Book Review: The Leader You Want to Be by Amy Jen Su

Book Review: The Leader You Want to Be by Amy Jen Su
The Leader You Want to Be
Genre: Leadership

Hardcover | 256 pp. | Harvard Business Review Press | | 1st Edition
Buy on Amazon
3.0 rating

The Leader You Want To Be is the second book by Amy Jen Su and is based on the extensive coaching experience of the author. The book is very engaging from the very beginning. The author introduces from the opening two types of leaders: Leader A and Leader B. Leader A is all about high energy and enthusiasm, and through these, she’s capable of making a difference with her work. Leader B, on the other end, is exhausted and overwhelmed, feeling like making only little impact. 

I guess we all easily recognize examples of Leader a and Leader B from our experience of real life. But what the author introduces here is not two persona type that represents different individuals. We all are both Leader A and Leader B in a different moment of our lives. 

Leader A and Leader B are representative of all of us.

Amy Jen Su, The Leader You Want to Be, page 2.

The difference between Leader A (“The Balanced Leader “) and Leader B (“The Stressed Leader “), can go down to simple things: an accident on the way to work, a bad night sleep, lousy business results. Many competences get into play immediately in the choice between being the one or the other.

One of the critical concepts of the book is that there is strong intentionality in becoming more often a Leader of Type A. To do so Amy Jen Su suggests five principles, that she names “The five Ps “:

  1. PURPOSE: Remain grounded in your passions and contributions. It takes conviction to ensure you are doing your highest and best work and that your work has meaning and is making a difference.
  2. PROCESS: Rely on daily practices and routines that honor your natural energy rhythms, enhance performance, save time, help you restore, and provide critical guardrails that keep you on point.
  3. PEOPLE: Raise your game by raising the game of others at work and at home. Increase your resilience with healthier boundaries and rules of engagement with others.
  4. PRESENCE: Strengthen your inner capacity to pause between stimulus and response, so matters of effectiveness and impact drive decisions and actions, rather than old habits or knee-jerk impulses.
  5. PEACE: Learn to trust your capacities to evolve, adapt, and respond to whatever comes your way. Lead from a place of acceptance, gratitude, and trust, rather than a place of stress, striving, and ego protection.


Again and again, we are coming back to the sense of Purpose that needs to be ingrained both in terms of awareness and intentional definition. In this case, Su suggests a formula to identify it:

Purpose = your contribution + your passion

Under contribution, she stresses the importance to identify both the tangible (expertise, deliverable, results) and intangible aspects (influence, presence, visibility). In terms of Passion, it is about defining what stokes our fire. The link with motivation driver is clear, and we need to nurture this awareness continuously.


The chapter around Process is exciting. She focuses on the creation of positive habits in everyday life as a way to channel positive energy. But not only. It’s about Preserving Time for what Matters Most, and thus the chapter is full of ‘time management’ tricks and hacks.


Talking about People, her recommendations are about using another equation:

Leverage + Empower + Inspire

Although I do wonder if the above should be multipliers instead of addenda. It’s about managing people but is also about leveraging networks. A part of the chapter is dedicated to leveraging Executive Assistants, as species more and more under threat of disappearance.


Chapter 5 talks about Presence. Su uses the SCARF model created by David Rock (that we have already seen in Agile People) as a helpful tool to understand our motivation drivers. A lot in the chapter is dedicated to presencing techniques such as meditation, but what I found interesting is the last part, about having a greater choice in voice. In her words, there is not just one leadership voice, but many:

  • Your Voice of Character
  • Your Voice of Context
  • Your Voice of Clarity
  • Your Voice of Curiosity
  • Your Voice of Connection

Mastering these voices is a lifetime exercise, but being aware than when we are present, we can exercise different voices based on the need, was a great insight. Interesting the focus on Curiosity as one of the voices that can nurture growth, as we have seen already.


Chapter 6 is about Peace. Rather than as an abstract subject, Su radicates the concept is something straightforward to remember: ACT

  • A = ACCEPT THE MOMENT: Take constructive and effective action for what’s within your control.
  • C = BE CONTENT IN THE MOMENT: Know what’s enough and bring an attitude of gratitude.
  • T = TRUST YOURSELF AND LIFE IN THE MOMENT: You’ve achieved, learned, and grown, and you will do so again.

I’ve already touched the enormous value of Resilience for a leader, and this chapter supports that view. It builds several suggestions to improve on the way to resilience and grit, especially when facing difficult situations and change. And looks at Gratitude and Self-Trus as two powerful moments to achieve.

The last chapter of the book is about how to help others become Leaders of Type A.

Be a Good Steward of Organizational Time, Energy, and Resources

Amy Jen Su, The Leader You Want to Be, page 186.

Being conscious of your outer game is a foundational element to be able to help others improve. A conclusion that fosters once again the incredible complexity that encircles good leadership.

But leadership is a noble calling. If practiced well, it is a calling that offers great intangible rewards that begin with the self but proliferate outward, sometimes in ways we could never have imagined.

Amy Jen Su, The Leader You Want to Be, page 190.

A book that is full of exciting tools to raise self-awareness and that can help some to find a framework of understanding and self-improvement of the way they lead others.

And you? Did you read this book? How did you find it?

Sergio Caredda - Blog Signature
The Leader You Want to Be
Genre: Leadership | Rating: 3/5
By Amy Jen Su
Hardcover | 256 pp. | Harvard Business Review Press | 22/10/2019 | 1st Edition
ISBN: 9781633695917
Buy on Amazon

The Leader you Want Goodreads Reviews

Why not leaving a comment?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: