Myself and Other More Important Matters
By Charles Handy
Although widely described as one of the world’s leading writers on management and leadership, Charles Handy shows an appealing combination of modesty and determination in the title and throughout this autobiography.
Born in 1932, raised in an Irish vicarage, and educated at Oxford, Handy disappointed his family by forsaking more noble pursuits and going to work for Shell Oil in Asia. When he returned to London, he embarked on a career that included teaching at the London Business School and working as a writer and broadcaster for the BBC. He has also served as warden of St. George’s House at Windsor Castle, International Faculty Fellow at MIT, director of the Sloan Fellows program, and president of the Royal Society of Arts. Despite having a lot to brag about, Hardy displays a charming combination of humility and wisdom in his writing.
While some gurus offer glib recipes and answers, Handy helps the reader to question what organizations stand for and how they should be organized. William James once wrote that, “Genius is nothing more than the ability to see the world from a different perspective,” and indeed, Handy has a unique gift for seeing things from different perspectives. He also challenges readers to identify their “driving purpose” and reflect on how work fits into life.
Handy is the author of The Gods of Management: The Changing Work of Organizations; The Elephant and the Flea; The Age of Paradox; and other books that help us stop, think, and analyze exactly what it is we are. In Myself and Other More Important Matters, Handy offers insight and advice on topics encompassing everything from how to live one’s life to how to run the economy. The book has a quaintly British tone and is much more introspective than the typical memoirs of successful American consultants.
This is, perhaps, Charles Handy’s most ambitious book yet, as the well-known business philosopher draws on life lessons to help us map out the main stages of our own lives, and suggests principles to help navigate the tough decisions we have to make at every phase. I found the journey with Handy rewarding. Ranging from lessons his father taught him at the vicarage in Kildare where he grew up, to what he learned in Borneo in his early days working for Royal Dutch Shell, and later, insights garnered in London; Windsor, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and finally Italy, he shares the wisdom accumulated over a distinguished career.
Throughout the book, Handy asks us to look at what we value-is it money or family or time? Myself and Other More Important Matters is a pleasure to read, and an education in leadership, work, management, life, and oneself.