These images of “alpha” as a loud, physically powerful and usually male leader have been reinforced in magazines, television, books and social media and even celebrated in some parts of business. (Think about “Mad Men.”)
Just because this is the perception, does that make it a reality? Do you have to be an “alpha,” as society envisions it, to make a powerful impact in the world?
Danielle Harlan, author of The New Alpha, says you can change how you define alphas and how you become one, as a result.
What is the The New Alpha About
The New Alpha leader emerges as a totally different kind of figure who turns traditional ideas of leadership on their heads. Instead of using your energy, connections, and resources to establish dominance over others, you can use those same tools to collaborate with others (and within yourself) to establish a more powerful and lasting legacy. Harlan, argues that traditional alpha leadership is an unbalanced and unsustainable way to lead. Instead, ambitious and high-energy leaders can use the same energy and drive in a new model of leadership.
This framework is based on a set of core beliefs and principles in the book. The book further suggests everyone can access this kind of framework of alpha leadership. Harlan’s book is about helping readers reach this level, the “best version of themselves”, on a personal and organizational level. Under this view, the personal world of a leader is closely tied to the organizational one. The way you conduct your business on a personal level is magnified out in the world on an organizational level.
Achieving this new level of alpha leadership involves an understanding of three specific things: what drives you, what interests you, and what educates you in order to figure out your own “personal leadership identity”. Your “personal leadership identity” is the book’s concept for your own nuanced approach to leadership. Each person, the book claims, has a particular way of leading. If you better understand that process, you can better adapt your leadership to the situation. It is this focus on introspection Harlan feels traditional alphas miss. In trying to be better than everyone else, those who cling to the traditional alpha model of leadership lose sight of the very things that support their leadership.
Harlan began her teaching career as a Teach for America member. That initial start blossomed into an international teaching, consulting, and speaking career that helped her land a spot on Silicon Valley’s “Top 40 Under 40.” Along the way, Harlan acquired a doctorate in Political Science and Centennial Teaching Awards, completed a TedX speech, and completed service as a former Chief of Operations at the Carnegie Foundation.
What Was Best About The New Alpha
The best part of The New Alpha is that it recognizes the nuanced nature of leadership and uses it to redefine a traditional (and predominantly male-oriented style of leadership). Harlan’s book recognizes that leadership isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. It’s something that is built and reinforced through training, your experiences and your support system. By encouraging readers to look into those resources that feed into their leadership, they can take proactive control of their leadership in the future.
What Could Have Been Done Differently
The New Alpha covers both personal and organizational leadership, but the predominant emphasis is on personal leadership. This leaves some room for additional discussion on a potential topic like “alpha businesses” that reflect the kind of leadership Harlan is advocating.
Specifically, examples of alpha businesses (of all sizes) could be provided to showcase how these organizations navigate the complex reality of business. The book details the characteristics of “alpha businesses” but more examples could be used to showcase that reality.
Why Read The New Alpha
The New Alpha is targeted toward a specific kind of person, specifically those with high energy, high ambition, and a high social influence but it can be realistically used by anyone who wants to improve themselves. The book offers a “results-at-any-cost” leadership that focuses on a reader’s strengths, not an abstract standard set by someone else.
If you are the kind of person who wants to explore the foundations of your leadership potential and uses those foundations for improved future success, The New Alpha can provide a framework and series of easy-to-complete (but psychologically impactful) activities to get started on the path.