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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Book Review: The Seventh Power

All Northeast Lean Conference attendees received a copy of Kevin Hancock’s book, “The Seventh Power: One CEO's Journey Into the Business of Shared Leadership.” Kevin Hancock is the CEO of Hancock Lumber Company, one of the oldest and best know family businesses in America. Established in 1848, the company grows trees and manufactures lumber for global distribution. Hancock Lumber operates ten retail stores and three sawmills that are led by 460 employees. The company also grows trees on 12,000 acres of timberland in Southern Maine. Hancock Lumber is a multi-year recipient of the ‘Best Places to Work in Maine’ award.

In 2010, HE was diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, a rare neurological disorder that makes speaking difficult. In 2012, he began traveling from his home in Casco, Maine to the remote Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. There, he encountered an entire community that did not feel fully heard. These two transformational events combined to help him realize that there are lots of ways to lose your voice in this world and that leaders historically have often done more to restrict the voices of others than to liberate them.

This epiphany set him on a journey stretching over 15,000 miles, from his hometown in Maine, to the Arizona desert, and eventually all the way to Kiev, Ukraine, on a quest to find a new set of leadership principles designed to disperse and localize power rather than collect it. The unexpected journey was a puzzle filled with clues about the nature of “power” and how it might be used more carefully and shared more broadly. These encounters ultimately blossomed into a series of insights as to how CEOs and other leaders might elegantly break down the planet’s entrenched, top-down governance model in favor of a new playbook for heightened human engagement, hallmarked by shared leadership, dispersed power, and respect for all voices.

Having found a piece of his own authentic voice, he wanted to help others do the same, and a lumber company in Maine became an unlikely platform where this could occur. The new goal: create a socially transformative work culture for the 21st century in which employee engagement soars because everyone feels authentically heard.

After hearing Kevin speak I knew this book would be good on several dimensions. It is a wonderful connection between a personal journey and the profound effect that journey has had on all aspects of leading and managing a complex organization. Kevin Hancock skillfully threads leadership lessons throughout the entire narrative of The Seventh Power.

A few of the most valuable leadership principles within the book include these ideas:

- Leading through listening is essential.

- Great people are everywhere.

- In nature, power is dispersed.

- Organizations exist to improve the lives of the people who belong to them.

Hancock offers a lot of terrific one liners to post on your desktop and remind yourself of higher thinking. Such as:

- "Seeking is the biggest step in finding." (page 43)

- "Proving others wrong rarely creates progress." (page 61)

- "Moving at nature's pace has regenerative powers." (page 72)

- "It's respect for the diversity of thought that creates unity." (page 126)

- "The power of princes and presidents pales in comparison to what all the world's strangers can do just by being nice to each other." (page 118)

- "Personal growth is an act of faith followed by action. (page 254)

The Seventh Power contains seven important lessons encapsulated in seven main chapters. These lessons include:

1. GREAT PEOPLE are everywhere.

2. CULTURE makes the difference.

3. CHANGE is created first from within.

4. LOCALIZE and shrink the center.

5. LISTEN for understanding, not judgment.

6. OVERREACHING has consequences.

7. BROADEN the mission.

These chapters need to be read in order to fully grasp the lessons being shared within the pages. The concepts being taught build sequentially upon each other.

Overall, while I love this book and highly recommend it to everyone. This book is a must read for managers and leaders, or anyone aspiring to be one. The Seventh Power would be a great reading selection to be discussed at a business retreat or a book club.

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