Title: Soft Skills for Strong Leaders – Ten steps for management success
Author: Helen Isacke
Publisher: New Generation Publishing
Reviewer: Lynda Sibson, MSc, RGN, RSCN, telemedicine manager, Addenbrookes Hospital and Lecturer, Coventry University & Independent Nurse Consultant
What was it like?
Soft Skills for Strong Leaders is paperback book divided into three key parts; Preparing for Leadership, Your first 100 days and Day-to-Day challenges.
The author has a background in the hotel industry, PR and coaching and is qualified as a master practitioner in NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) and currently runs her own coaching company.
The book claims to be aimed at newly appointed and aspiring leaders and managers who are yet to develop their own skills and attitudes as leaders and managers, but have yet to have access to their own leadership/performance coach and is drawn for the author’s own experience in coaching. The author states that the soft skills define who a leader is, rather than what they can achieve and this probably sums up the justification for the book. Soft skills are linked with emotional intelligence, arguably difficult to teach, and an area that is often overlooked on some more traditional management courses.
The first section is preparing for leadership and tackles the “soft skills” of leadership, and includes aspects of emotional intelligence, authentic leadership, self-esteem and confidence. This last chapter in this section discusses establishing your “own brand”, which is perhaps where the text veers away for most healthcare professionals.
The second section focuses on the first 100 days in your new management or leadership role and explores the concepts of team working. This covers team management including aspects such as engaging your team, managing expectations, understanding your core beliefs and values while also challenging expectations of the team. The section concludes with a chapter relating to relationships; including developing networks and managing stakeholders and this section would have greater relevant to nursing, perhaps specifically for more senior nurses recently promoted to a more senior role.
The third and final section relates to the day-to-day challenges of leadership and management and emphases to importance of exploring and managing your own and other’s emotions, such as unhelpful emotions and suggestions in developing emotional resilience. This section also discusses handling difficult situations, problem solving and change management.
This last section is particularly useful and, as throughout the entire book, relevant case studies are presented, which will help the reader relate to outlined issue – and provide some application to practice.
The book concludes with some exercises to undertake, top tips and recommended further reading.
Overall the book is well-written, easy to read and well laid out, with relevant case studies, obviously drawn from the author’s wide expertise and experience. The book is one that you could pick up a specific chapter relevant to you and revisit again in the future.
What were the highlights?
The key highlight is this book is written for a generic management and leadership role, and is not specific to healthcare, although arguably some of the skills are generic and applicable to any professions.
Strengths & weaknesses:
The overall strength of the book is that it is easy to read, clearly explains at top level, with some of the key concepts in management and leadership, with some theories and models clearly explained, with some useful further reading and exercise to develop further thinking.
The key weakness of the book is that the book is not specifically aimed at healthcare professionals and many of the key terms are used interchangeably; such as leadership, management and coaching, many of which have specific definitions and applications in health and nursing academic texts. Therefore this book should probably be read to complement other academic texts if you are looking to undertake further courses in management and leadership.
Who should read it?
Potential readers would include newly qualified nurses and/or those nurses commencing a new role.