Book Review: You Can’t Fire Everyone

Hank Gilman is the Deputy Editor of Fortune, and You Can’t Fire Everyone is a meandering blend of thoughts on management, leadership, hiring and firing people.

Gilman has a witty and engaging prose style. I didn’t really learn anything from this book, but yet I happily read it cover to cover, wondering what crazy rant he would go on next. It is raw and honest, something most leadership books avoid. He describes management as it actually is, not how it should be according to someone who has never managed before. This is truly a practitioner’s book; it won’t be cited by any leadership scholars soon.

The book made me wonder again about the gap between scholarly and practitioner leadership literature. Leadership theory is important, but it tells you nothing about what to do when your star employee walks in and demands a raise. It does nothing to help a new manager fumble through firing a dysfunctional employee. It does nothing to help a manager “manage performance” (really, does anyone do that effectively?). Gilman doesn’t tell you exactly how to do it, but he does reassure you managing is tough, and that you are not the only one who has no idea what to do next. Few are cut out to lead, and few are really good at it. Gilman strikes me as someone who is very good at it, and if he struggled at times with “what” and “How” to manage, I am sure all leaders will at some point in their careers.

This is a great book for someone looking for an entertaining and humorous read, and for someone who is sick of all the bland business/leadership/management books out there. You will be entertained and reassured, but not necessarily informed. Read it on your next vacation or trip, but understand it will not be on the book-list of your next MBA class (although I am sure Gilman would be amused if it was). I enjoyed it, and it was a happy break from the stack of other leadership books I intend to read.

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