Saturday, February 6, 2010

Obstacles Welcome* by Ralph de la Vega

Obstacles Welcome is a mix of autobiography and lessons in leadership. Ralph de la Vega tells of various obstacles he's faced in his life and what lessons he's drawn from his own experiences. He also provides suggestions for how these lessons can be adapted in different scenarios. Unfortunately the leadership lessons are overshadowed by the almost self-congratulatory tales of the author's success.

The author was suddenly separated from his family in Cuba at the age of 10, and transplanted to live with relatives in the Miami area of Florida. Eventually his family was able to escape the communist control in Cuba and join him in Florida. He overcame many obstacles and successfully completed his education. His career in the telecom/wireless industry was also filled with challenges, including facing dismal business climates, managing organizations in difficult political environments and overcoming the devastation caused by natural disasters (Hurricanes Katrina and Andrew).

If the reader has an interest in learning more about the history of wireless communications, including the unprecedented merger of Cingular and AT&T Wireless, this book offers an insider's view of many of the major milestones in the evolution of telecommunications. If the reader is interested in finding a practical handbook for developing leadership skills, there are much better guides available.

The book has too much focus on the personal experiences of the author, telling many life stories wireless communication industry anecdotes. Although the book is interesting from the standpoint of autobiography and history, to be useful for burgeoning leaders the focus should shift from the author's story. If the leadership tips that are buried in the book were brought to focus, with a mix of examples from the author's history and from other industry applications this might become a book worthy of recommendation to potential leaders.

There are some good points: the chapter on the "Success Cycle" located about mid-way through the book is an excellent guide for managing a team through change and Chapter 17, "Become the Leader You Want to Be" provides a useful Leadership Capability Model for self-assessment and practical application. Unfortunately I almost missed these useful sections because I'd lost interest in the life story of the author. I'm glad I overcame that obstacle and persevered. The nuggets were worth the effort.

*Disclaimer: As a reviewer for (nee Thomas Nelson Book Reviewer Bloggers) I received a free copy of this book. I received no other compensation.

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