I read an incredible new book this weekend: The New Alpha by Danielle Harlan. This book is an absolute must read for rising professionals seeking to thrive in today’s work environment. The book is excellent in terms of concept, style, message, accuracy, practicality, scientific backing — the whole package. I’m not one to falsely flatter—I rarely, if ever, write book reviews—yet this is truly one of the best books I’ve read this year, comparable in quality and importance to Arriana Huffington’s Thrive.
The concept of the New Alpha is super insightful and important. Consider this excerpt from the Introduction:
“I eventually recognized a basic truth about leadership: regardless of their official title or position, people who strive for excellence in all areas of their lives and who can bring big ideas to life—especially those rooted in a purpose greater than themselves—are often the best and most inspiring leaders. To them, success and power are incidental—merely the positive side effects of endeavoring toward more noble pursuits. I call these people New Alphas, and you and I are fortunate enough to be alive at a time when an increasing number of people are embracing this new and better approach to leadership.”
In contrast to traditional Alphas (who are dominating and lead by toughness: think Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison), the New Alpha leads by inspiration and vision. Achievement and success are fine, but new leaders need to embrace balance, health, purpose, and broader contribution to engage younger folks in the workplace. The New Alpha combines Personal Excellence (Part 1 of the book) at the highest level with a broader contribution to Personal Leadership (Part 2) and Team/Organizational Leadership (Part 3).
Try to remember a New Alpha that you’ve recently interacted with. Dr. Harlan writes:
“Many of us have an aversion to the Alpha label because we are inundated with messages telling us that if we want to be powerful—that is, if we want to get things done and influence others—then we must lie, cheat, and take other people down along the way…
And yet, if you think back to your own experiences, you can probably also remember at least one leader you have known who seemed to break the mold—someone who was high achieving and influential while also working to be an exemplary and balanced human being. When we talk about New Alphas, these are the people we’re talking about. What’s more, their approach to leadership is a radical shift away from the traditional Alpha model that we’re used to…”
She continues by identifying the three core beliefs of New Alphas:
“1. Each of us possesses the innate potential to make a unique and meaningful impact in the world. When we recognize and harness this potential, we naturally inspire and motivate others, increase our influence, and enhance our ability to ignite positive change in our lives, our organizations, and the world.
2. By working to become the best version of ourselves, we develop the foundational competencies that are necessary to effectively lead others.
3. Being a successful leader is about more than what we achieve or accomplish. It’s about enjoying life and having a positive impact on others and the world around us. It is these latter aspects of success that give us the motivation and stamina to productively persist through difficult challenges—and that give our lives meaning and purpose in the long run.“
After reading this excerpt, I feel compelled to stand up and applaud. Dr. Harlan masterfully weaves together concepts into a single, cohesive framework that is over-the-top engaging. She pulls together anecdotes, scientific research, and practical advice on how to implement New Alpha concepts in your own life.
The book is full of exercises, charts, and analysis to fill in about your life. I found myself scribbling in the margins and filling in exercises—which I almost never do with books like these. But here, I was filling in tables and worksheets like a madman, which means I was engaged at the highest level. The book provides many opportunities to apply insights via exercises and practice. I learned a ton and was able to refine my thinking on leadership and personal excellence.
But the biggest contribution of the book, in my opinion, is the concept of the New Alpha itself. It is a new paradigm of leadership that embraces excellence and achievement, but also balance and contribution. New Alphas are leaders that go viral, leaders that inspire, leaders that change the world. They are your Mark Zuckerbergs, Larry Paiges, and Sheryl Sandbergs of the world. We are so drawn to them because that radiate that magic energy that makes every experience and endeavor filled with enthusiasm and passion. They combine this enthusiasm with deep sense of purpose and human well-being.
I highly encourage you to read The New Alpha. You’ll be showered with inspiration and insight. Worth every penny.
Originally written: October 2016. Republished: February 2018.