Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kellogg strategy prof recommends 3 books for aspiring leaders

Harry Kraemer’s Required Reading

by Theodore Kinni
One of my favorite lines from a business book was written by Harry Kraemer: “Throughout my career, up to and including when I was CEO, I benefited from the fact that I worked with a number of amazing people who were willing to prevent me from doing things that did not make sense.” Oh, the humility!

Since stepping down as chairman and CEO of Baxter International in 2004, Kraemer has been a leading advocate of values-based leadership, which he says is supported by four principles: self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence, and genuine humility. He has written books exploring those principles, including Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2011), which includes that favorite line. Currently, Kraemer serves as a clinical professor of strategy at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, where he was named Professor of the Year in 2008, and as an executive partner at Madison Dearborn Partners, a private equity firm.

Other people’s books have played an important role in Kraemer’s career. “Values-based leadership starts within, developing the self-awareness and self-knowledge that allows you to become your best self. As your best self, you are better able to relate to and influence others, which is the essence of leadership,” he explained to me. “Although the process is highly personal, I have always found insight and inspiration in the thoughts and experiences of others.” Kraemer called out the following three books as especially notable for having “helped me look more deeply at my own actions and behaviors, and how I can become my best self.”
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (HarperCollins, 1952)
“A classic of philosophical and religious thought, this book presents a compelling argument for the existence of moral law that governs the behaviors of all people. I read it for the first time many years ago when I attended my first silent retreat at the invitation of my future father-in-law. I was immediately taken by Lewis’s conversion from nonbeliever to believer, because he kept an open mind as he explored the beliefs and opinions of others. In addition to guiding my spiritual journey, Mere Christianity influenced my leadership by providing examples of values-based leadership principles, especially balance (listening to a variety of opinions to gain a broad perspective) and genuine humility (knowing that everyone is important and no one has all the answers).”

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey (Simon & Schuster, 1989)
“One of the quintessential books on leadership, 7 Habits never ceases to inspire me with its depth and simplicity. Covey’s habits, including being proactive as opposed to reactive, beginning with the end in mind, and win/win thinking, are straightforward leadership lessons that can be applied at every career level. For me, these powerful practices serve as affirmations on the path of values-based leadership.”

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon & Schuster, 2005)
“Abraham Lincoln was one of the greatest leaders in history, and Goodwin’s book offers deep insights into his leadership approach. Lincoln knew that he needed to bring together a team of the absolutely best people after he was elected president in 1860, and as he led the nation through the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. And he did exactly that — no matter that those people held very different views or even that they disliked him personally and had opposed his presidency. (Three of Lincoln’s cabinet members had run against him in the 1860 election, including Secretary of State William Seward.) I can’t think of a more powerful role model for bridging differences of opinion and using diversity of perspectives to lead more effectively.”

p.s. Harry Kramer's new book, Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership (Wiley, 2015), is also well worth a read.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The top executive coach calls out 4 must-read books

Marshall Goldsmith’s Required Reading

by Theodore Kinni

The other day I was reading about a CEO who had a near-fatal skiing accident, which caused him to embrace a more humanist approach to leadership that is now transforming his company. Marshall Goldsmith would call the accident a trigger, which he defines as “any major or minor stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions.” In his new book, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts — Becoming the Person You Want to Be (Crown, 2015), he explores the role that such stimuli play in behavior change.

Helping leaders achieve positive, lasting behavior change has been Goldsmith’s life work. A top-rated executive coach, he has worked with more than 150 CEOs of major companies and their management teams. Among many recognitions and awards he has received, Goldsmith has been ranked among the 15 most influential business thinkers in the world in the biannual Thinker50 list since 2009. He teaches executive education at Dartmouth’s Tuck School and has been a volunteer teacher for U.S. Army generals, Navy admirals, Girl Scout executives, and International and American Red Cross leaders.

Goldsmith has written more than 30 books, including What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (Hachette, 2007) and MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It (Hachette, 2010), winner of the Harold Longman Award for Business Book of the Year. When I asked him to name a few books that could serve as triggers for leaders who are intent on enhancing their performance, he recommended the following titles.

Hesselbein on Leadership, by Frances Hesselbein (Jossey-Bass, 2013)
“Of all of the great leaders that I have had the honor to coach, Frances Hesselbein, the former CEO of the Girl Scouts of America and a winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S., stands out as one of the few from whom I learned far more than I taught. Peter Drucker said that she was the most effective executive that he had ever met, and after having served on the Drucker Foundation Advisory Board for 10 years, I can assure you that he was no easy grader! In Hesselbein on Leadership, Frances shares her philosophy on leadership and life. If you take nothing else away from it except the importance of leading by example, reading it will be time well spent.”

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner (5th ed., Jossey-Bass, 2012)
“This book, first published more than 25 years ago, in 1987, is still the gold standard on leadership. The five leadership practices that it details are based on extensive research, and they add up to the most comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of what it takes to be a great leader that I have ever seen. And I love the stories and examples because they are immediately applicable by leaders at all levels — not just CEOs.”

Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human Resources, by Paul Hersey, Kenneth Blanchard, and Dewey Johnson (10th ed., Prentice Hall, 2013)
“The development of the situational leadership theory by Paul and Ken in the 1970s gave us the first practical model for analyzing situations and determining which leadership style work best in each. Since then, I have taught this model to thousands of leaders. The ideas in this textbook can seem like common sense, but they are far from common practice.”

The Miracle of Mindfulness: A Manual on Meditation, by Thich Nhat Hanh (Beacon Press, 1999)
“I have been a philosophical Buddhist for many years and have read more than 400 books on Buddhism, but no other Buddhist author has influenced my thinking as much as Thich Nhat Hanh. His work is simple and profound at the same time. What, for instance, could be more powerful a leadership mind-set than to approach every task as an opportunity to enhance your awareness of the world? Many of the elements of my coaching process, such as feedforward, have been derived from this Vietnamese monk’s work.”