It's Not About You: A Little Story About What Matters Most In Business

by Bob Burg and John David Mann
Reviewed date: 2014 Apr 4
118 pages
cover art

The title of this book reminds of Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life, which starts out with "It's not about you." But this is a book about leadership in business, not about living the Christian life. This slim book is a story to illustrate some principles of business leadership. Ben has just been promoted to the Mergers & Acquisitions department at Marden Group. His first assignment is to handle the Allen & Augustine acquisition. Specifically, he must convince the 500 employee-stockholders at the Allen & Augustine furniture company to accept the Marden Group's offer to buy their company. Along the way he's going to learn some very important lessons.

The lessons come from interacting with trusted leaders at Allen & Augustine (Allen, the visionary; Augustine, who sees hidden potential in his employees; Frank, who knows everything about wood, furniture, and the people; Karen, who sacrificially devotes her whole life to supporting the employees) and from Aunt Elle, a mysterious woman he meets in a cafe.

It is Aunt Elle who helps Ben make sense of what he's learning at Allen & Augustine. It's she who asks a question he can't answer: "What do you really have to offer them?"

Here are the secrets of leadership in business:

  • Hold the vision
  • Build your people
  • Do the work
  • Stand for something
  • Share the mantle

This specifically seems tailored toward those who are trying to build a company and take it somewhere, although I'm sure it applies elsewhere too. In the book, Ben doesn't do most of these things--he's just learning about them--but the traits are embodied by the leadership at Allen & Augustine. At the end of the book, Ben impresses both Allen and Augustine so much that they realize they're holding the company back. They convince the employees to agree to the acquisition on one condition: that Allen and Augustine take a step down, and Ben is invited to be the new leader.

Much of the book is spent knocking down the idea that leadership is the same as convincing people to do things your way. Snazzy presentations, logical arguments, and a take-no-prisoners confrontational style won't work. As Carnegie says, "a man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still." To successfully lead a business, a leader must not try to convince. However, he can influence people--but only if they trust him. And they'll only trust him if he cares about them, listens to them, and offers them something of value. Only then will people want to follow him.

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