Sam Calagione is one of the best known folks in craft beer. His brewery, Dogfish Head, is known to most as a brewer that has continuously pushed the boundaries of what beer can be, and brought back ancient recipes long since forgotten. In his latest book, Off-Centered Leadership: The Dogfish Head Guide to Motivation, Collaboration and Smart Growth, Sam takes a look at leadership and what the future will hold for himself and his brewery.
In addition to being a strong voice for the craft beer industry, Sam has written a number of books. The first, Extreme Brewing, was a guide to homebrewing and experimentation outside of the typical classic styles most brewers first learn. He Said Beer, She Said Wine added to the food pairing advice included in his first book and showed that beer can be every bit as good of a pairing partner for each meal. Brewing Up A Business was the story of starting Dogfish Head and the business of running a brewery. For the latest book, Sam looks at lessons in leadership and where he and the brewery may head in the future.
Off-Centered Leadership: The Dogfish Head Guide to Motivation, Collaboration and Smart Growth is Sam’s look at the leadership lessons he learned along the journey of growing Dogfish Head into one of the largest craft brewers in the US. He shares insights into leading others but the majority of the book is spent paddling in circles.
Sam continuously goes over and over the fact that he’s struggling to let go of certain functions within the brewery. They’ve grown so large that he can’t be part of every moving piece anymore and giving up control seems to be eating him up. This idea is explored in almost every chapter and the repetitiveness without great insight wears on the reader with time.
Though offered as a guide to motivation, collaboration, and smart growth, Off-Centered Leadership feels more like it was written to assure potential investors that leadership at Dogfish is solid and they’re headed for great growth. The book feels more like a business document at times, than a guide to help the reader learn to be a better leader. It’s unclear who the intended audience is much of the time. Is it for business leaders or for potential brewery buyers?
Throughout the book, readers are left wondering what the point of it all is. It doesn’t seem that Sam has a destination in mind while writing this book and instead it seems he may have been using the writing to find his own path. The constant revisiting of the idea of letting go and allowing others to be trusted to do many of the things he has always taken on at the brewery is a thread that seems to eat at him but doesn’t seem to be something he finds a good answer for short of agreeing that he’ll have to learn.
It’s hard to take leadership advice from someone that seems so unsure of themselves and how they’re going to be able to grow as a leader themselves.
While there are many stories and anecdotes provided in Off-Centered Leadership, it seems Sam didn’t quite create a guide for readers looking to become better or motivate themselves. Instead what he created is a bit of insight into the personal struggles he’s currently facing as he looks to turn over more control than he’s comfortable with.
Your mileage from this read will depend on what you’re looking for from it. If you’re seeking a book to help you grow as a leader and motivate yourself, chances are you’ll be better served by looking elsewhere. If you want a look inside the mind of Sam Calagione and where he and Dogfish Head are headed, Off-Centered Leadership is a read you’ll want to check out.