Book Review: Leadership and the Art of Struggle by Steven Snyder

Leadership and the Art of Struggle represents an interesting approach and very helpful paradigm for leaders. I’ve been cramming my noggin full of leadership content via podcasts and books over the last 3 years, and I always fear a rehash of old leadership chestnuts every time I open a book.

We only have so much time to read. So it’s important we choose wisely

While other books have dealt with leadership and handling adversity, this one virtually creates a new paradigm with adversity and struggle as the context. Struggle isn’t simply a part of the package of being a leader. It’s the primary tool that forges a leader – if she will allow it and respond with ‘adaptive energy’.

A key premise in the book is that individuals either have a fixed or growth mind-set. A person operating with a fixed mind-set tends toward believing that skill and ability are innate qualities (consciously or subconsciously). This creates a very low ceiling for growth. Once a person taps out their reserves,she’s done.

Leadership and the Art of Struggle Steven Snyder

On the other hand, a growth mind-set sees potential for improvement: “A leader with a growth mind-set is consciously aware that ability is not innate and unchangeable but instead a malleable quality that can continuously be augmented through practice and persistence,” writes Mr. Snyder. And the thing that brings growth is leveraging resources (adaptively) to work through struggles and tensions.

Snyder takes the reader through a process:

  1. First, establish an anchor through ‘grounding principles’. I would describe this as developing an open stance toward allowing struggle to produce change instead of frustration.
  2. Second, learn new ways of dealing with ‘struggle’ and ‘tension’ through ‘exploring practices’.
  3. Finally, realize that leadership is a marathon and will require continous work, reflection, adaptation.

As far as readability, The Art of Struggle’s a bit above ‘popular’ while remaining well below ‘academic’ so that it’s challenging yet accessible. It’s clear that Mr. Snyder enjoys a bit of research.

Why It Matters to a Nonprofit Leader

I know of few leaders that have to live in tension and struggle as much as nonprofit executives. From financing issues to volunteer management to the occasional high maintenance consumer, nonprofit leaders, especially those of smaller organizations, have to wear the hat of chief marketing officer, chief executive officer, and janitor.

This book provides a template and a coaching model to help a leader learn to respond differently to any variety of struggle.

Highly recommended.

You can learn about the author, Steven Snyder at the website for Snyder Leadership Group.

**Note that I had an advanced copy of this book. After underlining nearly every page, though, I determined it was worth an endorsement. The links to Amazon are affiliate links (i.e. I’ll get a few cents if you by anything after clicking through).

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