The Wise Fool's Guide to Leadership
by Peter Hawkins

ISBN: 978-1903816967 Publisher: Business Books (2005)
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*

This book is a hoot. Then you stop laughing and realise that you have gained an insight. Priceless!

The stories are short and pointed. They pierce management humbug and corporate shenanigans without harming human dignity. They also offer insights into everything that may have had you wondering if the rest of the world could see an emperor's outfit that only you were blind to.

Nasrudin is an old figure who appears in several Eastern and European literary histories. In this book many of his old stories have been reprised in a present day setting. The great Nasrudin is, of course, a management consultant. Unlike Dilbert's evil HR Director (who became a consultant so he could con and insult people) Nasrudin exudes humility and innocence. He also sees through the jargon to the actions and motivations in a way that must tickle the fancies of union officials and rat race drop outs all around the world.

My personal favourite moment is the one where Nasrudin asks the board of a large corporate what it is they are not hearing in their attempts at communication. Ouch!

Many of these stories address the way in which boards operate and the insularity that can invade elite groups. They are salutary and sweet without losing their salacious edge. Many have been recast from old parables, jokes and folklore. Others are probably new and developed just for us. All offer insights into common failings and some offer ideas for improvement.

The editing has let the author down; there are several sentences that you will need to read at least three times trying out different rhythms and inflections before you can ascertain the meaning. There are also misplaced question marks and other grammatical gaffes that detract from the pleasure of reading. This is a book that accommodates reading in short bursts, making it ideal for a plane trip or a handbag filler. Most of all it is a book that begs to be read aloud and shared with a group. It is guaranteed to raise a wry smile and a few eyebrows before it does the same to clarity, humanity and morale.

What are you waiting for? Go read it.

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* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of "Presenting to Boards", Dilemmas, Dilemmas: Practical Case Studies for Company Directors, "The Director's Dilemma", "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.

Julie Garland McLellan to judge 2011 Global eBook Awards