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The Benevolent Dictator Book Review

written by Head Health Nutter July 28, 2011

The Benevolent Dictator. What a title, eh? I know, my nose turned up at it at first, too. Who’d want to be a dictator of any kind and how would you, as readers interested in healthy living, benefit from reading this book? Read the rest of this post to find out!

What is a benevolent dictator? Well, check out Wikipedia for a definition of a benevolent dictatorship first. Then we have the definition outlined by author, Michael Feuer, in his autobiographical book, The Benevolent Dictator:

…the “benevolent” component means that the person always puts the entity, the employees, and, most importantly, the customer, first – way ahead of him- or herself. Somebody has to take control in a start-up, and the trick is to ensure that this somebody can also be benevolent by doing the right thing for the right reasons, for all stakeholders.

The “dictator” piece of this designation simply means that – just as it is in a fast-tracked giant corporation – somebody in a conversation, and analysis can only take an organization so far. The job of the entrepreneur, manager, or CEO is to say, “We’re taking this fork in the road, for better or worse, and it’s on my head.” He or she is the person who makes the important decisions when it counts – while others vacillate, the clock is ticking and resources are dwindling.

Ok, as you can probably tell by this quote, there’s no denying the fact that this book is about business. But it’s more than that. It’s about what it means to be a good leader, and even more importantly, a good person. One who checks their ego at the door, is über conscientious of other people’s needs and truly wishes to make others’ lives better.

Every adult I know has the opportunity to be a leader (and, of course, a better person) in their own world. Parents, for one, are leaders – whether they like it or not. Also, most people have an important cause they believe in, like saving the world from environmental damage or making people happier through the benefits of healthy living.

Mr. Feuer’s attitude, beliefs, behaviour and unconventional business philosophy can be turned into valuable guidelines for anyone who wants to make a difference in the world!

The Benevolent Dictator recounts Michael Feuer’s story in how he co-founded and grew OfficeMax, an office retail giant, with a $3 million investment into a $1.5 billion sale by thinking of other people first – customers, employees, vendors and investors.

Three years after exiting the office supply business, he saw that America needed and wanted wellness. Enter a new business and product line: Max-Wellness.

What’s great about this book is that each chapter is in the form of a lesson. Forty of them to be exact. And most of these “business” lessons contain life knowledge and tips that are highly beneficial for the average person!

Here are just some of the lessons the author teaches through his personal story in The Benevolent Dictator:

Lesson #10: Treat an Idea Like Clay.

Have you ever planned a vacation and it’s just not working out? Mr. Feuer says, “There are always many moving pieces and changes must be made quickly… to avoid dead ends before you complete a project. Entrepreneurs often fail here because they fall in love with their plans, not the intended results or the benefits to their customers or investors. They refuse to deviate or adapt, to reshape the idea or rework the plan.”

From my experience, flexibility is your best friend whether you’re on vacation or doing renovations.

Lesson #16: Managing People Is About Achieving Objectives.

If you have a vision, whether it’s a project or a cause, and you want others to help you reach the end product, you have to first give good reasons for why others would want to help you reach your vision. Feuer talks about this and also in giving your helpers ownership in that vision by making sure they know what they do makes a difference.

And in this particular lesson, by showing them how to do it, “Teaching is an art unto itself. In most cases, you can teach by example – by showing, by pointing, and by helping people `get it.’ The issue that most people have with teaching is time. You have to invest time to train others to do it the right way. Although it can be painful at first, there is a huge payback if you persevere…” Mr. Feuer values patience!

Lesson #19: Pot Stirring 101 – The Key to Continuous Reinvention.

It’s been said that change is the only universal truth. As human beings, it’s important to our health, wellness, happiness and personal success to evolve, to constantly reinvent ourselves.

Mr. Feuer found this out starting his businesses and growing them into successes, “I personally disdain the status quo. The trite phrase, `If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ sets me off. The comment, `Same old, same old’ when applied to a business’s progress is, as far as I’m concerned, the first sign that a company is heading into modicum of success can lull an entrepreneur into a dangerous mind-set where he or she begins to relax a bit and starts `smelling the roses.'”

From my experience, when we get into ruts and stop trying new things, challenging ourselves, we end up slipping into depression. (That’s what happened to me this past last year, read My Spiritual Kick-in-the-Ass Saved My Life.)

And that’s only three lessons out of the forty, Folks! Although it is very heavy with the business content, there are gems in the form of life lessons in The Benevolent Dictator. Michael Feuer, if he runs is life like he runs his businesses, is someone I’d like to know: a wonderful human being. And since his book is interesting and well-written, a great author to boot!

If you’re not sure if the book is for you, check out this NYTimes.com book review. If you’re interested in purchasing the book, click on the image below if you’re Canadian and it’ll bring you to Amazon.ca. If you’d like to buy the book for only $15.56 from Amazon.com, click here.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of The Benevolent Dictator in exchange for an honest review.

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