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What We're Reading Now

20 April 2011

Rachel indulged her literary sweet tooth with a reading romp through J.D. Robb's Treachery in Death. Little did she expect to encounter some reflections on being a boss.


It's not quite as dire as a dirty little secret, but I do have a confession to make. In between reading business books and biographies and modern-day classics (not to mention the newspaper), I read a whole lot of what I call books-with-little-redeeming-value. More aptly stated, they're books-whose-value-is-simply-that-they-demand-little-and-entertain-much. Primarily chick lit and romance novels, these titles are an escapist pleasure for me; perhaps it's because when one spends her days immersed in all the ways people and things are complicated, it's nice to turn to a place where pretty much everything can be resolved with a happy ending a few hundred pages later.

There's probably no one more prolific in the genre than Nora Roberts, who also writes as J.D. Robb when spinning futuristic detective tales about NYC cop Eve and love of her life and self-made man Roarke. (And by prolific, I mean that she's written 196 full-length novels and counting, with 171 of those hitting the New York Times bestseller list.) In Robb's New York of the future, life is gritty but people are still human, bad people do bad things, and Eve and her team of good guys (with special assistance from Roarke) win out in the end. Predictable? Probably, but there are usually a few twists and turns along the way, and it keeps me entertained.

Sometime last week I was curled up with the latest release, Treachery in Death (a lovely treat for which I thank our local library) and caught up in the story of Eve working to resolve a murder investigation in which a fellow Lieutenant is the prime suspect. Here I am, reading along, when suddenly Eve starts reflecting on her sometimes prickly, often messy, and very real leadership of her team and compares it to the sterile, precise and orderly workings of the suspect's department. As I'm reading, light bulbs flash in my head: "Alert. Maybe this isn't reading-with-little-redeeming-value after all. Pay attention."

In case it's not your cup of tea, I won't subject you to more of the tale. That said, I will share the reflection it brought me. I find that many of us go through our journey as bosses and wish that there's an answer somewhere that will make things clean and tidy and predictable. For better or worse, I've found that the best bosses have learned to appreciate that it's the messy stuff that helps build relationships, foster commitment, embrace difference, and build stronger teams. Given the choice, I'll take the mess.


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