Book Review: The Surprising Gift of Doubt by Marc A. Pitman


Maybe I’d never really given it any thought before, but once I’d begun reading Marc A. Pitman’s new book, The Surprising Gift of Doubt: Use Uncertainty to Become the Exceptional Leader You are Meant to Be  it occurred to me that I’d probably never considered the word “doubt” as anything positive.  What’s more?  When assigning that sense of being to the leader of an organization, I certainly wouldn’t consider that a good thing.  I would just see red flags everywhere!  After all, aren’t leaders confident and self-assured experts? Don’t they have all the answers and know exactly what they are doing. Oh, and by the way…like, all the time!?

According to Pitman, however, “doubt” is more like the impetus that actually affords us more opportunities to become an exceptional leader.

I will be completely honest with you here: I just don’t find enough time to read books on leadership. My days are filled with learning about new software or I find myself elbow-deep in a new project. Add to that: family life, a little workout time,  and there goes my day!  But this book sucked me right in. In it, Pitman re-frames doubt as a “Surprising Gift” to leaders and I really enjoyed that juxtaposition.

And, while probably not deserved, I generally feel a little skeptical about “leadership” books, on the whole. But, this one feels different. As a matter of fact, Pitman includes a “Note on Privilege” before you event get to the book’s “Introduction.”  In this note, he acknowledges the privilege he now realizes has always had, as a white male.  And, in the “Introduction” he relays the sense of frustration many experience when traditional time management books are devoid of the realities many people (especially women, especially care givers) face daily,  that simply make implementing the practices seem like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

None of that here. No empty platitudes here. No checklists. Just a few pretty basic and illustrative diagrams. Because, again, there isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All solution. The help I need and the point at which I’m starting in my exploration are different from yours.

In this book, Pitman provides specific examples of challenges which he has worked with successful leaders to overcome.  And some of those examples include details that indicated a client worked with him for years. That with that same client they worked through one struggle and found a solution…only to find that after a while that solution was no longer “the” solution.  To me (again, a novice in the area), I found it a very novel idea that not only do you need to adapt a leadership style to suit you, but you may very well need to be able to adapt as you and your team grow.

Want to hear more about Marc’s take on “doubt” and leadership?  Catch the replay of Marc’s session on the topic from our March, 2021 Virtual Summit for Nonprofit Changemakers

About author

Avatar for Amy DeVita

Amy DeVita

Amy DeVita is managing partner at TopNonprofits. A publisher, entrepreneur, mother, wife, social media enthusiast and fan and avid supporter of the do-gooders in the nonprofit/ for-impact sector. She has written for TopNonprofits and Third Sector Today; she has been quoted on pieces about social media and social impact on The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. She was named to the Leading Women Entrepreneurs in NJ Monthly and was a member of Social Media for Nonprofits' Leadership Council. In her spare time she enjoys kayaking, yoga, hiking, traveling, and playing Scrabble. Amy lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and three dogs. In 1984 she earned the "Most Improved Average" honor on her bowling league.

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