Leadership & Business Growth Books for August 2012

Here are our top picks for the best leadership and business growth books this month.

The Pivot Point: Success In Organizational Change by Victoria M. Grady and James D. Grady

The source of the problem is not so much the new, but the threat of the loss of the old.

Resistance to change is often grudgingly accepted as an unavoidable challenge for organizations striving to remain competitive in the global marketplace. However, NOT ONE of the existing change methodologies has recognized, integrated, or even mentioned the true origin of the term Resistance. How can your organization avoid the 70% organizational change failure rate that has plagued change initiatives for more than 15 years? Is there an organizational change tool that will predictably and measurably improve the overall success rate?

Drs. Victoria (Jr.) and James (Sr.) Grady have uncovered the answers! The Pivot Point presents the verdict in two easy to read sections:

The Pivot Point provides an explanation, not an excuse, for an organizational change failure rate which has continued to hover near 70% for 15 + year.

The Pivot Point highlights the steps to measure, track, and proactively intervene to maximize change success.

The Pivot Point introduces information that will enhance, not replace, existing methodologies currently implemented by change agents and consultants.

Leapfrogging: Harness The Power of Surprise for Business Breakthroughs by Soren Kaplan

Today’s business climate demands breakthroughs, not incremental improvements. What makes one leader or company thrive while others languish in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing marketplace? There’s no doubt hard work is involved, but Soren Kaplan shows you can’t do it by simply creating a big vision and implementing a set plan. In his trailblazing debut, Kaplan gives business leaders the tools to do exactly what they’re taught to avoid: embrace surprise—the new key to business breakthroughs.

Instead of fighting against uncertainty, Kaplan reveals how to use it to break down limiting mindsets and barriers to change the game. By highlighting specific ways to transform both good and bad surprises into unique opportunities, Kaplan encourages leaders to compete by embracing counterintuitive ideas, managing paradoxes, and even welcoming failure. This is the key to “leapfrogging”—creating or doing something radically new or different that produces a significant leap forward.

Leapfrogging connects new research, unconventional strategies, and practical tools for navigating the “messy” and elusive process of achieving business breakthroughs. Filled with real-world examples from innovators such as Gatorade, Intuit, Philips, Kimberly-Clark, Colgate-Palmolive, OpenTable, and Etsy, Kaplan shows that any organization or business function can leapfrog. Using his LEAPS process (Listen, Explore, Act, Persist, and Seize), leaders learn to seek out, recognize, and respond to surprising experiences and events as a way to create solutions that leap beyond the current expectations of customers, partners, employees, the market, and the competition.

Kaplan’s writing style makes his compelling findings fun to read, simple to understand, and easy to implement. Leapfrogging is the new handbook for the modern leader.

Lead With A Story: A Guide to Creating Business Narrataves that Captivate, Convine and Inspire by Paul Smith

Storytelling has come of age in the business world. Today, many of the most successful companies use storytelling as a leadership tool. At Nike, all senior executives are designated “corporate storytellers.” 3M banned bullet points years ago and replaced them with a process of writing “strategic narratives.” Procter & Gamble hired Hollywood directors to teach its executives storytelling techniques. Some forward-thinking business schools have even added storytelling courses to their management curriculum.

The reason for this is simple: Stories have the ability to engage an audience the way logic and bullet points alone never could. Whether you are trying to communicate a vision, sell an idea, or inspire commitment, storytelling is a powerful business tool that can mean the difference between mediocre results and phenomenal success.

Lead with a Story contains both ready-to-use stories and how-to guidance for readers looking to craft their own. Designed for a wide variety of business challenges, the book shows how narrative can help:

Define culture and values • Engender creativity and innovation • Foster collaboration and build relationships • Provide coaching and feedback • Lead change • And more

Whether in a speech or a memo, communicated to one person or a thousand, storytelling is an essential skill for success. Complete with examples from companies like Kellogg’s, Merrill-Lynch, Procter & Gamble, National Car Rental, Wal-Mart, Pizza Hut, and more, this practical resource gives readers the guidance they need to deliver stories to stunning effect.

Yes To The Mess: Surprising Leadership Stories From Jazz by Paul J. Barrett

What Duke Ellington and Miles Davis teach us about leadership

How do you cope when faced with complexity and constant change at work? Here’s what the world’s best leaders and teams do: they improvise. They invent novel responses and take calculated risks without a scripted plan or a safety net that guarantees specific outcomes. They negotiate with each other as they proceed, and they don’t dwell on mistakes or stifle each other’s ideas. In short, they say “yes to the mess” that is today’s hurried, harried, yet enormously innovative and fertile world of work.

This is exactly what great jazz musicians do. In this revelatory book, accomplished jazz pianist and management scholar Frank Barrett shows how this improvisational “jazz mind-set” and the skills that go along with it are essential for effective leadership today. With fascinating stories of the insights and innovations of jazz greats such as Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, as well as probing accounts of the wisdom gleaned from his own experience as a jazz musician, Barrett introduces a new model for leading and collaborating in organizations.

He describes how, like skilled jazz players, leaders need to master the art of unlearning, perform and experiment simultaneously, and take turns soloing and supporting each other. And with examples that range from manufacturing to the military to high-tech, he illustrates how organizations must take an inventive approach to crisis management, economic volatility, and all the rapidly evolving realities of our globally connected world.

Leaders today need to be expert improvisers. Yes to the Mess vividly shows how the principles of jazz thinking and jazz performance can help anyone who leads teams or works with them to develop these critical skills, wherever they sit in the organization.

Engaging and insightful, Yes to the Mess is a seminar on collaboration and complexity, against the soulful backdrop of jazz.

How To Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success by Magnifying Your Strengths by John Zenger, Joseph Folkman, Robert Sherman, Jr and Barbara Steel

Rethink Everything You Know About Leadership Strengths

“A must-read for anyone wanting to positively stand out in an organization or for leaders wanting to raise the overall performance of the organization.” — Cindy Brinkley, Vice President, Global Human Resources, General Motors

“Zenger Folkman’s findings related to companion behaviors is exciting. It enhances what’s been presented in prior books and makes extraordinary leadership seem like an achievable goal. I would recommend this book to anyone committed to the journey.” — Pam Mabry, Director, Human Resources, The Boeing Company

“The authors take the groundbreaking concept of driving leadership effectiveness by building our strengths to a whole new level of practical implementation, providing us with a brilliantly clear road map. I have found this body of work to be absolutely invaluable . . . I cannot imagine a person in a leadership role today who would not find value from reading this book cover to cover.” — Loren M. Starr, Senior Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer, Invesco Ltd.

How to Be Exceptional is a milestone in the emerging business case for evidence-based management. Building on two decades of earlier research, the authors brilliantly lay out a simple, concrete, scientifically validated model for achieving consistently superior business results through leadership. . . . Its magic is its simplicity, pragmatism, and focus.” — Eric Severson, Senior Vice President, Talent, Gap Inc.

“How to Be Exceptional is the best book on professional development I have read in decades. It reinforces the emerging wisdom that the path to greatness is really about building profound strengths, rather than through relentlessly focusing on one’s weaknesses. This is a great road map for any leader seeking to optimize their growth and impact.” — Michael A. Peel, Yale University, Vice President, Human Resources and Administration

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