A few years ago I starting playing around with a book concept that described several personal and professional leadership methods and habits I had developed over my three decade career. I collected ideas, supporting information, and would occasionally – often on long plane trips – take a stab at writing a section or two. I even put those up on LeanPub for folks to review and comment.
For many reasons I never made much headway. There was always something a bit more pressing, or seemingly more manageable, than tackling that behemoth of a project. I enjoy writing, and I felt I had something important to share, but it was never THE priority. In the meantime the project occupied valuable space in my brain. As I get older I’m realizing just how valuable that space is.
Then, last fall at the Lean Accounting Summit, I was approached by an attendee who introduced himself and immediately asked when I was going to finish the book. He knew from my blog and LeanPub that I had been working on it, and he said the story so far had really helped him improve his own leadership style. I decided it was time to either put up or shut up (the polite version of the phrase), and one way or another resolve the project and get it out of my head.
I put up. I sequestered myself on a tiny island for two weeks in December and finished the writing. That draft went through several rounds of brutal editing by a professional copy editor, then text and graphic design. Several colleagues provided very valuable reviews, and Matthew May was kind enough to write a foreword. Todd Clarke did a great “visual one pager” summary.
A week ago I received the final proof, and yesterday the book went live on Amazon. Kindle and iBook versions are just a few days away.
Receiving that final proof felt incredibly good. It is done and I’m very happy with how it turned out. I’m sure I’ll think of improvements over time, but for now the project is complete, and it is no longer consuming space in my head.
The book is organized into eight parts, each with a different purpose:
- Fundamentals – A quick history lesson and exploration of the basics of Lean and Zen.
- Reconnect – Before doing anything, a leader has to be in touch with her or his inner self.
- Create – Methods to improve personal productivity to prepare for the work that is coming.
- Lead – How to engage and lead your team as you begin the improvement journey.
- Clarify – Clarifying what you and your organization are about, defining the current state and the desired future state, and creating a plan.
- Simplify – Using your new plan, you can take the first step and simplify your operation within the context of that plan.
- Improve – Methods to identify and execute improvement projects within the context of your plan.
- Grow – Within ongoing improvement projects in place, it is time to stretch yourself and your organization even further.
I’ve been humbled by some of the initial reviews:
I have long felt that Lean thinking and mindfulness are the two most important breakthroughs in recent years to help us sort out increasingly chaotic lives. Practicing Lean thinking is a clear path to professional success in hypercompetitive markets just as practicing mindfulness is the way to wellbeing in adverse conditions. It also turns out that both build on each other, which is what Kevin masterfully demonstrates in this frank, well-written and deeply insightful account of his own journey. The Simple Leader is simply a fantastic read!
– Michael Ballé, author of Lead With Respect: A Novel of Lean Practice
Leadership is at the core of any organization, and transforming leadership mindsets and practices is at the core of Lean management. Meyer is a rare author who’s not only studied Lean deeply but has also served as CEO. The Simple Leader is chock full of essential leadership practices that are key to organizational transformation and outstanding business performance alike.
– Karen Martin, author of The Outstanding Organization: Generate Business Results by Eliminating Chaos and Building the Foundation for Everyday Excellence
If you’re thinking, “Not another book on leadership,” then you’re in luck. This is not the same old vacuous pablum that so many consultants peddle, or the same sophomoric insights that Zen fanboys wax lyrical over. Kevin’s experience as a business CEO, a student of Lean, and a practitioner of Zen combine to produce a uniquely insightful, wonderfully practical guide to management that will be useful to anyone seeking to be a better leader. I defy anyone to read this book and not learn something immediately useful, applicable, and valuable.
– Daniel Markovitz, author of Building the Fit Organization: Six Core Principles for Making Your Company Stronger, Faster, and More Competitive
I’ve always been impressed by Kevin’s dedication to simplicity. This book collects his insights from a lifetime of experiences, travel, reading, work and reflection into a simple and practical book. Open up the table of contents and place your finger down on any topic, and I guarantee that you will find practical hints and insights in this book to help you improve. Take a moment to invest in yourself by reading and reflecting on how to reduce complexity in your life and work.
– Jon Miller,author of Creating a Kaizen Culture: Align the Organization, Achieve Breakthrough Results, and Sustain the Gains
Lean and Agile thinking are founded in a deep ‘Respect for People’, experiential learning, and a realization that continuous improvement and innovation come from direct observation at the Gemba. In our increasingly complex, distracted and over stimulated world, presence and mindfulness, captured in the Zen instruction to ‘Pay Attention!’, are increasingly relevant. This book may not only change how you lead, but also how you live.
– Steve Bell, author of Run Grow Transform: Integrating Business and Lean IT
One might say then that Simple, Leader, Lean, and Zen are inherently conflicted, at odds with one another, and that reconciling them would entail a rather Herculean act of creativity. But creativity is the act of bringing something new into existence, the defining quality of which entails connections between seemingly disparate ideas. This is the beauty of The Simple Leader. This is power of the Lean-Zen nexus.
– Matthew May, author of Winning the Brain Game: Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking
Effective personal leadership, requiring conscious individual reflection, is a critical foundation for effective professional leadership. Building on his deep hands-on experience with core Lean and Zen concepts, principles and practices, Kevin Meyer provides the reader with concrete advice and examples necessary to become that outstanding leader. In The Simple Leader Kevin demonstrates how each of us can gain leadership clarity by reducing leadership strategy and processes down to a handful of important truths. The Simple Leader is a short read that delivers with impact. Read this book.
– Adam Zak, co-author of Simple Excellence: Organizing and Aligning the Management Team in a Lean Transformation
The simple leader is not simple at all! The simple leader is the one who has tamed complexity with the notion that simplicity is true elegance. The irony is that the more successful we all become, the more we are enveloped by complexity and reject the intelligence of simplicity. The idea that Kevin could succeed in the business world and understand that success is rooted in simplicity is profound. The Simple Leader is a fantastic story of how Kevin has done this and I was taken with his honesty and brilliance.
– Paul Akers, author of Lean Health: Aging in Reverse
Thanks to all of you who have supported me on this journey!