With August just around the corner, everybody is getting ready for their summer holidays. Whether you are jetting off to get some sun or staying closer to home, a good book is a vital addition to the suitcase.
Our Criticaleye Board Mentors and staff have put together a list of their most inspiring reads this year.
Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
The title of the first volume of Allen Drury’s political-fiction trilogy refers to Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the US Constitution, which requires the Senate to be consulted on and approve Presidential appointments to senior offices.
Advise and Consent will give anyone interested in Washington’s mysterious political workings a deep insight into this process. When I first read it as a youngster, it inspired my dream of a senior Presidential appointment, which was fulfilled when my nomination for Assistant Secretary of Commerce received the advice and consent of the Senate in 1992.
Despite being published sixty-years ago, this account of the proceedings for a fictional presidential nominee as Secretary of State accurately depicts the behind-the-scenes machinations… The confirmatory process is much the same as when the book was set – in the Cold War – with intrigue, scheming and character assassination which is exploited by power-hungry politicians, single-issue lobbyists, ambitious investigative journalists and ruthless social media mavens.
It is said that you must write fiction to convey the truth.
Currently reading: The Vagabonds: The Story of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison's Ten-Year Road Trip by Jeff Guinn
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
This book, which won the FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award in 2018, is truly riveting. In fact, Bill Gates included it as one of his ‘Five Books I Loved’ the same year and said: “I couldn’t put down this thriller.”
It’s a true story, describing a biomedical Silicon Valley start-up run by a charismatic and determined young woman, who is currently on trial in the US.
It brought home to me that, as a non-executive, your role is to challenge the management, not to be swayed by the CEO’s drive and charm and risk overlooking real problems in the business.
Currently reading: Chernobyl by Serhii Plokhy – which the recent TV series is based on
Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz
As an excited ten-year-old I was allowed to stay up late and watch the grainy black and white images of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Along with all the other amazing Apollo missions, I think this probably triggered my interest in engineering, computing and travel.
Fifty years on from this momentous event, I have recently re-read Gene Kranz’s book Failure is Not an Option. Kranz entered the space team pre-NASA and lived through Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs where he was flight director on Apollo 11 and 13.
Not only does this book tell the history of manned spaceflight but an outstanding story of bravery, risk and discovery, and of amazing teamwork, dedication and problem-solving.
The book itself has many simple messages to apply to our daily lives and is used extensively as a point of reference in business schools. It is candid about how each mission had numerous lessons for the next as the team avoided failure, often by seconds.
It’s a great read to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing.
Currently reading: End Game by David Baldacci
The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
Sinek explains that people in an organisation are either ‘finite’ or ‘infinite’ players. One aims to be the best for that moment in time; the other is more of an optimiser, working with a longer-term vision in mind.
In his theory, Sinek simplifies how we ought to think about a business model, talent, disruption and purpose. He gets the reader to think about the just cause – the why – and existential flexibility – the ability to pivot a business model – which every business must have in order to stay in the game.
This book is thought provoking and breaks down how we do business and why we put so much into it, but most importantly how we could do it better. A lot of what is written translates to our personal lives as well, making it the perfect summer read.
Currently reading: Methods of Persuasion by Nick Kolenda
The Challenger Spirit by Khurshed Dehnugara and Claire Genkai Breeze
Dehnugara and Breeze’s book has become a great addition to my leadership toolkit. In this ever-demanding world for businesses, the authors contrast the cultural and leadership styles of the ‘establishment mindset’ against the ‘agile mindset’. While the former sees a world of challenges and obstacles, the latter sees a world of opportunity and a willingness to run with the ball.
An easy read, I found it a helpful source of reflection on my own leadership and coaching style and how I create the right conditions or culture to help champion business transformation. Although probably targeted at the corporate world, it is nevertheless a good read for any leader open to reflecting on their own style and how they create energy and innovation in their organisation.
Currently reading: Golf Monthly magazine, desperately trying to improve my handicap!
The Tao of Coaching by Max Landsberg
Having recently received my executive coaching diploma I could not resist the temptation to review this book.
It is very concise and practical, presenting many coaching principles in the context of a number of real-life work and leadership challenges faced by the character, Alex. There are several tools presented, however what I have found particularly interesting is the instant payoff of coaching.
The structure for the coaching discussion between the leader and their direct report, outlined by Landsberg, takes only 15 minutes. I am still amazed by how much can be achieved in such a short time.
On the one hand, The Tao of Coaching is about helping and developing people around the leader, but it is also about increasing the effectiveness of the leaders themselves. The effects of coaching in the workplace can be more powerful than we imagine.
I'm currently reading: 12 Rules for Life: Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
Alice French, Editorial Assistant, Criticaleye