This is a guest post by Lior Grossman. Lior is the founder of BookAuthority, designed to help you find the best business books by top industry leaders. Personal note: I was one of the first CEO’s to make a few recommendations on the site.
I firmly believe that reading the right book can open your mind to a whole new world of ideas and opportunities. The right book can inspire and empower you to overcome your challenges and take action. As a leader, I understand I need to expose myself to ideas that are capable of transforming me and the people that I lead.
The world of leadership is evolving, and present-day leaders should seek insights and context to understand this changing world better. Leadership development is a must because what was applicable in the past no longer applies today.
Reading is the one habit that almost all successful people have in common. Bill Gates reads about 50 books every year; Mark Zuckerberg resolved to read 24 books a year; Mark Cuban reads three hours every day, and Warren Buffett spends 80% of his day reading!
Yes, I know. Unlike Mr. Buffett, you cannot afford to spend the majority of your time reading books, and you really don’t have enough time to dedicate to your personal development. However, sharpening your skills can be as easy as updating your reading list, so that when you do find that one precious hour to read, you’ll spend it on a book that will be worth it.
The idea of helping people identify the few books that are worth reading is what led to the creation of BookAuthority – a new website that helps you identify the world’s finest business books, by collecting and aggregating book recommendations from 150 of the most successful people in the world.
To help you find your next read, here is a list of great leadership books recommended by well-known leaders like Warren Buffett and Eric Schmidt:
I recently spoke with Amanda about her work and her new book.
What is driving the need for fearless growth?
We all know growth is essential to a business’s health, but no matter what industry you’re in, you probably feel stress brought on by new technologies, changing customer behaviors and preferences, and new competitors that threaten your business’s ability to grow. Here are a few examples:
The food industry is investing to keep up with sometimes capricious trends in public perception regarding low-fat, low-carbohydrate, non-GMO, gluten-free, organic, alternative sweeteners and grains, and other choices.
The consumer products industry must continuously seek to find new and better ways to interact with their customers digitally. They must respond to changing consumer buying behaviors and even to consumers’ concerns about political, social, and environmental issues.
The entertainment industry is being upended, with companies that formerly were just conduits for content—like Netflix, Amazon, Google (via its YouTube subsidiary), and AT&T (via the Time Warner merger)—now creating their own original series.
The auto industry is changing gears to adapt to the way ride-sharing services, such as Lyft and Uber, are reducing people’s desire to own a car.
The banking industry is scrambling to adjust to new modes of consumer-to-consumer payment (such as Venmo) and new forms of lending and credit assessment.
The transportation and logistics industry is responding to trends in globalization, automation, and the rise of e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba.
Industrial products companies are struggling with decisions about how best to deploy sensors and artificial intelligence to improve their products’ performance and reduce cost.
The energy industry is coping with low oil prices, new government regulations, and emotional consumer sentiment on both sides of the fracking, renewable energy, and coal debates.
If your business hasn’t felt the effect of massive market changes yet, it’s likely that you will soon. And if you wait until disruption occurs, it will be too late to respond effectively.
You must grow your business, but most growth initiatives entail risk of one kind or another. I often hear company leaders saying things like, “Our core business is at risk of disruption. We need to branch out into new businesses to grow, but we don’t have all the capabilities we need—they’re not in our DNA,” or, “We’re in unfamiliar terrain and aren’t sure that customer demand will materialize. There are lots of unknowns.”
To pursue growth, leaders and employees must learn to do things they have never done before, and they must grapple with new threats. All of this adds up to the fact that trying to grow a business in today’s turbulent markets is pretty scary—it’s perfectly reasonable and rational for company leaders to be worried. I developed the new rules of fearless growth to help leaders create organizations that have the courage, speed, and agility to succeed, no matter what the future brings.
“To pursue growth, leaders must grapple with new threats.” -Amanda Setili
What can companies do to grow fearlessly, even when their business environment is changing fast?
When leaders encounter risks in their business environment, the natural human response is to hunker down, tighten the controls, and defend the existing business. What is needed, however, is not tightening controls, but the opposite. You need a fearless approach to learning and adapting to market change, and that means giving up a degree of control—to employees, business partners, and customers—in order to gain control. It’s like learning to ride a bike. At first, the bike seems tipsy and unstable, but once you start going, the movement itself creates stability.
Technology continues to change everything, and work is no exception. In just a few years, we have seen companies emerge from Uber to Instacart. New digital platforms are emerging that explore different business models.
Before I answer that question, let’s clarify the meaning of the word “gig.” The term was first used with jazz musicians in the 1920s, where they would book one club for a week and another for a few days in a different club across town. A gig referred to work that could vary in duration and was for a variety of employers. So gigs have been around for a long time. I started my company, M Squared Consulting, in 1988 to match independent consultants with projects. It was a gig economy company long before the term had even been coined. The “Gig Economy” refers to the people who work independently for a variety of entities as well as the companies that enable that work, both the new digital talent platforms, as well as traditional intermediaries and staffing companies. Additionally, you could include the vast eco system that has sprung up to support this work, including co-working space, productivity apps, collaboration tools, and financial service products targeted at the independent workforce.
Successful gig workers have grit, resilience and learn from mistakes.
A few years ago, you received two calls that got your attention in a new way. How did that alter your thinking?
Actually there were three random and unrelated calls from venture capitalists and private equity guys who wanted to talk to me about digital talent platforms. One idea was for a platform for professional moms who wanted to work flexibly after the kids were older. Another was to build a pool of on-demand oil field services workers in Western Africa, and the third was to create a product to hire recent college graduates into entry level management positions in a way that would require no human intervention. All of the players were technologists who had never run a service business, let alone a people-intensive one. Much of the magic was to be in the algorithms which would match talent and opportunity seamlessly and quickly. Many of the fairly basic questions I asked—like who would hire the moms? Would they be employees or contractors? And how would the platform make money?—had not yet been answered. I was struck by the disconnect of talent being the most important thing to the success of an organization, but nonetheless the goal was to eliminate humans in the process of securing that talent. It inspired me to take a much deeper dive into the burgeoning world of digital talent platforms.
An engaged culture promotes continuous learning so that employees are not only growing, they are staying ahead of change. Even better, they are bringing positive change into the organization.
An engaged CEO or business owner leads an engaged culture. If she or he is disengaged from the culture, the employee population will also be disengaged.
An engaged culture recognizes that everyone walks in the door with various sets of life skills. Therefore, the organization makes sure everyone has the necessary life skills to change and engage. These include sales, presentations skills, the ability to influence, and clarity in how to build a vitally effective support system.
Self-reflection is encouraged in a strongly engaged culture. At Cornerstone on Demand, executives routinely ask questions such as, “What’s your next move?” “Where are you going next?” After seven years employees are given a sabbatical for self-reflection. The point is, we cannot have engagement without a connection to one’s own truth. We have proven this thousands of times in our programs, which are question driven.
“More than 80% of America’s workers don’t like what they do for a living.” –David Harder
I’ve featured many people on this site talking about the problem of engagement. The stats are remarkable. We didn’t have sophisticated surveys years ago. Do you think this is a new phenomenon?
In the scheme of things, surveys are a bit old-school. The problem with surveys is they don’t produce change. Unless there is a solid commitment to produce an engaged culture, they often create more harm than good.
My point in The Workplace Engagement Solution: Find a Common Mission, Vision, and Purpose With All of Today’s Employees is that the majority of workers are checked-out, to various degrees. Getting them back requires a visionary commitment from the leadership but it also requires that we teach people how to change and engage. Notice that I rarely use one work without the other. Right now, according to a recent New York Times study, 48% of Americans view themselves as “underemployed.” This is also a staggering number and yet it is reflective of workers at odds with keeping up with change.
Gallup: Only 13% of the world’s workers are engaged.
Recent studies show that only about 20 percent of workers understand their company’s mission and goals. Only 21 percent say they would “go the extra mile.” Less than 40 percent believes senior leaders communicate openly and honestly.
Today many feel that they are over-managed and under-led.
Jude Rake has over 35 years leading high-performance teams. He is the founder and CEO of JDR Growth Partners, a leadership consulting firm.
You personally observed Pat Summitt’s leadership and watched her in action at half-time. You saw her growing other leaders, not demanding followership. It was such a powerful example. Would you share that story?
Several years ago when I was COO at a large consumer products company, we needed a keynote speaker for our annual marketing and sales meeting. Given that our company was a big sponsor of NCAA women’s college basketball, we decided to invite Pat Summitt to be our keynote speaker.
Pat inspired everyone with her energy and her famous “Definite Dozen Leadership Traits for On and Off the Court Success.” After our meeting at dinner, I shared with Pat that I had coached youth basketball for many years. She graciously took interest and invited me to be a guest coach at a Lady Vols game. I was floored! I took her up on her offer and eventually travelled to Knoxville for an unforgettable weekend.
I knew that Pat was an outstanding coach, and I admired her for her accomplishments, but I had no idea just how good she was at cultivating leaders throughout the Tennessee women’s basketball program. From the moment I stepped onto that campus, everything was executed with excellence. I soon learned that I would be shadowing Pat. I discovered firsthand why so many recruits chose the Lady Vols program, and why so many former players and coaches use terms of endearment when recalling Pat Summitt’s influence on their lives.
“Confidence is what happens when you’ve done the hard work that entitles you to succeed.” –Pat Summitt
Game day was quite a production, from pre-game activities to post-game reception. Anyone who watched Pat from the sidelines might expect her to lead everything with an iron fist. It was quite the opposite. Pat was clearly orchestrating everything . . . but the entire weekend appeared to be executed by everyone but Pat. She had done most of her leading and coaching in practice. The assistant coaches and players stepped up to the plate time and again, as did her administrative support staff. They took turns leading, and they collaboratively leaned on each other’s strengths to elevate performance throughout game day activities.
During the game, we sat immediately behind Pat and the team. At halftime the Lady Vols were trailing. We went into the locker room with the team. Pat was not there. I watched as the players—by themselves—took turns facilitating a brainstorming session about what had worked well and what needed improvement. Then they presented their analysis to the assistant coaches for input and guidance. Clearly, these players and assistant coaches had been trained well. They knew what to do without being micro-managed. Finally, Pat joined the team, and the players and assistant coaches collectively presented their conclusions. Pat succinctly graded their performance and assessments, added her own personal evaluation, and they aligned on an action plan for the second half. Everyone had led at some point. They leaned on each other’s strengths and focused on the biggest opportunities for improvement. They debated vigorously and respectfully. Ownership was achieved. There was no lecture or screaming. Half-time ended with a quintessential Pat Summitt inspirational call to heightened intensity and hustle, and the team went out and kicked their opponents’ behinds!
For me, this was an impressive example of a leader growing leaders and difference-makers, not just demanding followership. Pat Summitt showed us that leaders can be demanding, passionate, and ultra-competitive, yet still focus a significant amount of their time, energy, and empathy on the development of leaders at all levels of their organization. It’s what fueled her unprecedented results at Tennessee, and it’s the most important thing leaders do.
“Servant leaders bring out the best in others.” –Jude Rake