As top executives around the world enjoy a week or two of summer holidays, now is the perfect time to escape the office and become inspired. This week we’re looking at the books that have significantly impacted our members’ careers and leadership styles.
Chief Digital Officer, The Economist Group
Zero to One: Notes on Start-ups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
The book I would recommend most to leaders, and in particular entrepreneurial thinkers, is Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel.
Venture capitalist, PayPal co-founder and early Facebook investor, Theil discusses ideas that challenge conventional thinking. Influenced by the notes taken by graduate students in his class at Stanford, Thiel’s arguments are backed up by business thinking and lessons from history.
Zero to One is dense and informative without reading like a rant. The book has allowed me to identify and focus on the most impactful areas of the business and demonstrate how to scale ideas in those areas.
I’m currently reading: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
Criticaleye Board Mentor and NED at Mothercare
Secrets of a CEO Coach by D. A. Benton
In his book, Benton presents some insightful yet practical techniques that can help you become a better leader and reach your potential. It provides an opportunity to challenge the things you know about yourself as a leader and to improve areas in which you are less impactful.
I particularly like the observations about attitude management. Benton emphasises the importance of emptying one's mind of negative, disruptive or obsessive thoughts, and instead nurturing mental energy and talking to yourself positively.
While the book is aimed at CEOs and those aspiring to the role, it makes excellent reading for anybody who is prepared to question themselves and is eager to make a change.
I’m currently reading: Secrets of Confident People by Richard Nugent
CEO, First Bank of Nigeria
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I recommend reading The Idiot by Dostoyevsky to CEOs, senior management and, in fact, to all staff in any firm. It offers philosophical inspiration that can help you remain authentic, independent and true to your own values – whatever environment or conflict you find yourself in.
The book is compelling and unique in its depiction of the main character, Prince Mychkin, whose goodness, ethics and humility (in spite of being part of the nobility) leads many of the book's characters to assume that he lacks intelligence and insight. He is in contrast, a source of wisdom and compassion in a society of greed, egoism and jealousy.
I am currently reading: The Spinoza Problem by Irvin D. Yalom
Managing Director, Criticaleye
The Seabird’s Cry by Adam Nicholson
New York Times best-selling author, Adam Nicholson, looks at the harsh reality facing our planet’s seabirds in the past decades, a population that has fallen by some 70 percent due to pollution and overfishing. Nicholson provides context for this research through captivating discussions on social anthropology and seabird folklore.
While the book may be of specific interest to those familiar with the West Coast of Scotland, engaged in environmental activism, or passionate about wildlife, The Seabird’s Cry would appeal to anyone looking for a good read and a bit of a literary escape. Nicholson calls for readers to challenge norms of consumption, offering a fresh perspective for anyone looking to move beyond the bubble of the traditional business case.
In Nicholson’s observation that, “seabirds cross the boundary between the matter-of-fact and the imagined,” several parallels with leadership emerge. In particular, it has helped me to better appreciate the consequences of my actions and the influence I have on those around me, both as a leader and as an individual.
I am currently reading: Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
NED Sussex Partnership NHS Trust
Jeremy Hutchinson's Case Histories: From Lady Chatterley's Lover to Howard Marks by Thomas Grant
A biography on the life and career of a famous criminal barrister, this book offers a series of highly compelling essays on Jeremy Hutchinson’s most publicised and dramatic court cases, many of which dealt with charges of espionage, obscenity and other political scandals (like the famous Profumo affair).
Beyond the intrigue of these real-life stories, Hutchinson’s values and personal traits could be a source of inspiration to any business leader. Hutchinson stands up for what he believes in, his style is independent and fearless and he shows fantastic empathy with his clients. He also comes at problems from an alternative point of view.
I recommend this book to anyone in the business community, although readers who grew up in the 1960s and 70s may recognise and appreciate more of the celebrated or infamous characters in Hutchinson’s cases.
I am currently reading: Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh
By Livia Reuss
Want to read more? Try this forecast on the future of brand storytelling and customer engagement in Fjord’s Trends 2017