This past May I read ‘The Making of a Manager’ by Julie Zhuo, and though the book was well-written, I was left unsatisfied. Her guidance, drawn from her years of experience (exclusively at Facebook) would have been helpful to me earlier in my career. It’s Management 101, and a solid book for that level. I needed something a bit deeper, and I’ve found it — at least for a start — in Jocelyn Davis’ fascinating ‘The Art of Quiet Influence.’
Jocelyn worked at The Forum Corporation (now called ‘Achieve Forum’( for over 23 years, working her way up to EVP. This is a business leadership training company, and according to her description, it bases its curriculum on careful research and quality data. Further, in her experience at the company there was a real effort, with a few exceptions as she notes in the book, to put their training into practice in their own offices. From what I see in her LinkedIn profile, her education has always centered on philosophy, with the most recent degree being a Master of Arts in Eastern Classics. This education, together with many years of thinking about life in an office and putting her learning into practice, makes for an excellent book on leadership.
This is not a quick read, if you really want to get the good out of it. Though it is written on a level accessible to laypeople and is not especially dense, it is a substantive and deep book. Drawing from research, life experience, and the religious/philosophical traditions of the East, the author describes 12 practices of ‘quiet influence,’ and also contrasts them with the ‘Western pitfalls’ of each.
As someone with a career in project management, I know all about the difficulties of leading without any actual authority. Over the years I’ve developed my skills of persuasion and diplomacy, and this book both helped clarify some of what I’ve already learned, and also brought to my attention perspectives and practices that had never occured to me. In the category of what I already knew is aligning interests, but what she has to say about it sharpened my understanding of the topic, and was immediately useful to me at work. Towards the conclusion of the book, Davis even discusses how to know when it’s time to leave a company, and how to go about it.
This book is great for anyone who manages people and/or projects. Whether you have functional authority or not, the best way to get things done is not ‘because I said so.’ With ‘The Art of Quiet Influence’ you will find practical tips and strategies for making allies and leading effectively without coercion or an undue risk of alienating people. Get it, and give yourself a month or read it slowly and thoughtfully.