A holiday reading list: How to get inspired this Christmas

A holiday reading list: How to get inspired this Christmas

Time is running out to get all your holiday reading in order, especially for those who buy books online. We asked our expert contributors what books they think leaders should read over the holiday break.

To start us off, here’s something for everyone. Our time-poor editor, Kath Walters, has turned to The HBR Guide to Getting the Right Work Done, for time-saving tips and some fabulous insights into keeping her (flagging) energy levels up till the end of the year.

Crocodile hunter (and business leader) Andrew Stewart recommends The Watchers by Stephen Alford. He says it's "an antidote to today’s kids-gloves management".

“Alford offers an executive summary of brutal leadership. Pre-email and sans political correctness, Alford shows how great public sector and business leaders would wait months for vital information, then act with startling speed and brutality.”

Our communications specialist Yamini Naidu recommends the much-lauded Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us by Daniel H Pink. “Every leader is in the business of influence and motivation, and here's an opportunity to find out what we have been doing wrong all along and what really motivates people,” she says. “Be prepared to be surprised.”

And if you haven’t read this classic yet, she also recommends Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die by Dan and Chip Heath. “It’s absolutely worth a read,” she says. “It shows how to package your ideas so people listen, get it, and act.”

Not sure you’ve got your pricing right? Our pricing guru Jon Manning says Mark Striving’s pragmatic Impact Pricing shouldn’t be missed.

Striving’s book is unusual in dismissing a key tenet of pricing theory: price elasticity. But as Striving writes, he’s “never seen a company that really knows its demand curve,” so given the practical uselessness of demand-curve analysis, he finds other ways to guide readers.

This practical focus makes the book, in Manning’s estimation, the primary pricing book of the 21st century. 

Career coach Kelly Magowan suggests James Waldroop and Timothy Butler’s 12 Habits that hold good people back. Using real-client case studies, executive coaches who’ve worked with clients from some of the world’s biggest companies distil 12 behaviours that lead people to fail in their careers.

“Many people will identify with some of the 12 habits, such as ‘never feeling good enough’, ‘seeing the world in black and white’, and ‘avoiding conflict at any cost’,” Magowan says.

“While we may all fall into some of these categories, the career damage occurs when the behaviour is at the more extreme end. As the book states we all have our Achilles heels, and this book offers insights and tips of how to best manage them.”

Investment expert Dale Gillham says you can’t go past George Clason’s The Richest Man in Babylon.

“I first read this book as a 19-year-old and was immediately struck by the simplicity of its principles in how to create wealth in your life. First published in 1926, the book weaves beautiful Babylonian parables of a boy and his journey to understand the subjects of thrift, financial planning, success and personal wealth creation. This is a perfect summer time read for anyone, not just those interested in success or making money.”

For strategy nuts, career consultant Brian Gardner recommends W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgn’s Blue Ocean Strategy: How to create uncontested market space and make competition irrelevant.

“If you operate in a crowded market-place with little differentiation other than price, the book will challenge you. The authors argue that lasting success comes from creating ‘blue oceans’ – that is, untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.”

Management writer Leon Gettler says he loved David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect.

“Veteran technology reporter David Kirkpatrick got access to Facebook insiders, including Mark Zuckerberg, to examine the history of the company, from its beginnings in a dorm room, and how it has exerted its power.”

LeadingCompany reporter Myriam Robin recommends Barbara Kellerman’s The End of Leadership. Kellerman argues that since the enlightenment, we’ve been tearing down our leaders. The fall of church and state in our estimation left a vacuum the corporate leader has filled. But the power of the corporate leader is fading as technology and individual agency makes them ineffective.
“Kellerman, a professor of leadership at Harvard Business School, is at her most provocative when she’s tearing down what she calls ‘the leadership industry’ – the countless consultants and gurus who teach us how to lead. She says we’re failing leaders by not preparing them for their own irrelevance. It’s a timely and important book.”

Social media expert and PR consultant Catriona Pollard says she’s been inspired by Peter Popham’s The Lady and the Peacock, which delves into the life of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Over the past 20 years, the military junta have tried to humiliate, denigrate, blackmail and even assassinate her,” Pollard says. “They have underestimated her. With grace and compassion she has stood her ground. An inspirational book about a truly remarkable woman.”

If you love our contributors, some of them have books of their own.

Chris Golis has a new book out, Introducing the HUMM, which he says is the best model of emotional intelligence. It's useful reading to find your strengths and weaknesses, and start the new year a more effective leader.

Our investment writer, Dale Gillham, is the author of How to beat the managed funds by 20% – as we'll all watch our bank balances plummet over the Christmas season, it’s comforting to be thinking of a strategy to get us out of the hole we are digging.

For those whose tastes run to fiction, Secret Runners' Business author Brian Martin recommends Armadillo, by William Boyd.

The novel is about Lorimer Black, a quintessential English gentleman working for an upstanding firm of London-based insurance loss adjusters whose life is thrown into turmoil by a series of unfortunate events.  “In a world captivated by personality, this novel explores the lengths we will go to in order to assume the identity expected of us, to be accepted and succeed in corporate life,” Martin says.

Our Power Play columnist Rose Herceg says she often comes back to Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Atticus Fitch is arguably one of the greatest examples of leadership ever,” she says.

Five readers can win a copy of Dale Gillham's How to beat the managed funds by 20%. Just email us with your holiday reading. 

Myriam Robin

Reporter

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Myriam Robin is a reporter for SmartCompany and its sister site LeadingCompany. She has degrees in economics, international studies and journalism. She likes writing about businesses taking risks and doing new things.