There is so much leadership learning out there but so little time to discover it. That’s why The Edge has begun to distil the most thought-provoking insights from the world’s greatest business books. Here is a tasting menu of five mouth-watering morsels of wisdom for starters. To start I have chosen classics from the past which still resonate strongly today and one insight from the digital age. More to follow…..
5. In Search of Excellence – Lessons from America’s Best Run Companies
by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman Jnr
This was perhaps the seminal business book of the eighties but still endures today in a different world and a different age.
“When trouble lurks, we call for a new strategy and probably reorganize. When we reorganize, we usually stop at rearranging the boxes on the chart. The odds are high that nothing much will change. We will have chaos, even useful chaos, for a while, but eventually the old culture will prevail. Old habit patterns persist………..If we want change, we fiddle with the strategy. Or we change the structure. Perhaps the time has come to change our ways.”
by Dr Carol S Dweck
The world-renowned Stanford psychologist explores the power of the mindset. She observes that it is not the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest and champions the “growth mindset” of leaders over the “fixed mindset” of others.
“In the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It is a problem to be faced, dealt with and learned from”
She goes on to differentiate fixed mindset leaders as the most likely to catch the CEO disease of large ego, group think and poor listening. However, when you enter the world of the growth mindset leader everything changes.
“As growth-minded leaders they start with a belief in human potential and development – both their own and other people’s. Instead of using the company as a vehicle for their greatness, they use it as an engine for growth, for themselves, the employees and the company as a whole.”
3. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
by Marshall Goldsmith
This book lays out how successful people become even more successful – the focus for the work of The Edge. Goldsmith believes that in the workplace highly successful leaders can delude themselves about their achievements, their status and their contribution and become the change leaders who won’t change themselves.
“We sit there with the same godlike feelings, and when someone tries to make us change our ways we regard them with unadulterated bafflement. First, we think the other party is confused. They’re misinformed and don’t know what they are talking about. They have us mixed up with someone who truly does need to change, but we are not that person. Second, as it dawns on us that the other party is not confused – maybe their information about our perceived shortcomings is accurate – we go into denial mode. The criticism does not apply to us, or else we wouldn’t be so successful. Finally, when all else fails we attack the other party. We discredit the messenger. “Why is a smart guy like me,” we think, “listening to a loser like you?
“Couple them with the very positive interpretations that successful people assign to (a) their past performance, (b) their ability to influence their success (rather than just being lucky), (c) their optimistic belief that their success will continue in the future, and (d) their sense of control over their own destiny (as opposed to being controlled by external forces), and you have a volatile cocktail of resistance to change.
2. Digital to the Core
– is a bible on leadership in the fourth industrial revolution and another reminder that what got you here, won’t get you there in the future.
“Every leader must be a digital leader because every company is becoming a tech company.”
“The digitization era is forcing us to go through an inflection point at a much faster rate than we have ever done before. The curve is starting to bend, and we need to make sure that the pace of change inside the organisation matches, or in some cases is ahead of, the pace of change outside. Because otherwise you will always be playing catch up……
1. Warren Buffet on Business – Principles from the Sage of Omaha
Drawing from carefully selected Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ letters over four decades the world’s greatest investor keeps things simple.
“Berkshire’s ownership may make even the best of managers more effective. First, we eliminate all of the ritualistic non-productive activities that normally go with the job of the CEO. Our managers are totally in charge of their personal schedules. Second, we give each a simple mission: Just run your business as if: 1) you own 100% of it; 2) it is the only asset that you and your family have or will have; and 3) you can’t sell or merge it for at least a century. We regard product quality as sacred.”
And on trust……..
“The job of CEOs is to regain trust. They will not succeed in this endeavour, however, by way of fatuous ads, meaningless policy statements, structural changes of boards and committees. Instead, CEO’s must embrace stewardship as a way of life and treat owners as partners, not patsies. It’s time for CEOs to walk the walk.”