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Dana Gionta

Dana Gionta Ph.D.

A Navigator's Handbook to Better Leadership: A Review

Navigating Your Way to Better Leadership

During this time of economic and corporate turbulence, many employees are experiencing significant anxiety and uncertainty. Organizations and those in leadership positions can do a lot to help their employees better navigate the murky and shifting environment. One of the best books I've read in this regard is the "The Navigator's Handbook - 101 Leadership Lessons for Work and Life" by David O'Brien. In his book, David discusses the critical elements that successful organizations and extraordinary leaders share. One critical element of good leadership, that David identified, is the act of self-reflection. Self-reflection occurs through the process of identifying, assimilating and aligning the organization's fundamental values, with those of its employees. Examples of reflective questions explored in his book include:

1. Which values are shared between the organization and its employees?
2. What is the organization's level of commitment to living its stated values?
3. How does the collective organization uphold the integrity of its key values in times of crisis or in the face of competing values?

Clarity and connection to one's values is integral to the process of employees developing a meaningful relationship to their work, as well as the organization. According to the author, extraordinary leaders are stewards of this meaning-making process, assisting employees in discovering and ultimately defining a higher purpose within their work. This higher purpose helps foster a spirit of community, and a deeper sense of connection to the organization.

David contends that good leadership has "a lot to do with making people feel valued, communicating in an open, direct and honest way, and being a role model for the type of change, behaviors and attitudes one desires within the organization." These leadership practices are consistent with sound psychological theory and research (e.g. information-seeking and social learning). This research has shown that people generally want more information in times of uncertainty and crisis. They also respond and learn better through observation and environmental cues and reinforcement. Strong communication skills, clear expectations, and recognition of employees' efforts, talents and concerns are powerful tools in moderating employees' increasing anxiety and perceived loss of control.

A chapter in the book that I found particularly useful was the one titled "Behaviors and Choice." This chapter presents a framework of four behaviors (the navigator, victim, critic and bystander) and interactional patterns between the leader and his/her employees. David contends that these behavioral patterns have a significant influence on an employee's career success or failure. Other valuable chapters address leadership lessons and recommendations regarding employee engagement, navigating organizational change, the value of employee development and coaching, and leadership communication. I found the brief self-assessments of select leadership skills and characteristics, at the end of most chapters, quite valuable in helping readers identify their existing leadership strengths and recognize areas for improvement. I highly recommend this book for executives, managers, business coaches and all employees interested in further developing their leadership abilities, in or out of the office.

Additional information regarding David O'Brien and the Navigator's Handbook can be found at his website:


About the Author

Dana Gionta

Dana Gionta, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Connecticut, where she works as an educator, clinician, and consultant in the area of health and wellness.