Here are our top picks for the best leadership and business growth books this month.
During his storied career as head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson won more championships than any coach in the history of professional sports. Even more important, he succeeded in never wavering from coaching his way, from a place of deep values. Jackson was tagged as the “Zen master” half in jest by sportswriters, but the nickname speaks to an important truth: this is a coach who inspired, not goaded; who led by awakening and challenging the better angels of his players’ nature, not their egos, fear, or greed.
This is the story of a preacher’s kid from North Dakota who grew up to be one of the most innovative leaders of our time. In his quest to reinvent himself, Jackson explored everything from humanistic psychology and Native American philosophy to Zen meditation. In the process, he developed a new approach to leadership based on freedom, authenticity, and selfless teamwork that turned the hypercompetitive world of professional sports on its head.
In Eleven Rings, Jackson candidly describes how he: Learned the secrets of mindfulness and team chemistry while playing for the champion New York Knicks in the 1970s Managed Michael Jordan, the greatest player in the world, and got him to embrace selflessness, even if it meant losing a scoring title Forged successful teams out of players of varying abilities by getting them to trust one another and perform in sync Inspired Dennis Rodman and other “uncoachable” personalities to devote themselves to something larger than themselves Transformed Kobe Bryant from a rebellious teenager into a mature leader of a championship team. Eleven times, Jackson led his teams to the ultimate goal: the NBA championship—six times with the Chicago Bulls and five times with the Los Angeles Lakers. We all know the legendary stars on those teams, or think we do. What Eleven Rings shows us, however, is that when it comes to the most important lessons, we don’t know very much at all. This book is full of revelations: about fascinating personalities and their drive to win; about the wellsprings of motivation and competition at the highest levels; and about what it takes to bring out the best in ourselves and others.
When Bob Lutz retired from General Motors in 2010, after an unparalleled forty-seven-year career in the auto industry, he was one of the most respected leaders in American business. He had survived all kinds of managers over those decades: tough and timid, analytical and irrational, charismatic and antisocial, and some who seemed to shift frequently among all those traits. His experiences made him an expert on leadership, every bit as much as he was an expert on cars and trucks.
Now Lutz is revealing the leaders—good, bad, and ugly—who made the strongest impression on him throughout his career. Icons and Idiots is a collection of shocking and often hilarious true stories and the lessons Lutz drew from them. From enduring the sadism of a Marine Corps drill instructor, to working with a washed-up alcoholic, to taking over the reins from a convicted felon, he reflects on the complexities of all-too-human leaders. No textbook or business school course can fully capture their idiosyncrasies, foibles and weaknesses – which can make or break companies in the real world.
What causes rich countries to lose their way? Symptoms of decline are all around us today: slowing growth, crushing debts, increasing inequality, aging populations, antisocial behavior. But what exactly has gone wrong? The answer, Niall Ferguson argues in The Great Degeneration, is that our institutions—the intricate frameworks within which a society can flourish or fail—are degenerating.
Representative government, the free market, the rule of law, and civil society—these are the four pillars of West European and North American societies. It was these institutions, rather than any geographical or climatic advantages, that set the West on the path to global dominance beginning around 1500. In our time, however, these institutions have deteriorated in disturbing ways. Our democracies have broken the contract between the generations by heaping IOUs on our children and grandchildren. Our markets are hindered by overcomplex regulations that debilitate the political and economic processes they were created to support; the rule of law has become the rule of lawyers. And civil society has degenerated into uncivil society, where we lazily expect all of our problems to be solved by the state.
It is institutional degeneration, in other words, that lies behind economic stagnation and the geopolitical decline that comes with it. With characteristic verve and historical insight, Ferguson analyzes not only the causes of this stagnation but also its profound consequences.
The Great Degeneration is an incisive indictment of an era of negligence and complacency. While the Arab world struggles to adopt democracy and China struggles to move from economic liberalization to the rule of law, our society is squandering the institutional inheritance of centuries. To arrest the breakdown of our civilization, Ferguson warns, will take heroic leadership and radical reform.
Persuade, Don’t Push!
Surely you know plenty of people who need to make a change, but despite your most well-intentioned efforts, they resist because people fundamentally fear change. As a salesman, father, friend, and consultant, Rob Jolles knows this scenario all too well. Drawing on his highly successful sales background and decades of research, he lays out a simple, repeatable, predictable, and ethical process that will enable you to lead others to discover for themselves what and why they need to change. Whether you hope to make a sale or improve a relationship, Jolles’s wise advice—illustrated through a bevy of sometimes funny, sometimes moving, always illuminating stories—will help you ensure that changing someone’s mind is never an act of coercion but rather one of caring and compassion.
The End of Competitive Advantage: How To Keep Your Strategy Moving As Fast As Your Business by Rita Gunther McGrath
Chances are the strategies that worked well for you even a few years ago no longer deliver the results you need. Dramatic changes in business have unearthed a major gap between traditional approaches to strategy and the way the real world works now.
In short, strategy is stuck. Most leaders are using frameworks that were designed for a different era of business and based on a single dominant idea—that the purpose of strategy is to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage. Once the premise on which all strategies were built, this idea is increasingly irrelevant.
Now, Columbia Business School professor and globally recognized strategy expert Rita Gunther McGrath argues that it’s time to go beyond the very concept of sustainable competitive advantage. Instead, organizations need to forge a new path to winning: capturing opportunities fast, exploiting them decisively, and moving on even before they are exhausted. She shows how to do this with a new set of practices based on the notion of transient competitive advantage.
This book serves as a new playbook for strategy, one based on updated assumptions about how the world works, and shows how some of the world’s most successful companies use this method to compete and win today.
Filled with compelling examples from “growth outlier” firms such as Fujifilm, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Infosys, Yahoo! Japan, and Atmos Energy, The End of Competitive Advantage is your guide to renewed success and profitable growth in an economy increasingly defined by transient advantage.
Brick by Brick: How LEGO Re-Wrote The Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David Robertson and Bill Breen
Brick by Brick takes you inside the LEGO you’ve never seen. By following the teams that are inventing some of the world’s best-loved toys, it spotlights the company’s disciplined approach to harnessing creativity and recounts one of the most remarkable business transformations in recent memory.
Brick by Brick reveals how LEGO failed to keep pace with the revolutionary changes in kids’ lives and began sliding into irrelevance. When the company’s leaders implemented some of the business world’s most widely espoused prescriptions for boosting innovation, they ironically pushed the iconic toymaker to the brink of bankruptcy. The company’s near-collapse shows that what works in theory can fail spectacularly in the brutally competitive global economy.
It took a new LEGO management team – faced with the growing rage for electronic toys, few barriers to entry, and ultra-demanding consumers (ten-year old boys) – to reinvent the innovation rule book and transform LEGO into one of the world’s most profitable, fastest-growing companies.