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Accelerating Performance by Sharon Toye, Colin Price

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CHAPTER 2How to Increase Your METAbolic Rate

Lots of management advice taken as authoritative is actually anecdotal. Some of it is explicitly so, such as in the currently popular books by Richard Branson and Mark Cuban on the lessons that they draw from their successful careers (and that may or may not be applicable to yours). Some is so breezily anecdotal that readers can peruse the material for pleasure but know not to take it seriously, such as in books on the wisdom to be drawn from Winnie the Pooh, the crew of the Starship Enterprise, or Genghis Khan. But a great deal of management advice is in the dangerous middle ground: based on a certain amount of experience with reality, but not so much so that the lessons drawn can be broadly applied.

This treatment of anecdote as data—what we call “anecdata”—is pervasive and pernicious enough that it has prompted the beginnings of a backlash. In Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time, for instance, Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer notes that the leadership industry has no barriers to entry and argues, buttressed by research studies, that some concepts such as “authentic leadership” should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, if the CEO is in a lousy mood, he should probably hide it rather than be authentic. He’s expected to play a specific role and provide energy to those around him, so he has to act his part, even if he isn’t feeling it. In fact, Pfeffer says that currently one of the most popular ...

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