Book Review: Dan Shyti’s powerful ‘4 Power Leadership’
WASHINGTON, March 17, 2014 – In 2013, over 2600 books were published containing the word “leadership” in their titles, a phenomenon that makes standing out from the crowd quite a challenge for their authors. Dan Shyti’s book, “4 Power Leadership: Your Pathway to Leadership Success,”* is one of the very few “leadership” books that actually has a chance to prevail.
Why? For starters, it’s not a typical self-help book. While encouraging to the reader, it provides no guarantees, no promises, and no false hopes.
Shyti cuts no corners here, emphasizing the hard work involved in achieving success. Its equivalent for fiction might be Raymond Chandler’s “Trouble Is My Business.” Its comic book equivalent might be Frank Miller’s “Sin City.”
Here is a writer unafraid to challenge readers to face their personal demons. At the same time, he’s not afraid to title a subsection, “You’re Not That Important.” Like Chandler and Miller, the tone is realistic and at times hard-boiled.
An easy read with a lot of depth, “4 Power” consists of 37 chapters divided into five main sections that identify the four powers of leadership: Poise, Presence, Performance, and Persistence, wrapping up with “The Things That Matter Most.” Each chapter reads comfortably in one sitting, meaning that you could finish reading a chapter a day in a little over a month.
Shyti, who has decades of leadership experience in military, government, and private industry, is serious about sharing what he’s learned. His examples include forthright stories about his own and others’ failures and successes.
He divides his target audience for this book into three groups: new and experienced leaders, senior executives interested in developing leaders, and – an interesting addition – anyone who wants to know whom to follow.
In an era of classic cars, classic action figures, classic movies, and classic everything else, “4 Power” delves into the real Classics—Greek and Roman classics, to be precise. He mines the thoughts and actions of leaders and thinkers ranging from Aristotle and Julius Caesar, and moving forward in history right up to GE’s legendary Jack Welch. The author describes in depth the concepts of virtue and character that serve as components of leadership. Yet his writing style is never stuffy or obtuse.
Fact is, virtue and morality are not exact sciences, and sadly, few people nowadays know what “virtue” is. Shyti explores the history of thought as a means of identifying virtue and defining it for modern leaders. He views virtue as “the centerpiece of leadership training” (p. xiii), defining and naming the virtues of leadership as he sees them. These are presented in a Table of Virtues (p. 55) that shows how specific virtues support the four powers of leadership.
Exploring, defining, and applying classical virtues to modern leadership may seem off-putting to the casual reader, but the book’s lively chapter titles, clear writing, and real-life stories reinforce the message and maintain one’s interest in the argument.
The goal of leaders, of course, is to live the Golden Mean, which is neither easily achieved nor measureable in numbers. Yet Shyti asserts that virtues, while appearing to be ideals, also have practical use, noting “There is a very important interplay among virtues that helps us to arrive at what is good” (p. 57). To back this up, he provides two tests for evaluating the complex ethical and practical questions that leaders must typically address.
None of the virtues Shyti discusses can be considered as “hard” skills. But “soft” skills like leadership are, paradoxically, hard to learn and easy to ignore. The author makes us drill down to elemental virtues in this deceptively easy read.
Precise Writing: Facts, Not Fluff
Shyti makes his points clear by defining his terms precisely, beginning with his first sentence: “Leadership is the ability to mobilize people toward a common goal.” Other definitions are clearly stated throughout the rest of the book.
The occasional pithy aphorisms sprinkled throughout will keep your attention. Some of these include direct statements: “Failure is the fuel for your engine. Put it in your tank and move on.”
Shyti also discusses with precision the dangers of leadership by aura, how to know if you’re playing for a winner, and some of the best ways of evaluating who you’re working for and the company itself objectively.
Another useful chapter, “How to get what you need,” shares more about networking in eight pages than many of those obviously padded and overwritten magazine articles that currently masquerade as books.
“4 Power” covers leadership precepts that have been around for over 2500 years, and it presents them without fluff – one reason this book could qualify as a business reference tool rather than a self-help book. Are you tired of reading about overhyped political intrigue at the office? Look for Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Vince Lombardi. You won’t find Machiavelli here.
Real Leadership = Hard Work
In recent years, relentless cost-cutting in leadership training has made it difficult for younger executives to learn real leadership skills, which doesn’t augur well for the future of American business. The trend toward telling every small child that he or she is automatically a leader by right of birth hasn’t helped either. Phony, empty “self-esteem” boosting is never the answer.
Shyti’s book reminds us that solid core traits, hard work, and regular, objective self-assessment are required for anyone on the path to leadership. There are consequences to having poorly developed virtues, and they are not happy ones.
If you’re someone who believes that everybody is a “natural” leader, with no additional effort required, then reading “4 Power Leadership” will give you a bad case of cognitive dissonance.
Get this book only if you’re serious about methodically developing your own leadership skills. As we’ve suggested, read a chapter a day and think about the Power Thought questions at the end of each chapter.
After you’re done, don’t lay the book aside and forget about it. Go back. Mark it up. Engage with it. It’s a reference book. Use it accordingly.
It’s also self-published, which means you can contact the author directly. Ask questions. The answers you hear will be as straight-shooting as the prose you read.
A note to the reader: One of the virtues Dan extolls is total honesty. As a friend of Dan’s, I have to confess I was still impressed by his passion and, despite the straight-up writing style, also impressed by the subtlety of his thinking.
* “4 Power Leadership: Your Pathway to Leadership Success” by Daniel A. Shyti. (Potomac Falls, VA: 4 Power Enterprises, 2013.) 287 pages. $29.99 hc. $19.99 pb. $9.99 Kindle e-book. Available at the author’s 4 Power Leadership web site. Also available via Amazon.com.