BEHIND EVERY PUBLISHING IMPRINT or brand, carefully managed and curated often through generations, are the lives and careers of thousands of publishers, their hopes and intuition, genius and expertise. The climate set by transpersonal leaders in publishing houses over decades contributes to the culture of the company. Publishers and booksellers have their own strengths and values, and we have pictures in our minds about what to expect from them. I think I know what I might get from Penguin or from Faber; I understand Kogan Page’s strengths as a publisher that is dedicated to certain aspects of business publishing, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s publishing output displays the expertise and approach one would want from such a leading professional body. Blackwell’s is a bookshop where I would find academic insight and Waterstones has a literary feel with a populist slant.
I don’t know what I would expect from a publisher called Amazon.
I doubt it is a strategic priority for them to create the kind of culture that defines them.
If they are listening, I would suggest another answer to the question: “Where is Amazon heading?” In my view it should not be further into publishing books or into making films, software, growing food or branding groceries. Instead it should continue to apply big data with increasing intelligence to target products at consumers. After the Kindle – a delivery device of supreme simplicity and ugliness, designed to provide a cheap and effective way to channel content from Amazon to me – I expect Amazon to create a secure doorstep delivery box to hold my orders at home, an intelligent fridge that orders new comestibles as required and reduces food waste, a bathroom cabinet that orders new toothpaste within a day of the last squeeze, and an iWardrobe with sensors to monitor my outfit choices (actually I could do with a robot clothing advisor but that’s another story). That should keep Amazon busy for a while.
In the meantime publishers and booksellers should get to know their readers and authors even better. That means creating a climate and culture through leadership beyond the ego – what we call transpersonal leadership.
There has been an unprecedented change in the demands of leadership over the last 10-15 years. This has been created by social and technological change, by globalisation and by the growing concern for the future of our planet. If we look back further over the last 50 years the world has witnessed amazing economic growth in many areas. We are now at a turning point in this new 21st century and it’s time to grab the nettle. What will leadership look like in our industry and beyond, to help us stay in print and stay successful in all the various forms we require.
Duncan has been a senior director with over 25 years experience in the publishing industry. He’d be delighted to discuss your leadership issues, whatever the size of your publishing-related concern. You can find out about his background here or contact him now.