Read the Owner’s Manual

Recently I listened to an interview with a professional photographer as I focus on building my capability for my hobby and creative outlet, photography. As often happens, I made a connection from what I heard specific to photography, to how I can continue to improve as a leader.

The professional photographer with years of experience said one of his principles is to re-read the owner’s manual for his camera cover to cover once a year.  Here is a true expert admitting that he sees value in reading something over again that … let’s be honest, most of us would never read once.

Why does he re-read the camera owner’s manual every year?

So that movements with the camera are second nature and I can repeat actions flawlessly. When under stress and time limits, I know how to act and let go of the mechanics to allow full expression and creativity. 

A photography podcast turned into a lesson on leadership. Connection made. As a leader am I comfortable in my actions where they are second nature and I can repeat my actions consistently. When under stress and time limits … ah, modern business life … I know how to act and have the right habits in place so I do not focus on the how, but more importantly, the why and as such, add something of value and expand my ability to create.

A cleaver connection listening to a professional photographer and applying his ideas to my business life. Yet does the connection end there? Indeed my camera has a owner’s manual, but no such thing exists for my business life and leadership.  And yes, after listening to this podcast I re-read my camera owner’s manual. But what can I use for a leadership owner’s manual?

I own numerous books on leadership and you may as well. Its okay, we can admit it. Leadership books are an industry to itself. A quick search on Amazon shows over 60,000 results for leadership books. Where does one start?

We start with what we have close at hand. On my desk are several stacks of books. Many are photography related and several are my true go to business books. Indeed my leadership owner’s manual(s) are close at hand.

Several are references on corporate business culture, a topic always important to me. More are on Human Resources and operational management. One book though stands out as an owner’s manual of sorts. A book I have read several times and I own both the physical book and a kindle version. Yea, let’s call it my leadership owner’s manual.

The book is called Primal Leadership, Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. primal leadershipThe authors are Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. The physical book is dog-eared with numerous post-its and written margin notes. The kindle version is so well highlighted, I can publish the highlights as a nice summary of the full volume.

Not to get into the details here (planning on a future post) on why this book is important to me beyond my recognition of its place in my professional work. As I read and absorb the content, I build ability and confidence to make my movements second nature and I can repeat positive action repeatedly. When under pressure and time limits, I act through well-honed habits and can thus think, create and perform.

I am curious. Do you have a similar owner’s manual that helps you perform in your profession? It is a fun exercise to try to limit ourselves to one “manual”. Let me know what you think.

Of course, for too many leaders, there is no answer to my question for they have nothing they can hold up and stand behind. Ah, a different discussion altogether. Too many people discard the owner’s manual when they unbox the new camera. An opportunity lost.


2 thoughts on “Read the Owner’s Manual

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  1. Terrific! A great reminder we need to refresh. For me, it is hard to pick just one but my go to when I am trying to understand the why and how is titled: Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience, 6th Edition by Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy.

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