At the beginning of the book, The Elephant at the Dinner Table, Amit Nagpal shares this profound ancient proverb- Tell me a fact, and I will learn. Let me know the truth, and I will believe. But tell me a story, share your experience, and it will live in my heart forever.
And Amit has beautifully demonstrated that management lessons with ‘facts’ and ‘truth’ can be best taught in stories that we all enjoy reading or listening to. This book is indeed a treasure trove of fascinating stories and anecdotes based on extensive research and interviews of several accomplished leaders and management students worldwide. In addition, it offers fantastic illustrations to provide clarity as you read and a few questions at the end of each section to help reflect upon the content and then apply it to the reader’s unique situations.
This book is based on Amit's rich and diverse global experience of over three decades – shaped through various business leadership positions, including the Head of Learning and Development position he held at Infosys BPM for more than five years. Through insights from his journey and the careers of people he has observed and mentored, Amit has successfully triggered great moments of reflection and possible actions. Reading these crisp 200 pages of wisdom, it felt like attending an experiential leadership workshop delivered by Amit himself!
While reading the book, I enjoyed the easy conversational tone, making me feel like I was interacting with the author himself. At places, you may suddenly discover some conceptual clarity, such as how emotional intelligence and emotional literacy are different; and how one can harness this awareness to become a better leader who is genuinely connected with the team.
The book also offers some simple yet powerful actionable ideas that can help turn things around. For instance, one of the chapters mentions “work out,” a process he discovered while working at GE where any two colleagues having an issue were encouraged to select a neutral place such as a café or restaurant and talk things over, and then involve the superiors if the problem was still unresolved. This informal and straightforward process turned out to be a terrific one, with a success rate of 85%.
Another chapter has tips on how leaders can garner feedback from “mirror holders” to paint a clear picture of one’s strengths and leverage the same for career advancement; or how establishing “learning circles” is a good way of ensuring that the leader is constantly abreast with the significant shifts in our VUCA world.
Amit has dedicated a chapter to learning from mistakes which he has funnily titled “Go ahead, make mistakes please!” It does take courage to acknowledge mistakes that one has made. But his knack for eliciting learnings from these mistakes is highly inspirational.
Amit’s selection of topics and the unique format make this book a compelling read. Perhaps the most prominent and yet elusive concept that Amit deeply stresses is how a leader must have self-awareness and self-regulation.
Towards the end of the book, Amit introduces a concept of 24*7 access to all his learning resources via a cloud-based learning wall. Like LinkedIn, the readers can engage with the author and share their learning and discoveries. I find this feature unique and valuable.
In conclusion, while quoting John Dewey- "We do not learn from an experience. We learn from reflecting on an experience”, I strongly recommend that the readers grab a notepad and be ready for some deep diving into themselves. And I guarantee that these dives will help them unleash their true potential. This book is a great resource to refer to — both for the freshers and the people already in leadership roles.