Book Review: The Upstander Leader by Jessica Hickman

The Upstander Leader
by Jessica Hickman is a beautifully written book on a topic I am very passionate about.Sadly, the content sometimes became a little too familiar.

That said, it’s just one of the many reasons I could find for every (wo)man and her/his team members to grab a copy of this book. Here’s a few more:

  1. The book opens with a brief history of Jessica’s intimate experience in the area of bullying and psychological wellbeing. If you’re lucky enough to have dodged bullying yourself, or secretly relish the opportunity to put someone else down for your own gain, then this introduction is written for you. You need to understand the impact of this behaviour if not for the individual (for those lacking empathy), then for the wide ranging impacts to your business.
  2. Bystanders of poor culture are not all the same. The outcome of being a bystander is the same. Toxic culture. Learn more about bystander archetypes, their motivations and identifiers so you can work to evolve them to upstanders.
  3. Your actions as a leader have consequences and not all leaders are aware of the effect they have on people. Jessica breaks down nine key traits of upstander leaders which, when demonstrated, have material impacts to your business.
  4. The uncomfortable zone is all around us. It’s in every workplace I’ve worked and also where every other person I know works. There is a fine line between bullying and banter. In an upstander culture this behaviour can be openly discussed and worked through in a ‘speak-up’ culture.

The only part missing for me was when people are listening to people complain about seeing or being bullied but are expressly told not to act upon it. That’s a tough pickle to find yourself in, and it happens (in my experience far too often). But when considering this review, I didn’t mind that aspect without focus as it means we can look forward to more writing from Jessica which I’m sure will be equally valuable.

I’ll end this review with a quote which resonated with me in the context of changing your culture. ‘As a leader, it’s important that you support the courageous humans who speak up and seek support.’ ‘Self-awareness means exploring whether you are a problem or a solution.’

Review by Melissa Ryan – Head of Trade Engagement & Special Projects at Tabcorp

The Upstander Leader: How to develop a speak-up culture by Jessica Hickman is out now. 

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