“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” – President Harry S. Truman
For those who know me as a person who enjoys his whiskey, it is normally hard for them to believe that am a passionate reader. Reading is something I do both for fun and learning. With the introduction of e-books, it has become easy to enjoy a good book on almost all mobile devices. It is my strong belief that all business leaders should read at least 30 books per year and hence I have endeavored to have a good collection of books and spend a fair amount of time reading at home and when am travelling.
Reading is not only relaxing and entertaining, it is also eye opening and has helped me to tap into experiences of great men and women who have excelled in various aspects of life. Most movers and shakers have over the years shared their success stories, trials and tribulations in books and articles. These books and articles have been very beneficial to me and to helped me become a better leader, businessman, public speaker, father and husband.
In this write, I wish to share the five leadership and business books that have changed my life and the way I do things. I actually consider myself to be well read and my book collection range from finance, Christian literature, business insights, politics, conspiracy theories and sports.
The Power of Focus – Jack Canfield
I was introduced to this book in 2005 by my former boss at Zambia National Farmers Union Mr. Songowayo Zyambo who was our CEO then. SZ as we used to call him, bought copies of this book for all senior managers in the Union. As a young chartered accountant still learning the ropes of management, this book could not have come at a better time.
Whether you are corporate professionals, budding entrepreneurs, or own a home business, most people are looking to achieve more in less time, while earning enough money to live comfortably. This book reveals the proven techniques thousands of people have used to attain all of the money they wanted while living healthy, happy and balanced lives. The Power of Focus, from the coauthors of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul, is a practical no-nonsense guide that shows readers how to reach their business, personal and financial goals without getting burnt out in the process.
Canfield, Hansen, and Hewitt have taken the best ideas from their own successful careers (seventy-nine years of combined business expertise), and refined them into powerful focusing principles. The result is a treasury of insights that is enjoyable to read and easy to understand.
There are many lessons in this book if you’re looking to become more focused, motivated and successful in both business and life. My top five lessons from this book include;
1) Your Habit will Determine your future – Always develop a successful habit
2) Always See the Big Picture
3) Creating Optimum Balance – Always endeavor to strike a perfect work life balance
4) Building Excellent Relationships
5) Living on Purpose – Find a lonely place to think through and discover your purpose of existence
Losing my Virginity – Richard Branson
I read the first part of this book on a long haul flight from Johannesburg to Cairo over 13 years ago. I was expecting to be served some single malt only to be told that there was no alcohol on EgyptAir. I was a bit depressed to imagine how I would survive nine hours on a plane very sober but thanks to this book I remained sane throughput the flight.
Branson is one of the great entrepreneurs of our era, and it was truly inspiring to hear his story in his own words. A guy who skipped college and dove straight into business, and time and time again proved he can succeed with a lot of will, determination, and his maverick ability to take big bets and win. Please note am not encouraging anyone to drop out of college or university.
But this serial entrepreneur got a different inspiring story. It’s quite a motivational book to those who aspire to be serial entrepreneurs. Which means they run different businesses because they have this special talent.
Branson takes us through his adventurous, flamboyant life and shows us nothing is impossible. Even with over 600 pages, it never felt boring or slow. Definitely one of the most interesting autobiographies to read. It is full of exciting events, adventures and fun written in a very exciting manner.
South Africa’s Greatest Entrepreneurs
This book comprises a series of fascinating profiles on 22 of the most successful and dynamic business visionaries who have built empires in South Africa. This book is for anyone who has ever wanted to start their own business or simply wants to know how these individuals built sustainable businesses in South Africa.
The most interesting entrepreneurship story in the book is about Alan Knott-Craig Snr a retired South African former CEO of Vodacom (1996 – 2008) and Cell C (2012 – 2014). Alan was Senior General Manager of Mobile Communications at Telkom SA, before he moved to Vodacom. In 1996 he was appointed CEO of Vodacom. He held that position until he stepped down in 2008. Alan helped found Vodacom in South Africa while working for a state owned Telkom SA.
He faced a lot of challenges in convincing fellow managers and the board that mobile network would work in South Africa. When Vodacom was awarded a license to operate a GSM cellular network in South Africa in 1993, the company’s initial growth projections targeted 250,000 subscribers within 10 years. Within a short period, Alan realised that this was too conservative, and the company started to aggressively grow its network and increase capacity in the mid-nineties. After eight years, Vodacom had over five million subscribers, and continued to grow both its network and subscriber base at a rapid rate.
Today, Vodacom is the largest telecoms provider in South Africa, and provides mobile and fixed telecoms services to over 65 million customers in five countries. The greatest lesson from this book is never to limit your entrepreneurial mindset in the work place regardless of who you are working for. Alan taught me that aggressive entrepreneurship while working for either public sector, private sector, or social sector can help shape your business acumen and prepare you to run a success personal business in future.
Alex Ferguson – Leading
Sir Alex Ferguson (SAF) is one of the most celebrated soccer managers in the world. SAF has won all the trophies available in European soccer and shares his success story in this book. The key lesson I learnt in this book is his explanation of the difference between leading and managing.
SAF explained that leading is about inspiration and getting everyone to trust in their ability, that they can achieve what they never thought they could achieve. Leaders must use their personality and conviction to transmit to everyone that they are on the right path. But it’s very hard to motivate people unless you understand them. Managing on the other hand involves controlling or directing people.
I have also learnt from this book, never to spend much time looking back at a win or a defeat, but to focus on the next day and the next challenge. From this lesson, my leadership approach is to develop a character and a belief in people that I lead or intend to lead. Other lessons include the importance of having a strong work ethic.
Heroic Leadership – Chris Lowney
Being a strong catholic, if there is such a thing, I have been involved in a number of lay organisations of the church from the age of 12 when I joined the altar boys club. I served as an altar boy for five years until the age of 16 when I thought I was too old to continue wearing skirts in front of people. I later joined the Christian Life Community (CLC), a catholic lay organisation that has adopted an Ignatian model of spiritual life.
It was in CLC where I fell in love with the life of Ignatius of Loyola and his Ignatian spirituality. In 2016, I attended a workshop at Kasisi on “Leading Ignatian Way” and one of the facilitators, Fr Charlie Chilufya SJ talked about Chris Lowney and his Heroic Leadership books. I managed to lay my hands on his two books, Heroic Leadership and Heroic Living.
After living for seven years as a Jesuit seminarian, practicing vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the Jesuit general in Rome, Chris Lowney was transformed into a corporate man as an investment banker at JP Morgan. Lowney’ s years in business revealed that leadership challenges, especially how to recruit and mold leadership in your company’s teams, is a universal corporate challenge faced by all companies around the world and throughout time.
This book has taught me that personal leadership is a never ending work in progress that draws on continually maturing self-understanding. I have learnt that the external environment evolves and personal circumstances change, as do personal priorities. These changes demand consistent balanced growth and evolution as a leader. The strong leader relishes the opportunity to continue learning about self and the world and looks forward to new discoveries and interests.
Chris Lowney uses four leadership pillars that guided Jesuits and formed the basis of Jesuit corporate culture. These are:
1. Self-awareness – understanding your strengths, weaknesses, values and worldview.
2. Ingenuity – confidently innovating and adapting to embrace a changing world.
3. Love – engaging others with a positive, loving attitude.
4. Heroism – energizing themselves and others through heroic ambitions.
I have since made these as my personal leadership pillars as well.
Like my leadership mentor Fr Charlie Chilufya SJ likes to say…..Reader today, Leader tomorrow.
Now go get yourself a book.