Book Review: The New Alpha is Revitalizing Leadership and Stirring up a Movement

“[. . .] Leadership is about becoming the best version of yourself in order to maximize your positive impact on the world. It’s about developing into someone whom people genuinely respect and admire and want to work with — and using that power and influence to be a force for good in the world.” (The New Alpha)

Bring on the new movement of leaders who want to be a force for change and more importantly, a force for good in the world. Leaders with an acute awareness that great leadership starts by bettering oneself; who never stop learning, improving, or innovating.

Full Disclosure: I reviewed and copyedited the final proof pages of the book as a courtesy to the author. Although my below review is favorable, I would not have accepted the responsibility of editing or reading this book if I wasn’t enthralled by the premise and inspired by what Dr. Harlan has accomplished. This is the future, people!

Dr. Harlan has an immense grasp on the subject matter. The book is told in an eloquent and rich conversational style and for being non-fiction, that alone is rare indeed. The New Alpha captures your attention and helps you act immediately, backed by extensive research. Data nerds unite! Not to mention that the examples in the book outweigh the advice. I’ll say that again. This book has more nuggets of actionable wisdom than long-winded explanations, which is uncommon in the non-fiction world. It’s such a relief to have concrete examples to immediately put to use as you read through the book instead of reading 200 pages only to come to a few pages of useful information at the end (looking at you, last 3 business books that I read). I don’t have time to read books that feel like they’re filling out a page quota where the takeaways could be summarized in 50 pages instead of hundreds. So thank you to The New Alpha for living up to your own advice and being innovative.

Dr. Harlan’s expertise is wide-reaching and refreshing, especially within the sphere of leadership. This book is actionable and realistic because it details the true side of leadership and the best ways to carve out a tailored approach that works for you. It’s essential that we lead naturally and not force it upon ourselves, so this book helps bring out your natural style, which allows you to be a more effective and engaging leader. Dr. Harlan’s expertise is desperately needed in this area. We all want satisfaction in our jobs and to work at companies that strive to be truly humane, without compromise. It’s about understanding ourselves: our passions, our talents, and our will to lead. Although focused on emerging millennial leaders, this book is great for adults of all ages. This book is for anyone that wants to better themselves, whether you need help becoming a better leader or want to read it for the chapters on personal or relationship growth. That sounds like pretty much everyone to me.

The book is broken out into three sections to help the reader navigate their impact in the world, all of which address a significant area of their daily life. In Part 1: Personal Excellence, the focus is on development, goal-setting, and building foundational habits. You can’t become a stellar leader until you learn more about yourself and build upon your core strengths. I especially loved her recommendations for how to show appreciation and gratitude and the emphasis on relationship building in this section.

In Part 2: Personal Leadership, the goal is to use your experiences and skills to build a mindset that will allow you to lead yourself. Practice leading yourself before trying to lead others. The ol’ practice what you preach. It definitely helps get the kinks worked out, believe me. This section allowed me to really map out my accomplishments and passions and take the time to review my life so far. We’re all caught in loops of self-reflection but in this case, The New Alpha helped me focus on the aspects of my identity and leadership style that would work to my advantage. It helped me expand far deeper into my vision so that I could work on setting more realistic goals and successfully accomplish my ideas.

In Part 3: Team and Organizational Leadership, Dr. Harlan brings it all together and encourages the reader to identify, plan, and achieve their vision in the context of the workplace (or for use in any team or organizational setting). This was my favorite section of the book because as I embark on my own as a consultant, I needed a crash course in how to best represent myself in the field and showcase my skills to the best of my ability. This portion of The New Alpha helps with the difficult part of storytelling and execution. In other words, how do I articulate my ideas and take effective action on them, especially given the complexities introduced with groups of people? Every new person changes the group dynamic in some way so these exercises are useful each time the team or org changes.

Overall, I love that this book enables the reader to skip around. Dealing with a challenging situation at work? Skip to Part 3 and then go back to where you were. The exercises are wonderful if you need to practice one component right away but all three models tie together seamlessly to provide an experience that is so beyond all the events, workshops, and meetups that I’ve been to in the past. This book is exactly what I search for at workshops but never felt like anyone properly gave me. It always felt like I came away with one shoddy exercise to practice at home and sometimes I secretly wondered if the speakers were hoarding all the good stuff until you took a paid course. Instead, skipping straight to The New Alpha gave me so many rich templates that I can use for years. It’s great when someone writes a book in their area of expertise (or for Dr. Harlan, one of many fields that she excels in) and actually shares all of her knowledge with you. You leave with a sense of really understanding the topic and the research, along with having tons of exercises to use immediately that are made to be used over and over again as you grow.

My biggest complaint is that this wasn’t written years ago, but if it was, I don’t know if the timing would be right. Times are a-changin’ and I feel that people are more receptive and primed to change the dusty leadership paradigm now more than ever. Also, this is a legit workbook. You’ll have plenty to keep you occupied. If you don’t feel ready to get out a notebook or notes app, then take it one page at a time or “bird by bird” as Anne Lamott would say. It’s an intense workshop rolled into an expressive and relaxed pace but it expects the reader to do some self reflection so the insights really sink in. You can always read the book all the way through and get a taste for it and then go back and start some of the exercises. Very adaptable, as it should be.

Obviously, I’m smitten. I rarely feel motivated enough to write reviews but I couldn’t resist when given the opportunity with The New Alpha. Plus, the pages are so soft! And the cloth hardback under the slipcover is in one of my favorite shades of green. Good for anyone like me that takes the book cover off when reading so it doesn’t get damaged. The usual drab colors are such a wasted opportunity. Sorry to those of you reading the e-book. :) Fortunately for you, the most important part aka all that beautiful, beautiful knowledge is transferred into digital form.

Now go forth and read! The more we aim to improve ourselves and the way we work, the better off we’ll be. Let’s strive to leave a legacy where our actions demonstrate thoughtfulness, inclusiveness, and realness.

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