contractors but once you accept the relationships the dynamics and conversations are interesting and engaging.  I am not really the target audience for the book and so would be interested to see how a more experienced, and business orientated, CEO wold engage with the book. But from my perspective it was well done and thought-provoking.

Given that there are roughly a gazillion leadership and self-help books out there these days, kudos to Parsanko and Heagen for  trying something different.  If you are interested in leadership and want a different take this might be a good choice.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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