What has Henry IV and Frog and Toad got to do with leading Business Thinkers? As it turns out, a lot!

A December article in the Wall Street Journal reports on what books a group of business leaders make their must-read lists.

What I always find interesting is the way the mob of budding business leaders flock to popular titles. Not long back it was Blue Ocean Strategy: great analysis but did it do much to change my life? Most of my life developing and leading business I’ve been drawn to surprising titles that simply resonated. These have been my intellectual mainstay. I could never get interested in pop topics, including the books I purchased after hearing an inspiring speaker!

Instead, my hungry young business mind needed food for developing and understanding what makes people tick. I found myself powerfully drawn to unknowns that jumped off the shelf – Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, Doug Hall’s Jump Start Your Brain,  John Douglas’ Mind Hunter (the author of FBI Profiling),  and Principles of NLP &  NLP for Managers (what was it, it sounded interesting?) Not forgetting Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

My thinking has always been, it you want to stay ahead of the crowd, seek what inspires you, not what is touted by the marketing machine.

What is it that the Business Leaders featured in the Wall Street Journal are drawn to in their ‘must-read’ lists? Their favourites are not even business books but often philosophical – or spark formulative thinking. Don’t be fooled by the genre; a child’s book can infuse profound lessons that provide a guiding light throughout life.

What would a leader want to read? Include what moulds values, vision and deep insight into people. A few of the titles I chose include First Break All the Rules (Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman) , Thinking in Pictures (Temple Grandin), The Gift of Dyslexia (Ronald Davis), and Banker to the Poor (Mohammed Yusef).

Do you want your company or business environment to be led by the kind of people Jeffrey Pfeffer, organizational behaviour professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business, describes?…

“What is amazing is not just that people are greedy and prone to engage in ethically questionable activities; the big lesson is how people can reach unimaginable positions of power and essentially be (a) incompetent, and (b) not willing to do even the most mundane and trivial parts of their job.”

…Or prefer to live from “a beautiful parable for recent work in behavioral economics on various mechanisms for tying one’s own hands in the face of temptation” – compliments of Frog and Toad.

Powerful leadership begins in the mind, and it matters what philosophies provide the guiding light.