Kevin Crenshaw’s aptly titled Neverboss supplies antimatter to counterbalance the matter of traditional command-and-control bureaucracy. It acknowledges the existence of hierarchy—and then conclusively demonstrates myriad ways to make it effective, agile and vibrant. It promises to demonstrate how to turn hierarchy from a liability into an asset.
His book is aimed at leaders who want to be effective executives (as once described in the classic Peter Drucker book of 1966—The Effective Executive), but don’t have the freedom or the risk tolerance to play with organizational self-management. Neverboss gives these leaders organizational, leadership and cultural hacks that drive them right up to the precipice of self-management while still solidly remaining on the perceived terra firma of traditional management.
The Neverboss tale unfolds in a business novel drawn from Crenshaw’s 35-plus years of leadership and consulting experience around the world. It is the story of Jeffrey, a mid-level manager at Heart Enterprises in deep trouble with both his bosses and subordinates because of his tone-deaf approach to leadership. Given a second chance for executive success with a caring and compassionate executive coach named Alexandra, Jeffrey embarks on a whirlwind journey of discovery, uncovering rich pearls of leadership wisdom through trial, error and feedback.
Crenshaw is nothing if not practical—the subtitle of the book is Great Leadership by Letting Go—and the opportunity for great leadership is exactly what each chapter delivers. The sub-subtitle is A Rapid Blueprint for Hands-Off Leadership—the author designed the book to be immediately actionable. After making each crucial point with a story, the author ends each chapter with a Summary box of highlights, and sprinkles the text with boxes highlighting reference materials, recommended readings, and fascinating observations.
I found myself asking the question throughout the story: what organization wouldn’t want to implement the type of leadership that Jeffrey embraces over the course of his journey? Weighing Neverboss’s microscopic downside versus the potentially enormous upside seems to be an exercise in obviousness. What organization wouldn’t benefit from this approach? The Neverboss concepts seem to me to have valence for both traditional management structures as well as the self-organizing, self-managing environments of the future of work.
Neverboss is engaging, fundamentally sound, and actionable. Its timeless principles and practical techniques, woven throughout a thoroughly entertaining and approachable story, will resonate.
Enjoy Neverboss. Better yet, put Neverboss to work in your organization. As soon as possible.