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Toy Box Leadership by Ron Hunter, Jr. and Michael Waddell

March 10, 2010

I just finished a walk through my childhood toy box. Toy Box Leadership is a helpful little book that uses childhood toys that we are familiar with to teach us leadership lessons we should not forget. And, as it turns out, there are real lessons in most of these toys. Some of the ones they explore are:

  • LEGO Bricks (Relationships)
  • Slinky Dog (Vision)
  • Play-Doh (Mentoring)
  • Yo-Yo (Creativity)
  • Mr. Potato Head (Communication)
  • Rubik’s Cube (Ethics)
  • Rocking Horse (Efficiency)
  • Little Green Army Men (Strategy)
  • Lite-Brite (Message)
  • Weebles (Endurance)

Admittedly, it is easier to make the connection between the toy and the lesson on some of these than others, but Hunter and Waddell do this well. In fact, I think they do a great job of using the toys to illustrate both positive and negative traits of leadership.

If there is a flaw in Toy Box Leadership, it is the same flaw in most leadership books I have read. They tend to oversimplify. This is a trait that seems to be inherent in the genre. Statements are painted with a broad brush. A leader can follow all the advice in a particular leadership book, including this one, and not everyone will respond the way the book suggests they should. Perhaps this is just the reality of leading individuals with different personality types. You, as a leader, can do everything right and things still do not always come out the way you plan.

Please do not let this one criticism keep you from reading Toy Box Leadership. You will learn many lessons. By connecting the lessons to common toys, the lessons are easy to remember and easy to illustrate. When I think about facilitating the building of relationships among those I lead and between myself and those I lead, I can visualize a group of LEGO Blocks fitting together to create something they were not individually. What a great picture! I heartily recommend this book for any leader in any arena of leadership. The lessons learned are applicable in any field of leadership, from the family to business to church to non-profit. You need to read this book.

If you have already read Toy Box Leadership, what did you think about it? As a leader, do you think illustrating leadership principles with common toys would help you to be a better leader? What is your favorite childhood toy, and is there a lesson it can teach us? Let us know what you think!

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