Summer Reading for Leaders

  1. July 2nd, 2024  | 

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Published in Accountability, Leadership

If Ever There Was a Time to Slow Down and Re-Calibrate It’s Now

Every summer since 2017 I’ve shared reading recommendations because leaders are readers. Here are my picks for the Summer of 2024.

Thinking Fast & Slow

Perhaps the most important questions in business, economics and life are how we make decisions under conditions of uncertainty. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman (who died in March at the age of 90)  received the Nobel Prize in economics for his work exploring the systematic and unconscious biases we bring to decision-making. “Thinking fast” is impulsive and intuitive and was essential when quick decisions were required to elude predators. “Thinking slow” is the reasoning part of the mind that requires time and effort. Some of us are better at this type of thinking than others, and this book explains why that is so.

The Demon of Unrest

Erik Larson most recently examined Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister in the early days of World War II and now focuses on the chaotic months between Lincoln’s election as President and the shelling of Fort Sumter that triggered the American Civil War. Many Southerners wanted Lincoln dead, but Lincoln believed, “we are not enemies, but friends—we have sacred ties of affection which, though strained by passions, let us hope can never be broken.” At a time when political integrity, courage and leadership are in short supply, this book reminds us of those qualities—and the high costs of each.

The Betrayal of Anne Frank

I read this book before visiting the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam in May. The book provides a chilling look at what happens to people under enemy occupation when their lives are “threaded with fear.” The FBI-led cold case team ultimately identified the person who betrayed the Franks and four others hiding for nearly two years in the Secret Annex. What readers will experience more profoundly is how “ordinary people in an ordinary neighborhood” lived day after day with the terror of being hunted, discovered and shipped to a Nazi death camp by those around them. “Slowly but surely, human relationships had come under pressure and people had turned on one another.”

The Art of Possibility

This little book deserves to be read again and again. The authors awaken “a universe of possibility” through twelve simple yet powerful practices that invite us to look at and appreciate the world—and ourselves—from new perspectives. In doing so, passion, potential and possibility are unleashed. One insightful gem among dozens that can change our view and interaction with others: “A cynic,” the authors believe, “is a passionate person who does not want to be disappointed again.”

Leadership and Self Deception

“You have a problem,” this book says. “The people at work know it, your spouse knows it, your mother-in-law knows it. I’ll bet even your neighbors know it. The problem is that you don’t know it.” It’s impossible to spot self-deception. We choose to tell ourselves stories that don’t match facts. We choose to listen only to those who agree with us. And we choose to be wrong and happy instead of knowing the truth and being uncomfortable. Do people follow you because they’re obligated or because they’re inspired?

The HP Way

In the Foreword to this book,Good to Great author Jim Collins writes that Bill Hewlett and David Packard’s “greatest product was the Hewlett-Packard Company and their greatest idea was The HP Way.” Their 1937 vision to put culture before everything else might be taken for granted today, but was radical for the times, and the two founders’ success building a Fortune 500 company from a garage in Palo Alto proves that culture does indeed eat strategy for breakfast.

That’s A Great Question

Every great achievement starts with a question. If questions wield such enormous power, why do our peak question-asking years top out around age four? With more than 2,000 questions in twenty categories plus dozens of tips for asking great questions (and avoiding asking bad ones), this book will give you the confidence to embrace the counterintuitive truth: when you overcome the urge to tell and instead ask a question, you put yourself in control by gently guiding the conversation.

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises some of the world’s most admired companies and leaders, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 250 strategic planning sessions, he’s delivered more than 600 keynotes and workshops on every continent except Antarctica, and he coaches leaders who are inspired to take their career to the next level. His fourth leadership book— Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) —is a Soundview Executive Best Business Book.

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