Posted by: Marty Fahncke | September 4, 2008

Book Review: How We Lead Matters – Reflections on a Life of Leadership

The topic of leadership is very near and dear to my heart. 

So when a publicist associate of mine kindly offered me an advance copy of “How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership” by Marilyn Carlson Nelson, I was very excited… 

From the Back Cover of the book:

From one of “The World’s Most Powerful Women” (Forbes)

An inspiring collection of stories, insights, and profound life lessons

As a CEO, daughter, wife, mother, and grandmother, Marilyn Carlson Nelson has always put people first–a key priority in her uniquely effective philosophy of corporate leadership. How We Lead Matters combines her adventures and insights with wisdom from renowned spiritual, political, and literary figures to convey the leadership precepts behind her business, managerial, and corporate success.

From stargazing and world travel to equal rights and corporate wrongs, this thoughtful combination of professional and personal experiences is one of Carlson Nelson’s proudest legacies. It is a book that will inspire you to think about how you live, how you lead, and how you can make impactful choices that create your own brand of success.

“These stories are the ones that are closest to me…life is made up of a series of days and choices, and how we lead matters.”–Marilyn Carlson Nelson

My review:

I feel bad when a publisher/publicist/author sends me a book to review, and I don’t really love the book.   But, I have to maintain integrity with my readers, and tell it like it is.  

So here goes:

At 144 pages, it’s a pretty small book.  Upon further inspection, I realized half of those pages only contain a small quote, so the actual content is even less substantial.  Some books can get away with this, and this one just barely does.  In fact, I took this book on a flight with me to read on a long trip, and had it finished before the plane took off.

The left-hand page contains a quote meaningful to the author (some very good ones), and the right-hand page contains a short anecdote taken from Marilyn Carlson Nelson’s life. 

It’s a bit like a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book.  Except smaller.  And all the stories are written by one person. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I like Chicken Soup books.  Just not when I’m looking for solid leadership information. 

To be sure, there are a few valuable nuggets of wisdom in this book, as well as a few thought-provoking passages which make you go “hmmm”.    The main problem is the short little stories often left you wanting more.  That would be ok if there were more to have, but in this case, two or three paragraphs are all you are going to get.  As I was reading it, I was thinking the book would make a great “free sample” for a larger training course, book series, teleseminar series, etc. 

With her amazing background and experience, it seems a shame to cut off the stories and lessons learned before they are fully developed.   It’s like a meal consisting of nothing but appetizers, without ever getting to the main course.  I believe if Mrs. Carlson Nelsen ever writes a book where she expands some of these stories in depth, THAT could be a winner. 

As it is, How We Lead Matters: Reflections on a Life of Leadership gets a solid B- from this reviewer.



  1. As an aspiring published author who’s written a manuscript (QUITTING IS EVERYTHING! Your Path to Jumping Off the Corporate Ladder), I’m always amazed to see books like this that have very little powerful content. I’ve been walking the publisher path and I know how difficult it can be to get a book published. Amazing that it’s all about fame and platform. If you’re famous, you can pretty much write anything and it gets into print. I’m sure Mrs. Nelson had robust content in her writing that might have been cut down by countless editors to the end result that we get to see. Perhaps she’ll rewrite another version based on your review, self publish it and send you a new copy! If yes, let me know, I’d love to read it too. Thanks for the great blog! Angie

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