I purchased this book after receiving a series of promotional emails, and I had high expectations due to the level of name-dropping and implied endorsements. The book was promoted as giving a scientific brain-based explanation of leadership. I am a management and leadership professor and consultant who has researched and taught leadership theory, philosophy and practice in leading US and European universities for many years.
Unfortunately I found this was this is yet another pseudoscientific book on management and leadership offering over-simplified "magic bullet" six-step solutions, although one with an interesting spin, in that it uses neuroscientific research as a means of justifying and legitimizing the author's leadership development programs.
Pseudoscientists claim to base their theories on empirical evidence and take great pleasure in pointing out the consistency of their theories with past research and well-known facts.
Pseudoscientists do not recognize that such consistency is, in fact, not proof of anything at all, and they use previous scientific work as a means of legitimizing or justifying their own argument or products (for a detailed discussion of this issue see the excellent book Management Mumbo-Jumbo: A Skeptics' Dictionary - the UK amazon web site has a recorded sound clip well worth hearing).
Pseudoscientific works are typified by at least five key characteristics:
1) Lack of theoretical clarity leading to the drawing of conclusions that are not justified;
2) Inappropriate use of scientific empirical studies in support of the argument;
3) Promotion of the author as a guru with special or unique knowledge;
4) The author's lack of formal education or training in the claimed area of expertise; and
5) The works tend to be self-refuting - the works contradict themselves in either content or style.
This book demonstrates all five characteristics. Rock demonstrates his lack of rigorous thought in the way he repeatedly makes assertions that go far beyond the conclusions drawn by the original authors of the original scientific research.
For example on page 24 he mentions how dendrites (minuscule pieces of brain tissue) on a glass slide in a laboratory will grow a small amount after being stimulated in the laboratory. He then suggests that the reader try to open a car door with their non-dominant hand for a week (a simple motor-skill - door opening) to see how easy it is to make motor-skill changes, and then states that it is easy to change complex leadership behaviours with his six-step method which is based (he claims) on neuroscience.
The form of his argument is ... 1, dendrites can be enlarged on slides in laboratories and ... 2, you can learn to open doors with the other hand, and (because of this) ... 3, it is easy to purposefully grow new neural connections and create new habits. Thus, he (erroneously) concludes (and repeatedly asserts) that leadership styles and organizational cultures (highly complex and highly contextualised and systemic behaviors) are easy to change using his particular six-step coaching method, and that therefore neuroscience provides a solid theoretical framework for the "Quiet Leadership" model.
Of course this is a seriously flawed and confused argument, and one which would be rejected in any first year undergraduate philosophy essay. This is because one premise does not lead to the next, and the conclusion is simply not supported by the premises. This kind of over-simplistic and erroneous reasoning, and inappropriate use of research is repeated throughout the book and this, as other reviewers have noted, makes the book confusing to read, frequently presenting common-sense ideas in an overcomplicated "scientific" fashion: pseudoscience.
The astute reader will also be quietly amused by the stark contrast between the espoused values of the supposed "quiet leader" (humble and self-effacing) and the author's own Alpha-male chest-thumping writing style - good salesmanship - but poor "Quiet Leadership" modelling. On one page alone I counted 12 "I did ... I said ... I've consulted to such-and-such a high-profile corporation" type statements, and in some places the book seems to be far more about the author himself than the topic of leadership or leading others!
More worrying is the fact that nowhere in the book, despite many extravagant claims, did I find any real experimental or solid research support for the notion that "Quiet Leadership" was in fact superior to other models of leadership or even effective. Given that this book is promoting a new leadership model, to be taken seriously the reader would reasonably expect to have seen in-depth comparisons between "Quiet Leadership", and more established models of leadership, for example, Bass and Avilio's Transformational Leadership Model, which is one of the well-known and most researched models of leadership in the serious leadership literature.
I'm not sure if I'm cynical or if others are being gullible, or if they are simply uninformed about both leadership and neuroscience - but none of this book seems to be "groundbreaking code-breaking" "thought-leadership" or the "road to self-actualisation", just another example of using management mumbo-jumbo with a "scientific" label to legitimize and sell "magic bullet" leadership development products.
Neuroscience may well (eventually) in time move beyond functional analysis of neurological brain processes and offer meaningful insights into real-world leadership behaviors and organisational change, but this book does not, as claimed, give a solid brain-based explanation of leadership nor a solid theoretical basis for leadership coaching.
Buyer beware the "BS"!!!
A management reader2