Recommended reading on leadership
By Gail Marie
Consumer & Business Insights Director Chris Walsh is halfway through earning his MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, which means he has been reading a lot lately. We asked him which books he’d recommend to his coworkers and others in the industry. Below are his picks.
“The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox (1992)
This is a business operations book in the form of a story about a plant manager facing some major challenges. “It’s a dry but easy read,” says Chris. “I think it’s practically required reading for MBA students.” Why should you read it? “If you ask people what the purpose of their organization is, you’ll probably get a lot of different answers. And fundamentally, this is what’s holding them back. They’re all working toward a different goal, which creates inefficiencies.” The book’s cover may be a design nightmare, but you can get it on Amazon for under a buck and tear it off.
“Strengths Based Leadership” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie (2009)
This book lays out a system for evaluating a leader’s strengths and weaknesses meant to help leaders understand their leadership style. “Understanding your own leadership style creates a level of self-awareness that helps you understand how others might respond to it so that you can better work with them,” Chris explains. “There’s a whole section on why people follow, and I think good leaders should understand why people follow in the first place.” One of the more powerful insights in this book for Chris is the four basic needs of every employee: trust, compassion, stability and hope. “For someone leading a small team at McKinney, it’s important for me to understand what they expect from me.”
“Compete Smarter, Not Harder” by William Putsis (2013)
Dr. Putsis is a professor of marketing, economics, and business strategy at UNC and assigned this book to his class. Makes sense. Of the three books Chris recommends, this is the most academic. But basically, the good doctor gives a prescription for efficient marketing. His five-step approach starts with an assessment of the external business environment. As Chris says, “I know it’s cliché, but if you want to score in hockey, you have to skate to where the puck is going.” The book concludes with tactics, including positioning, who to reach, when to reach them, etc. Stuff McKinney is good at.
Wait, why is our director of Consumer & Business Insight earning a degree on the side? “I always wanted to get my MBA,” he explains, “to get a broader view of business than working in advertising gives me. I thought it would be illuminating for agency people to better understand our clients from their perspective.”
The books above are a great place to start.