Thursday, 6 October 2016

Book Notes: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence PeopleHow to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It is hard not to like this book. I have read this a few times before and re-read it as I thought I should revisit some of the classics in leadership. I was surprised to find, with the benefit of education, that Carnegie touches upon many of the known leadership theories without ever explicitly stating so- which of course was his aim in making practical skills available to the lay person more or less immediately. I was a little disappointed that this was not the original edition, even though that is what I thought I was purchasing. Some of the examples have been updated and include what appear to be 1950s events and technologies. Not that this takes away from the central purpose of the book, but I do enjoy re-discovering events of the past through such reading. Alas, I will have to search for the first edition some more. But it does prove my point: a good deal of contemporary knowledge is simply re-packaged in more academic language and using more up-to-date examples. Yet the style stems from what Hilkey (1997) refers to as the "Gilded Age", beginning in the 1870s in the United States and developing elsewhere through Arnold Bennett (1911) and then, in my view at least, into the Carnegie format that is still adopted by authors such as Ryan Holiday today. While Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography might qualify, I tend to agree with Hilkey's thesis about the cultural elements of the success manual genre and have found interesting parallels with the philosophical works of J.S. Mill and James Fitzjames Stephen with the rise of the market economy. Still worth a read, still one of the best, but my personal experiences suggest that the leadership theories that have been developed since Carnegie, particular Fiedler's contingency theory and the work of Hersey and Blanchard, bring in the environmental factors that Carnegie's work, like many other works of the time, tend to ignore.



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