After having read and reviewed so many business books, I now share brief comments about what I consider to be the 25 most valuable business insights and the books in which they are either introduced or (one man’s opinion) best explained. Here are the third five:
11. Leadership: In essence, leaders attract followers so that together they can achieve shared objectives, guided and informed by shared values based on mutual trust and respect. History’s greatest leaders are remembered for a heritage, usually based on great achievements that had an enduring impact. Alexander and then Julius Caesar for establishing or extending a great empire and Lincoln for preserving union despite a civil war.
The same is true of great business leaders such as Albert Sloan, Thomas Watson Sr. and Jr., and Steve Jobs. They could not have succeeded, had they not attracted sufficient followers who embraced both a dream and great challenges. Today, no organization can survive – much less thrive – without effective leadership at all levels and in all areas. Seth Godin said it well: “Initiative is taken, not given.”
Best Sources: Warren Bennis’ On Becoming a Leader, James O’Toole’s The Executive’s Compass: Business and the Good Society, Bill George’s True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership co-authored with Peter Sims, and William C. Taylor’s Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself
12. Management: In essence, managers organize and then complete tasks and among their most important tasks is supervising others. The most efficient managers do that most efficiently. I’ve always believed that managers keep the promises that leaders make. With all due respect to compelling visions, someone has to take out the garbage, milk the cows, and turn off the lights. I agree with Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”
Best Sources: Henry Mintzberg’s Management? It Isn’t What You Think!, Peter F. Drucker’s The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done, and Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done co-authored by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
13. Marketing: Create or increase demand for a customer-focused, multi-sensory experience that pro0mises a unique, enjoyable, and fulfilling experience. Initially, a “market” was a specific location; later, it was viewed as a specific segment of sellers/buyers (e.g. housing) and then as a cluster of demographics (e.g. males ages 29-45); later, marketing was defined as a brand, then a promise, and now an experience that creates “customer evangelists.”
Best Sources: Theodore Levitt’s The Marketing Imagination and Philip Kotler’s Kotler on Marketing.
14. Mergers & Acquisitions: Mergers are (usually) blended consolidations of two previously independent entities whereas acquisitions (usually) involve one entity being absorbed and then controlled by another. A majority of M&As fail or fall far short of expectations and the reasons vary but usually include irreconcilable cultural differences (e.g. values, silos, and turf issues).
Best Sources: Steve Steinhilber’s Strategic Alliances: Three Ways to Make Them Work (Memo to the CEO) and The Complete Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions: Process Tools to Support M&A Integration at Every Level co-authored by Timothy J. Galpin and Mark Herndon.
15. “Open” Mindset: This mindset is well-named because those who develop are literally “open” (i.e. receptive to and respectful of) whatever possibilities they may encounter. They constantly ask “why?” and “Why not?” They consider, compare/contrast, and integrate sometimes contradictory information but also opinions, assertions, theories, etc. The metaphor I use to describe this mindset is that it opens doors and windows and sheds light on whatever has possible relevance and value. The singe most significant, indeed defining characteristic of an open mindset is insatiable curiosity.
Best Sources: Henry Chesbrough’s Open Business Models: How to Thrive in the New Innovation Landscape, Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology, and Open Services Innovation: Rethinking Your Business to Grow and Compete in a New Era as well as Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking, and Morten T. Hansen’s Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results