From 3 Equations to Taking People with You: What Top Leaders are Writing and New Leaders are Reading

You can tell a lot about a person just by observing what they read.

Whenver I travel, I get a chance to sample a wide variety of selections. It is not just the titles that reveal a little slice of personality and taste, it's also the device of choice.

Likely a Kindle app on iPad for the business traveler (that is also my choice), a Kindle for the avid readers of fiction, laptops for broader entertainment — music, movie, book or work — and a smartphone for games.

Sometimes a combination of devices.

We've taken learning and entertainment in our own hands.

What Top Leaders are Writing and New Leaders are Reading

For this edition of business and technology trends, we're taking a look at the topics of focus for business leaders and what I see on the desks of the tech founders I meet.

From 3 equations that change your life to taking people with you, from biographies to popular how to guides, the variety of choices and fresh thinking makes me want to load up my kindle for the next trip.

Saturday Four

The four reviews that caught my eye this week are:


1Successful entrepreneur Chip Conley is tallying up emotional equations. Using the language of grammar, he illustrates simple truths for creating happiness and success. Dan Pink interviews Conley:

You define despair as suffering minus meaning (Despair = Suffering – Meaning). What does that mean?

Viktor Frankl’s landmark book “Man’s Search for Meaning” was my salvation 3-4 years ago when I was going through a depressing time. I turned that profound book into this equation so that it could serve as a daily reminder or mantra on a bad day. Suffering is basically a constant in life.

[…] Meaning is the variable – it’s what you make of it.

For Happiness — which we often think of in terms of more — Conley uses division (Wanting What You Have / Having What You Want), and for Anxiety, he uses multiplication (Uncertainty x Powerlessness).


2Most books by sitting CEOs seem like they are pure fluff pieces, or worse, pure vanity projects, says Bob Sutton. His review of Taking People With You By David Novak is Great Read and Most Useful. The book is based  upon a program Mr. Novak teaches personally 8 times a year at YUM!:

[…] it contains many of the specifics from this program, which as he told me, he has refined over the years as he teaches it about 8 times a year and, so far, it has involved about 4000 people from YUM! The three overall sections are: Get Your Mindset Right, Have a Plan: Strategy, Structure, and Culture, and Follow Through to Get Results.   These headlines are typical, and certainly not original, but once I started digging into how the book deals with them, I was very impressed with the detail, and specific suggestions, and how each chapter contains such specific and useful tools.

The tools include "picture step-by-step change," "choose powerful versus limiting mindsets," "get to know people," "get whole brained," plus self-assessment tools throughout. Developing great leaders in the company is Mr. Novak's number one priority, and he walks the talk.


3Many young tech entrepreneurs have been inspired by Steve Jobs. Which is why when Walter Isaacson's biography came out, I saw it on many desks. Two interviews that may give you further insights are a one on one with Isaacson by Nick Bilton, the New York Times, and a conversation with Charlie Rose.

On Bits:

So it was his passion that drove his petulance?
Absolutely. It wasn’t just churlishness. It was his passion for being truly driven to make a great company and great products. He was deeply emotionally aware of everything around him.

[…] After writing the book, what was your main takeaway of who Steve Jobs was?
He had a lot of contradictions in his personality. Connecting a counterculture, rebel, misfit sensibility with a business-like, engineering sensibility is part of what made him contradictory, but what also made him amazing.

On Charlie Rose:

How was it different writing this beyond the obvious? He was alive, Ben Franklin was dead… It was astonishingly different, in ways I hadn't thought of. Two ways in particular: you realize that most biographers know very little of the intimate details of their subjects […] I realized that I almost knew more about him than I knew about myself, we don't have that of our leaders. I can think of very few leaders who have been so open so that you really have a pretty full record. The other thing that was difficult was when he stepped down as CEO of Apple. He talked to me right afterward and we talked for an hour. He said: he's what happened, here's what I said and within the next 24 hours I talked to another three people who were at the meeting and I looked at my notes and had four different versions of the story. This wasn't because of spin or anything like that. It was that he had such a magical force field around him that people remembered things differently. With Ben Franklin, you had what he wrote in his diary…

The emotional charge of being in the presence of an extraordinary contemporary.


4The economic story has become the master narrative of our time. Tech entrepreneur Caterina writes about engineers without borders and Monoculture:

A book I recently read, Monoculture: How one story is changing everything, shows how the economic story is the master narrative that shapes our culture in the modern age, and that resisting that monoculture is the way to human dignity and freedom.

Strong, resilient, and enduring businesses are formed with trading better promises. Is this the human, trust-based way of trade?


Trade is personal. Technology is ubiquitous. Emotion breaks through the rules.