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The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  575 ratings  ·  61 reviews
Many people think leadership is a higher calling that resides exclusively with a select few who practice and preach big, complex leadership philosophies. But as this practical book reveals, what's most important for leadership is principled consistency. Time and again, small things done well build trust and respect within a team.

Using stories from his time at Netscape, App
Paperback, 198 pages
Published April 7th 2020 by O'Reilly Media
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Sebastian Gebski
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A very good read.
I'm not sure whether you agree, but IMHO books about management/leadership are rarely fun to read. They can be very informative, interesting, thought-provoking, but rarely "fun".
TAoL is "fun".

First thing - the language. It's very direct, informal. I'd call it: blog-post style. Sometimes funny, but always relaxed and approachable. It doesn't even feel like a "traditional" book.
Second thing - the structure. It's split into 30 chapters that do not try to present the whole topic (le
Dmitry Spesiviy
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this leadership book. Picked up something for myself.

few of my notes:

1. Tasting the soup by asking small, but critical questions is important part of leadership
2. Delegate until it hurts
3. Say the hard things. Actively hearing the hard things.
4. Build your org chat not based on people, but build it around your product or technology.
People based org chats describes only power structure.
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a heartfelt and brilliant book.

If you, like me, have been reading the blog Rands in Repose for many a year -- or whether you're completely new to the mind of Rands -- a.k.a. Michael Lopp, you're in for a treat. I've been following the blog for something verging on 15 years but every "small thing" in this book is brand new.

The "small things" are like finely crafted gemstones -- faceted and polished to focus their light of wisdom. Each small thing manages to capture and distill an “unspoke
Timon Ruban
Incredibly entertaining read. Lopp is a master at telling engaging little stories that demand your attention. Unfortunately many of the chapters, while well-written, were a little too fluffy for my taste. I am a fan of advice that sounds equally good no matter whose mouth it's coming from. I fear that for a lot of the advice found in this book, one's opinion on its quality hinges on one's attitude towards the believability of the author (which as far as I can tell is rather high). That being sai ...more
Jan Gorman
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Déjà vu if you've read "Managing Humans" ...more
Jan 18, 2022 rated it liked it
Strengths of the book:
Easy to read, practical, like a handbook for beginner managers. The chapters can be read randomly, or one after the other. One will find useful advice about how to manage teams, how to behave in certain situation as a newbie manager.
It is full of personal stories, gathered from his work experience. The examples are easy to understand, and the tips and advice he gives are easy to follow.
The style is highly informal, highly verbal, like chatting with a more experienced frien
Srinivasan Nanduri
Dec 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Good read.

My key takeaways:
- “Small things, done well” make a big difference in a leader’s career
- Managers who don’t deliver on their promises seem incompetent or lazy. That signals to their team that it’s okay to drop assignments. Good managers use self-insight to understand their own capabilities.

- Managers must listen to employees, prepare well for meetings and handle problems with a cool head.
- Managers must carry out frequent performance evaluations.
- Effective time management is crucial
Mindaugas Mozūras
Jun 27, 2021 rated it liked it
You can’t hack leadership.

Over the years, I've read many of Rands' blog posts and I've also read his previous book "Managing Humans". Thus a lot of the content was not new to me. Yet, I still liked this newest book "The Art of Leadership" and I found some new things to jot down for myself.
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
There are some gems in there and I like the structure of the book into different eras of a manager’s life. However, and this is personal: I’m tired of reading management advice from grizzled white men, because that comes with a certain flair I stopped enjoying anymore.
Miguel Paraz
Nov 28, 2020 rated it liked it
It unfortunately didn’t teach me much and Lopp’s/Rands’ experiences did not sink in. Now it could be because I’m not the target market since I am not in or aiming to be in software engineering management.
May 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021-read, nonfiction
I'm a big fan of Michael Lopp and this book extends the utility I found from his earlier book Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager. There's a lot here about being an effective leader that I think I do pretty intuitively, but I can backslide, so I obtain high value from a reading session with Lopp's books.

This one is a little unusual in that the essays are divided into three categories:

* Manager
* Director
* Executive

As the book moves along, the guidance beco
Christof Damian
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: management
I really enjoyed the book.
I am familiar with his blog and podcast and some of the content also made it into the book.
I like the idea of "Small Things, Done Well", how he introduces a concept and backs it with reason.
His writing style is probably like his communication style, very direct and condensed.

I don't give the full five stars, because some of the later chapters in the Executive section seemed to be just fillers to get the book done. Some were straight copies from the blog and others w
Dec 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh, Rands... I really enjoy the writing and there's a lot of great advice in here, but there's quite a lot of material that seemed to be super familiar. Not sure if it's because I had seen some of it on the blog, the prior book, or what... Even so, I found myself highlighting a lot and making notes, so it clearly was worthwhile. ...more
Sven Kirsimäe
Jul 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Written like it is been spoken by a mentor. Rarely this happens in a book. The outcome makes you think and act on your thoughts, not on the book's author.

One of these books where you will need to come back to, every now and then.
Herval Freire
Apr 10, 2021 rated it it was ok
A sorta autobiographic collection of anecdotes and tactics. I struggled to get to 50% - the main message of the book is basically the bullet lists on page 2.
Jul 06, 2022 rated it really liked it
I found The Art of Leadership more entertaining than dense with insights, but an overall enjoyable read. Lopp uses stories, metaphors and a casual, humorous narrative to make the chapters fun to read. But as I was taking notes from the book, I often found myself traversing a lot of narrative to get to the key message.

Metaphors and homebrewed concepts sometimes got in the way of the key message or argument of a given chapter. I'd get drawn in to the chapter called "Anti-Flow" to realize it was ju
Ashik Uzzaman
Jul 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: leadership
Last week I finished "The Art of Leadership: Small Things, Done Well" by Michael Lopp. I read his "Managing Humans" recently and joined his leadership channel in slack that has more than 15 thousand members. In 30 articles borrowed from his long running blog "Rands in Response" and divided equality for line managers, directors and executives in topics, he tells us that Leadership practices are small things done repetitively over time. He touches on several ideas - reading the room, using spidey- ...more
Michael Koltsov
Nov 26, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I'll split this book into 2 main parts: the importance of 1:1s & how to conduct them and depiction of really impressive author's experience after working in multiple high-tech companies where he had to deal with a lot of stress and challenges that're the main attributes of every growing company.

The book is very well-written, if I were in the business of allusions to dishes this particular book would be a molecular caviar. Standing on shoulders of giants of the past, with a pinch of bleeding edge
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: leadership
Exceptional leadership book. Builds on the content in Managing Humans nicely.

Lopp's leadership philosophy particularly resonates with me because he is a rampant incrementalist (I'd like to think I am the same, Atomic Habits anyone?). Book has lots of practical advice that you can apply to your job as a leader immediately.

My favourite part is that he preaches `kindness` above all things and sharing critical information as leadership philosophies, which I wholeheartedly agree with

One of the few, s
Michael Columbus
Aug 21, 2022 rated it it was ok
I listened to the audiobook.

This book is hardly a book. It’s more like a collection of short vignettes, as if he copy and pasted snippets of blog posts into “chapters” to get a payday. Every chapter could be a tweet (seriously, they’re that short) and the book reads like a twitter thread.

I really wanted to like this book, but here at the end I am left feeling empty. While I did appreciate that Lopp made an attempt to be more specific in his advice than other leadership books that are written f
Kate Donaldson
Unfocused but interesting

This book promises a list of small things you can do to improve your leadership skills, but really it’s a much more philosophical book than that. Often, I had to really dig to figure out what the “small thing” or action I was supposed to glean from an example. Sometimes I couldn’t find it. The organization of the book really doesn’t make sense, it’s more like “anecdotes about leadership and lessons to be learned from them”, and splitting the book up between Manager, Dir
Mason Jones
Feb 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Lopp's previous book "Managing Humans" but felt that it was occasionally repetitive and suffered a little from being what it was: a compilation of blog posts. While I've read a few of the chapters in "Art of Leadership" as blog posts as well, this book feels more planned and internally consistent. It's clear that the idea for the book was well thought-out, and there's a story arc that pulls it together, avoids repetition, and makes it a cohesive object rather than a collection of objec ...more
Jason Gessner
Jun 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book has a ton of solid advice from years of the author's experience. I recognize a lot of this from my time in Big Tech, but each essay focuses that advice in such a concise way that i found many things said to me in fresh ways.
While this is a solid collection of individual essays that is jam-packed with gems, it felt a bit disconnected as a whole. Some essays felt like they were in the wrong section and in the final section about being an Executive, there is a quick description about wha
Marcin Golenia
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book is worth the money spent. I'm neither a manager, CTO nor director but I still found it valuable. As Lopp states - leadership can come for everywhere so most of the stuff still applies. Some of the practices can even be applied in your life! If you are interested in growing you and your team this is a must-read.
The part about "Hearing the hard thing" is just great, techniques like blue tape or instructions on saying good compliments are simple and effective. The language of the book is
Radek Maziarka
Nov 28, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book is like a roller-coaster. Some parts are "strange" - you just don't get the vibe of the author. Then there come some groundbreaking chapters and you recover faith in the author.

But the book is definitely worth reading just for these few chapters:
- "Taste the Soup" - if you create policy, be the first person to feel this policy in place
- "The Blue Tape List" - in new context write down everything that feels off
- "Everything breaks" - that changing the rules is inevitable
- "A Pr
Viktor Malyshev
Jul 12, 2022 rated it liked it
Not the first book I've read written by Lopp. He's good at telling stories, good at managing humans. I kinda like his writing style.
This book is dedicated to leadership. Mainly, divided into 3 parts: the manager, director, and executive. All those levels have different problems and challenges. I've mostly enjoyed the 'manager' path since this is what I do these days. Small chapters with easy-to-understand problems and proposed solutions. Some of them were not rocket science to me, some were pre
Mar 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is filled with golden nuggets of wisdom. You can read it in any order or just the chapters you want - everything makes sense in site size. I'll be back to re-read some of these chapters because there is a lot of good advice there, as well as strategies to be a good leader (a better leader?). The audiobook is pleasant as well, there is only one part ("Critical Freshness") that doesn't work so well because of an image in the chapter. ...more
Tim Sommer
Mar 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technical
It's really not often that you read management/leadership books and find them enjoyable and even hard to put away once you have started reading them.
And yet, "The Art of Leadership" definitely is one of those books. It's practical, opinionated, even funny at times; and backed by what seems a lifetime of experience. Very relatable, written by a human; for humans ;).

For everyone finding themself in a leadership position; this should be a definite read!
Josh Finnie
Apr 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pbs_eng
I really enjoyed this book. Even as a non-manager tracked employee there were plenty of take-aways on how to be a better employee and plenty of take-aways on how to make your work environment the best it can be. It's great to have a book written in such a way where you can jump around or skip sections that are not pertinent to your situation; or go back and read sections that resonated with you again. ...more
Jun 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
I really liked Michael's writing style, very easy to read, all meaningful text.

As for the content, I don't disagree with anything he says, it's all good advice many of which I follow, some I should follow. If you work or worked for a large company you will find few surprises here; having said that it is a good reminder of what the "ideal professional you" should be doing.

One of the best books I have read on the subject.
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