Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Ian Garner
Business Writer
3:00 AM 16th April 2022

Business Book Review: Zest - Leadership For A New Generation Of Leaders

The author, Andy Davies, says that this book is aimed at the next generation of leaders. He’s hoping it provides a range of practical and strategic advice on how to deal with the practicalities of leadership.

As a former Royal Air Force Officer Davies has travelled widely, seeing active service in both Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Since leaving the RAF he has focussed on building a career in human resources and business consultancy and has published articles in The Times, The Guardian, Evening Standard as well as appearing on ITV News, Sky News and other broadcast media.

Andy Davies
Andy Davies
The book starts with a description of leadership of the past, which is a bit stereotypical and negative, claiming leadership has been 'dictatorial, command-driven and centred on the few'. Those of us who have years of experience both in leading and being led will, no doubt, be able to quote such examples of bad leadership in the past but also recognise those leaders who have demonstrated the leadership characteristics Andy Davies expects us to accept.

He says: “throw off the old beliefs and approaches and lead with charisma and vision supported by technology, increased mobility and growing connectivity with people and markets around the world.” I think back to leaders like Richard Branson, Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill to name but a few. Some didn’t have today’s technological advantage but had enormous charisma and vision, and much more of the virtues Davies advocates. These are internationally recognised names but many of us with long careers will have witnessed good and bad leaders in our time. Good leadership hasn’t just been invented!

Perhaps Andy Davies’ experience in the military has influenced his view. In the ‘field of battle’ some dictatorial command driven approach might be justified that wouldn’t be acceptable elsewhere.

There’s a touch of arrogance in his introduction that the author needs to address. The reader will make their own assessment as they go through the book and consider their own experiences. He enjoys telling the reader how clever he is, implying he has discovered the art of good leadership. Finally, in his introduction, he congratulates the reader for buying his book!

Having said all this, the value comes from the examples he cites, and in this respect, there is a lot to be gained from reading his take on leadership.

Davies' account that 'soft skills' are critical leadership competencies is persuasive. He categorises the key competencies into levels, giving some useful context.

The book deals with a wide range of leadership topics including approach, culture and managing change. There are many references and examples which are helpful and describe a template to being an effective leader and 'how to deal with the practicalities of leadership'.

This undermines his contention that the past was all bad, he seems to have recognised there have been great leaders over decades that are exemplars of his leadership values.

I found the book quite readable, informative and useful but I didn’t personally warm to the style in which it was written.

One leadership style I believe is critical, but missing from the book, is a touch of humility but it’s obvious the author doesn’t rank this too highly.

In spite of my feelings, I do recommend this book as a valuable contribution to the subject.

There’s a lot of good advice and questions to ponder as we strive to be the best leader we can be.

Zest: Leadership for a new generation of leaders by Andy Davies is published by Imje Tse Publishing.

Ian Garner is a retired Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute (FCMI) and a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD). He is Vice Chair of the Institute of Directors, North Yorkshire Branch. He is founder and director at Practical Solutions Management, a strategic consultancy practice and skilled in developing strategy and providing strategic direction, specialising in business growth and leadership. Ian is a Board Member of Maggie’s Leeds. Maggie’s provides emotional and practical cancer support and information in centres across the UK and online, with their centre in Leeds based at St James’s Hospital.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) is the UK's largest membership organisation for business leaders, providing informative events, professional development courses for self-improvement, networking and expert advice. The IoD North Yorkshire Branch has members across Harrogate, York and the surrounding towns and is reaching out to business leaders, of large and small enterprises, to help their businesses succeed.