What a Book Can Teach Us about Leadership JenEMiller June 7, 2023

What a Book Can Teach Us about Leadership

We all have our favorite leadership books. 

Sometimes they are recommendations from friends. Sometimes given to us at a company function. Sometimes they are traditional business books. Sometimes biographies or autobiographies. New books. Old books. Short books. Long books.

A recent meeting included a small group discussion on our favorite leadership books. No two answers were the same. The conversation was fast-paced and deep. Everyone was enjoying the topic. 

I talked about “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” Have you ever read it? Or maybe you’ve seen the “American Experience” episode called “The Boys of ‘36”on PBS?

My copy is well-worn and highlighted throughout.

No matter if you are in sales leadership or on your executive leadership team, this historical book by Daniel James Brown will have you reaching for your highlighter. There is so much between the pages about teamwork, trust, and leadership.

Here are just a few of my favorite passages: 

On Trust

“‘Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined.’

He just trusted them. In the end, it was that simple.”

On Creative Problem Solving 

“His father had always taught him that there was a solution to every problem. But he had always stressed that sometimes the solution wasn’t where people would ordinarily expect it to be, that you might have to look in unexpected places and think in new and creative ways to find the answers you were looking for.”

On Teamwork

In the book, the author includes an excerpt from a Seattle Times article by Clarence Dirks. It describes the level of cohesion achieved by The Boys of ‘36:

“‘It would be useless to try and segregate outstanding members of Washington’s varsity shell, just as it would be impossible to try to pick a certain note in a beautifully composed song. All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades.’ – from Seattle Times article

Good crews are good blends of personalities: someone to lead the charge, someone to hold something in reserve; someone to pick a fight, someone to make peace; someone to think things through, someone to charge ahead without thinking. Somehow all this must mesh.”

Leadership Philosophy 




Words we hear thrown around all the time in business. When we dissect each of them and explore what it truly means to possess those attributes, we come to realize the lengths to which we must go in order to embody them both for ourselves and our teams. It’s a constant climb. We must commit to the journey. And deeply believe it is worth the time and effort.

My approach to sales, business and thought leadership has evolved immensely since I read this book almost a decade ago. I still reference it often. Teamwork and trust are cornerstones to my leadership philosophy. And probably yours as well!


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(Photo credit Mitchell Luo)