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What Keeps Leaders Up at Night

July 7, 2013

Lipkin book Do you often worry as a leader about your work responsibilities, or how your boss perceives you, or whether your co-workers or direct reports respect you? How do you deal with these thoughts?

Whether you’re literally kept awake at night puzzling about questions such as these, or whether they’re just often on your mind, a new book by a respected clinical psychologist, consultant and speaker may help re-focus your mind.

Nicole Lipkin holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and a MBA. She’s an executive coach, consultant and popular speaker. She’s also the author of Y in the Workplace: Managing the “Me First” Generation. Her new book What Keeps Leaders Up at Night: Recognizing and Resolving Your Most Troubling Management Issues delves into the many inter-related issues that perplex leaders.

Lipkin covers a range of issues, from maintaining your cool in difficult situations to resisting change to teamwork, plus much more. Chapter two, Why Don’t People Heed my Sage Advice, lays the foundation, and it’s useful to take some time to reflect upon her core messages before proceeding with the rest of the book. Using a fictitious story on the professional work relationship between Bob and Diane, which deteriorates due to his inability to effectively persuade senior bosses, Lipkin delves into three vital elements of effective leadership: influence, persuasion and manipulation.

Many of us use these three words loosely, not fully understanding their precise definitions. When we’re able to win the “hearts and minds” of our co-workers or peers by developing strong relationships, we’re then able to initiate action. That is influence. In contrast, persuasion is about how we motivate others into action by appealing to their intellect. This is a process driven by data and information, with the burden being placed upon the persuader to make his or her case.

And then there’s manipulation, which occurs when we overlay our personal needs on top of the group’s or community’s welfare. As Lipkin puts it: “…most people know manipulation when they see it.”

Nicole Lipkin Lipkin does an excellent job talking about why people don’t buy into certain individuals, examining the use of power and referencing the 1959 work of psychologists John French and Bertrtam Raven, and its subsequent updating by some well-known, contemporary leadership experts, including Paul Hershey and Marshall Goldsmith. The power framework comprises seven specific types:


1. Legitimate power
2. Coercive power
3. Expert power
4. Informational power
5. Reward power
6. Referent power
7. Connection power

The rest of this chapter is especially well written and explained, with her conclusion being very succinct. Her key messages include, “…we see that good bosses exercise strong, positive influence over others. They shun manipulation, insincerity, and inauthentic trust and confidence. They gain influence by establishing and nurturing relationships grounded in true trust and confidence.”

Later in the book she provides another excellent fictitious illustration on how friendly competition between two professionals, Janet and Brad, goes south. The Janet and Brad vignette is a poignant story of a win-lose-lose for the organization. In this case, the senior partners of a law firm lost sight of the concept of synergy, instead focusing on a gladiator-style contest between two long-time colleagues. The consequence was a loss for the company in terms of human capital, the destruction of a professional relationship and collateral damage imposed upon the other employees in the firm.

I must admit to having a personal issue with the title of this book. Yes, the expression “What keeps leaders up at night” has become over-used in the past few years, now used as a knee-jerk, go-to response when talking about leadership and its many facets. I would have almost chosen a title along the lines of Finding Your Center as a Leader. However, that’s my personal view.

I recall being at an employee retreat several years ago, where the management “team” stood up to speak about the issues that “keep them up at night.” The only manager who said that he slept well was a fellow who had one of the most demanding jobs in the organization.

Since then, some five years ago, this expression has exploded into the management-leadership arena. It’s unfortunate, since it greatly dilutes any significant meaning it may actually have.

With that objection to the title aside, Nicole Lipkin’s book is very good. She writes clearly, using an engaging style. Her use of a leadership vignette at the beginning of each chapter helps to make the book more real to the reader. And of particular note, her clinical background adds meat to her discussion on topics that often are not well understood by other leadership authors. Chapter two is a case in point underlining her expertise.

This is a very worthwhile book to read, both for those individuals in formal leadership-management positions and those aspiring to these roles. Be sure to check it out.


If you focus on treating your people with kindness and respect, and let them know that you value them and their work, you will receive the same in return. Youor influence will grow, and so will your personal and business success.

– Nicole Lipkin


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2013 3:27 pm

    This book sounds awesome!!

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