“I don’t know why anyone reads this crap,” I thought as I put down the fourth leadership book about 50 pages in. I had been on this pursuit of knowledge since admitting to myself that some part of me wanted to write a book about leadership. My friend Michelle suggested I read other books in the category to find some I like before writing. I wanted to find the book I love. Something I could aspire to.
Listen to this week’s letter here!
I ordered a few and quickly found myself feeling buried in a pile of bad books with very little storage. Hope those tiny libraries on the side of the road enjoyed their additions. No shame on the authors but broadly, they just weren’t my style. Most leadership books are awful. Frankly, I just don’t believe people who operate in absolutes when we are working with a variable even more unpredictable than van life: people.
Yet there they are dolling out advice and lies for $26.99 that I know some kid out there is eating up. Some kid that probably didn’t grow up in a family with entrepreneurs and executives, but is so hungry for mentorship and perspective. The ones like me that learned leadership lessons from the first-generation students, soldiers, and hourly workers that raised them. A collective of people that want to help but have no idea how. They don’t know what corporate America is like and the consequence is that their children wander into careers more blind than most.
That’s why statistically most people end up following their parents’ careers. They call it the “breakfast-table effect” and, in short, it means that the things you know become the things you do. Analysis of job titles on Facebook among family members further confirm it’s a real thing.
Then there are the anomalies. Those of us that decide to take a completely different path. People who take the same path in a totally different way. No matter the route, the one thing we all have in common? We don’t have it all figured out and are really tired of pretending.
I wrote a book about leadership for us. People who played our cards and beat the odds. We made hard decisions, then held our breath.
We don’t learn from laundry lists of acronyms and rules. We learn with stories. We learn by watching other people live out loud. We know what it costs us when we can’t emotionally keep up. You’ve watched the leaders who pretended to have it all figured out freak out on other people, pretending they know the answers when inside we know they experience the same “oh no” feeling that all of us do when we become the boss.
My book isn’t full of rules, guides, or case studies that tell you not to worry and move forward with blind confidence. No, it’s full of stories that will make you think about who you are, where you come from, and how that might influence where you end up in relation to the C-suite. I want to tell you what I learned about the complicated web of untangling how I grew up from who I wanted to be, and how that helped me become a better leader.
Even if I have to admit that I don’t have 1 damn thing figured out.
But really, I wrote a book for me. Because I wanted to. Because I’ve learned a lot. So today, I want to celebrate that I clicked save. Cheers to writing the best book I can. To an idea that nagged me for years and finally got on paper. To a first draft of a leadership book that I really love.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.