Sunday, May 3, 2020

Book Review: THE SEVENTH POWER by Kevin Hancock

I love the topic of leadership, and as a fan of nonfiction books, I jumped at the opportunity to read THE SEVENTH POWER by Kevin Hancock. Scroll down for my complete review.

The Seventh Power
by Kevin Hancock
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
ISBN: 978-1642934069
Publisher: Post Hill Press

Description from the Publisher:
A corporate executive loses his voice and discovers a new pathway to organizational excellence built on the premise of dispersed power and shared leadership.

“Kevin Hancock’s personal journey holds universal messages for people at all levels of business and community. The Seventh Power’s new, more inclusive approach to leadership and management will give you important insights into your life, your career, and your company.” —Chip Conley, Hospitality Entrepreneur and Bestselling Author

“Many business books have discussed management, innovation, culture, and how to be great, but none grab you like Kevin Hancock's The Seventh Power: A CEO’s Journey into Shared Leadership. One has to admire what Kevin has accomplished after experiencing a serious speech impediment. Kevin takes what most of us would be an insurmountable challenge and uses it as a learning tool to make himself, those around him, and his company better. The Seventh Power is not only a good read, it's a must read for all aspiring leaders and even those of us who have been around a while. It's never too late to learn!” —Rick Holley, Chairman of the Board, Weyerhaeuser Company

“From his home in Maine to Navajo and Lakota communities in the West to Ukraine, Kevin Hancock takes the reader on a personal journey of more than 15,000 miles in which he learns to listen and empower people. The Seventh Power is an exploration of a new model of leadership in which individual voices are heard and the human spirit is celebrated. The principles that Kevin puts to work in his 171-year-old family business offer an enlightened way forward for all institutions.” —U.S. Senator Susan Collins

About the Author:
Kevin Hancock is the President of Hancock Lumber Company. Established in 1848, Hancock Lumber operates ten retail stores and three sawmills that are led by 460 employees. The company also grows trees on 12,000 acres of timberland in Southern Maine.

Hancock Lumber is a multi-year recipient of the ‘Best Places to Work in Maine’ award. The company is also a past recipient of the Maine Family Business of the Year Award, the Governor’s Award for Business Excellence, and the MITC ‘Exporter of the Year’ award.

Kevin is a past chairman of the National Lumber and Building Materials Dealers Association as well as the Bridgton Academy Board of Trustees. Kevin is a recipient of the Ed Muskie ‘Access to Justice’ Award, the Habitat For Humanity ‘Spirit of Humanity’ Award, the Boy Scouts of America ‘Distinguished Citizen’ Award, and Timber Processing Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ Award. Kevin also spent 20 years coaching middle school basketball for the Lake Region school district.

Kevin is a graduate of Lake Region High School and Bowdoin College. He is also a frequent visitor to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. In 2015, Kevin published a book about his experiences with the Oglala Sioux Tribe titled, Not For Sale: Finding Center in the Land of Crazy Horse. The book won the 2015 National Indie Excellence Award, first place in leadership and runner-up in the spirituality category.

Kevin is an advocate of strengthening the voices of all individuals—within a company or a community such as Pine Ridge—through listening, empowering, and shared leadership.

My Review:


In case you'd like a more in-depth review, read on . . .

Whenever I pick up a nonfiction book, I have a process: 
* I open to the Table of Contents and scan through the sections and chapter headings to determine if the book is organized and logical.
* I flip through the pages to see if the layout is easy to navigate and diagrams are easy to understand.
* Then I read the book.

The Table of Contents in The Seventh Power contain simple chapter headings, but they are thought provoking, making me curious to read more. The diagrams, also, are simple and easy to read. In addition to the diagrams, there are pictures at the back of the book that allow the reader to see the significant real-life players of the book.

The layout looks more like a novel or memoir than a leadership book, but after reading the book, I discovered that's because it is narrative nonfiction. Much of it is memoir based, taking from the author's personal search for self-actualization and interviews he conducted with various people around the country and world.

But make no mistake . . .

Kevin Hancock skillfully threads leadership lessons throughout the entire narrative of The Seventh Power.

Some leadership books allow the reader to just jump around from topic to topic, but these chapters need to be read in order to fully grasp the lessons being shared within the pages. The concepts being taught build sequentially upon each other.

Overall, while I love this book and highly recommend it to everyone, there are elements I disagree with, and there are sections that were too heavy handed and/or wordy. For example, on page 109, the value of therapists is questioned. I believe skilled therapists help people find themselves and improve their lives every day. Another example, in the beginning as well as the epilogue of the book, Hancock tries too hard to force his "spiritual" perspective on the reader. The main chapters of the book teach great leadership principles - so don't be distracted by the spiritual concepts (if that's not your cup of tea). However, part of me is glad he included those passages because I always enjoy exploring ideas "outside my lane," but they distract from the body of the book and make it feel as if there are two books/concepts forced into one. 

The Seventh Power would be a great reading selection to be discussed at a business retreat or a book club.

"The five big social institutions (family, school, place of worship, place of work, and government) are lagging behind the individual aspirations of their members. Around the globe, memberships in traditional organizations are dwindling, engagement is falling, and participants are rebelling." (page 18)

Leadership styles, goals, and guidelines need to change. 

"The new goal: create a socially transformative work culture for the 21st century in which employee engagement soars because everyone feels authentically heard." (from jacket description)

Within the opening pages, Hancock suggests that everyone is a leader, but I know people who prefer being followers. And then if to respond, Hancock writes on pages 20-21, "Following has one big advantage: you don't ever have to take full responsibility--someone else can always be held accountable if things go wrong, as they often do." Hancock continues to advocate, quite convincingly, that everyone is capable of being a leader in their area of expertise.

A few of the most valuable leadership principles within the book include these ideas:
-- Leading through listening is essential.
-- Great people are everywhere.
-- In nature, power is dispersed.
-- Organizations exist to improve the lives of the people who belong to them.

Hancock offers a lot of terrific one liners to post on your desktop and remind yourself of higher thinking. Such as:
-- "Seeking is the biggest step in finding." (page 43)
-- "Proving others wrong rarely creates progress." (page 61)
-- "Moving at nature's pace has regenerative powers." (page 72)
-- "It's respect for the diversity of thought that creates unity." (page 126)
-- "The power of princes and presidents pales in comparison to what all the world's strangers can do just by being nice to each other." (page 118)
-- "Personal growth is an act of faith followed by action. (page 254)

As I got deeper into the book, I started wondering if the ideas presented are too Utopian in nature. Is it unrealistic to have wide-spread dispersed power? With all the narcissists and misogynists and sociopaths in the world, will it ever be possible to achieve Hancock's idealistic leadership model? Or will ego and pride prevent our evolution? There's no simple switch to flip. Within the book, Hancock explores groups who've had their voices taken away but what about the groups and individuals who TAKE those voices away? What happens to the dominant and aggressive personalities in the Utopia proposed by Hancock? 

Hancock seemingly answers my questions with this repeated idea: "We change the world by working on ourselves." (page 85)

Reading The Seventh Power by Kevin Hancock is certainly a major step in "changing the world by working on ourselves."

Hancock's interviews with compelling people give readers glimpses into lives foreign to their own, broadening perspectives and deepening awareness.

The Seventh Power contains seven important lessons encapsulated in seven main chapters. These lessons include:
1. GREAT PEOPLE are everywhere.
2. CULTURE makes the difference.
3. CHANGE is created first from within.
4. LOCALIZE and shrink the center.
5. LISTEN for understanding, not judgment.
6. OVERREACHING has consequences.
7. BROADEN the mission.

I highly recommend The Seventh Power by Kevin Hancock.

A few of my favorite passages:

"The problem with a preoccupation with external enemies is the opportunity cost of internal exploration. As long as there is an adversary 'out there,' we can postpone the real work of looking inward." (page 74)

"Transcending the urge to judge, fix, solve, or transform others is what actually creates the conditions for communities (or companies) to progress. When people feel heard, not judged, they relax. When people relax, they think. When people think, they grow." (page 127)

"Making the time to listen to the stories of the other side creates a new set of possibilities. Awareness and connectivity are powerful acts." (page 206)

"The challenges faced by disenfranchised communities, in my view, are exacerbated by people staying in their lane and not engaging humanity more broadly." (page 223)

[I received a free copy of this book from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]

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