Book Review: “Lead from the Outside” by Stacey Abrams

Have you ever felt like you are struggling to move forward while your peers seem to effortlessly navigate the metaphorical “corporate ladder?” Do you devour books on leadership, but find your attempts to replicate their advice falls short? It might not be for lack of effort, but the unfortunate truth is that we are not all equal. As much as we’d like to believe hard work and dedication will provide equal opportunities for all, it’s just not true. We still live in a world where minority groups – women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, etc. – are discouraged from power, bared from the table, and opposed at every attempt to seize potential opportunity.

Many leadership books offer one-size-fits-all roadmaps to taking control of your career. Stacey Abrams, author of this month’s featured reading, “Lead from the Outside” recognizes that the paths to success come in all different shapes and sizes, especially for those in the minority. She offers a unique perspective as both a woman and a person of color who has found and continues to work tirelessly toward professional success. She recognizes the inequalities that minority groups are faced with, the unique challenges and obstacles, and that many often must work much harder to overcome and achieve success. And, she is able to offer advice you may not find in other outlets on how to go about achieving success from the outside.

“Lead from the Outside” offers both real-world advice and encouragement – with constant reminders that we deserve to have ambition and drive even if we are constantly told otherwise. Abrams reminds us that leaders come in all forms and exist at all levels – but when we are not automatically granted access or influence, we must be strategic, creative, and resilient.

For example, Abrams encourages us to be creative with our resources which may be limited. Inequality makes it more difficult for some to earn college degrees or certifications, have access to sources of wealth, and be afforded critical opportunities to increase their visibility and power – just to name a few examples. Many of us in the minority are also lacking role models – we don’t see ourselves in positions we wish to ascend to, and so have no reference for how to get there. Without these resources that open doors for our peers, we must be creative and “hack” the limited resources we do have to open those doors ourselves.

Throughout the book, Abrams offers her own experience and the experience of others around her who had to “hack” their way to success. From developing a deep understanding of her own needs, fears, and desires, to collaborating with those with access to get herself a seat at the table, and many other ways she created opportunities where at once there were none. “Lead from the Outside” offers unique advice and perspective not found in other leadership books, curated for those of us whose access to the inner circle is not a birthright, for those of us who do have to work harder and smarter to achieve success.