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The Book Shelf of a CEO

By Mike WardApril 04, 2018

As you can imagine, as CEO of a large e-commerce business, I read my fair share of business and leadership books and I thought I'd take a few minutes to check in with our reader community and fill you in on some of the books I've read in that category recently that I liked a lot.

The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

In this book John C. Maxwell takes leaders and divides them into five distinct levels, starting from the lowest to the most desired version. There's always a little overlap between the progression in the real world, but I found it helpful to name them and define the attributes. He starts with Level 1 – Position (where people follow you because they have to) and progresses to Level 5 – Pinnacle (where people follow because of who you are and what you represent).

Like all of John C. Maxwell's books, he mixes in plenty of real-world stories that serve as great examples of his concepts in action. Not only does this help make the book a more entertaining read, it also helps to cement the ideas in memory a little more clearly.

This book is well divided and would work well to study with a group, one section at a time. I've recommended it to teams of executives looking to improve their leadership skills.

FISH! by Lundin, Paul, and Christensen

This is a classic business parable set in the world-famous Pike Place Market of Seattle (I admit I have some bias) and uses the energy and culture of the fish market employees as the example and catalyst for a struggling leader to take control of a difficult managerial situation.

I enjoy picking this book up about once a year and reading through it on a lunch break, which I just did recently again. While there is no single insight in the book that you probably haven't heard before, the authors do a great job of putting several decades worth of takeaways related to team dynamics and morale into an entertaining format. I've recommended this book to many of my CEO peers when the topic of culture and engagement comes up.

This is a really quick read, can be absorbed quickly, and is worth having permanently on your book shelf.

Extreme Ownership: How US Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

This is a very interesting book and takes a relatively unique perspective on the power of owning your mistakes and growing from them, and the development that a team can have when the leader is willing to accept full responsibility.

The authors illustrate their points with stories from their time serving as Navy Seals that are powerful and gripping. They also then relate the principles back to more "real-world" scenarios we might find in the corporate space. This alleviated the initial skepticism I had that some of their ideas would work as well in business as they did in the battle field.

I read this a few months ago and I have found that this book has stayed with me. I've pondered more on it than I thought I would at the time I was reading it. This is worth putting on your wish list as we don't get many copies of this book as I assume most who buy it keep it for their shelves and to read again.

The authors did a good job of truly presenting me with something new to think about in the very crowded world of business-oriented, leadership books.

The Ideal Team Player by Pat Lencioni

Pat Lencioni has written over a dozen books on leadership and all of them are worth reading. This is one of his newer books, and like Fish!, is an easy read, written in the form of a business parable. This book has a lot of content and is divided well into different sections. This book will take you several days to read if you want to digest it properly.

Pat Lencioni digs in deep on the characteristics that make a "team player." We all know one when we see one. One of my business partners calls it having "the lights on" in your eyes. A Players, Rock Stars, 10x-ers, etc. They go by many names, but we all wish we had more of them in our organizations. If you are going to be doing any hiring at all in the near future, this book will be highly valuable in helping define the culture you want to hire for and then identifying compatible attributes in those you are hiring. This was a great read.


About the Author: Mike Ward is the CEO of ThriftBooks and an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction. To learn more, visit our About Us page.

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