Eric D. Brown, D.Sc.

Data Science | Entrepreneurship | ..and sometimes Photography

Category: Book Reviews (page 2 of 10)

The Steve Jobs Way – Book Review

steve-jobs-wayNote: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher / PR firm.

I’m not an Apple ‘fan-boy’ and don’t much like Steve Job’s personality, but I like The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a New Generation (amazon affiliate link).  There’s nothing earth shattering here from a leadership standpoint…but its a good ‘inside Apple’ book that highlights some of the key things Jobs has done at Apple to help push the company to the leadership position it has today.

Don’t let the title fool you though…this is not a treatise on Steve Jobs leadership style, philosophy or his theories on leadership.  You won’t find a ‘recipe’ for building the team that builds the next Apple or iPod or Mac but what you will are some really interested stories about Apple’s internal workings, how Jobs built the initial Mac team and what it was like working with/for Steve Jobs.

There are some really interesting stories in the book…but again….don’t think that you’ll pick up this book and, after reading it, lead like Steve Jobs or Apple did.  It doesn’t work that way for any book.

The book is split into four main sections that cover product, talent, organization and sales/marketing and each provide a very interesting insight into how Apple & Jobs approached each area.  There are many lessons to be learned in each section – such as hiring good, passionate people and put them to work with other good, passionate people.  Like I said, nothing earth shattering here but a good read.

My only real concern / gripe about the book is this:  the title makes me think the author is providing insight into Apple & Steve Jobs entire history up until the modern day. The ‘iLeadership’ word makes me think about the modern day Apple.

This seems a bit misleading since lliot hasn’t been directly involved in Apple since the mid to late 1990’s. As far as I could tell, he left Apple before Jobs returned the 2nd time. Nothing wrong with that of course…and there’s really a lot to learn from Apple’s founding and release of the Macintosh…but the title of the book made me think that I’d be reading about stories and learning insights from the modern day Apple. The author does talk about Apple during Jobs’ second stint as CEO but its not quite the same as the the insight garnered  while Elliot was still intimately involved at Apple.

Regardless…this is a good book. It won’t really be on the shelf of leadership scholars – but its a good read for those interested in corporate history, Apple’s history and/or Steve Jobs.



The Little Black Book of Leadership – a book review

Last week the author of The Little Black Book of Leadership, Todd Dewett Ph.D., contacted me to say hello, complement me on my work here and offer up an electronic copy of his book.

I receive variants of this type of email quite often.  Most are from agents and PR folks trying to get a review of their clients book.  I’ve started stepping back from accepting offers of books to review, mainly due to time constraints on my side.

So, normally, when i receive these types of emails, I polity decline.  But…this time…I couldn’t decline.


A few reasons:

  • 1.) Todd made the note personal.
  • 2.) Todd made the note about me and not his book.
  • 3.) Todd included a funny little photo (see below photo) that caught my eye and got me interested in learning more about him, his services and his book.

Photo from Todd Dewett's email

So…I promptly said I’d take a look at the book.  I’m boy am I glad I did.

While scanning the book, I saw a passage that jumped out at me…and caused me to stop scanning and start reading.

That passage is:

It is a big lie that “managers” and “leaders” are different things! Managers deal with the present. Leaders deal with the future.

Simple statement but powerful.  Think about all the commentary out there in acadamia, the interwebz and in books about ‘leadership’ vs ‘management’.  Sure…the concepts are different….but at the end of the day, a good leader is one who can manage well…and vice versa….or at least it should be that way.

I’ve known good ‘managers’ who couldn’t lead their teams to save their lives.  I’ve also known good ‘leaders’ who could get people focused and moving in the right direction…but the most successful people I know are those who could do both roles at the same time.  They can lead and manage extremely well.

I read through the book twice….once while scanning and again with more focus on the content and I have to say this is a pretty darn good little book.

Is there anything in the book that’s groundbreaking?  Nope. Nothing new either….but the way that Dr. Dewett presents the material is golden.  This book isn’t something you read once and put on the shelf…its a checklist and reference guide combined.  Its something that you can use at any stage of your career to become a great leader.  The book has some great little nuggets of knowledge that will make it worth your time.

Check out Todd’s Fuel for Leaders website and pick up a copy of his book in his shop.  I think you’ll be happy you did,.

The Next Level by Scott Eblin – Book Review

Late last week I received The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success, 2nd Edition by Scott Eblin (amazon affiliate link) from Daniel Decker of the Higher Level Group to review (thanks Daniel!).

I normally receive a few offers from agents, PR firms, and authors to review their books, and for the most part I accept those offers….and normally I’ll post a review on here.  Thankfully, I’ve enjoyed most of the books I receive…and I enjoyed this one as well.

That said, this book isn’t for everyone.

Quick Review of the book

So…what is this book about?

From the dustcover of the book:

Moving successfully to the executive level requires knowing which behaviors and beliefs to let go, as well as which new ones to pick up.  This confidence building book outlines a program for success based on frank advice from accomplished senior executives around the world on what to do and, just as important, what to avoid.

I’d say that synopsis is accurate.  The book provides a good walk-through of what skills are needed to be successful by senior level executives.

But…are these skills just for senior level executives?  Nope…anyone can pick up these skills to use in their current role…whether that role is as a consultant, senior executive, entrepreneur or student.

For example…Chapter 2 is titled:

Pick up Confidence in your Presence; Let go of Doubt in how you Contribute.

Pretty powerful statement in that title, don’t you think?  Have confidence in your abilities and push out the doubt.

Overall, this is a good book and worth picking up by anyone looking for advice / coaching on things that can be done to improve your career.

If you’ve had a good role model in your career, this book might be a repeat of what you’ve learned from your mentor and/or role model….but there might still be some good nuggets of information in here for you.

If you don’t believe in ‘ business / personal coaches’  and think you’ve got all the skills you need to be a senior level leader / manager in a large organization…move along.  This book won’t have anything of substance for you.

Of course…if you think you’ve got all the skills you need, you’re deluding yourself.  Everyone can learn something new.

A Plethora of Book Reviews

I get the occasional request to review a book or two from publishers, PR folks and authors.

Normally, I get less than one request a month for reviewing books but over the last month I’ve received quite a few more….five to be exact.

Its usually pretty easy for me to read through one additional book per month on top of all the other reading I do but lots of things got in the way over the last few months, so and I wasn’t able to get to all the books as fast as I would have liked.

That said, I finally go through all five books and, rather then write up five different posts reviewing each book, I decided to put them all together here. So…here goes…

Oh…and cover of the last book is awesome…enjoy 🙂

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter {affiliate link}

Multipliers - the bookThis is a pretty good book  by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown that describes the difference between two leadership styles that the authors call Multipliers and Diminshers.

A Multipler is a leader who is able to extract so much value from their direct reports, colleagues and coworkers while a Diminisher is a leader who tends to suck the energy, excitement and passion out of their direct reports and coworkers. Multipliers enhance the abilities of others while diminishers degrade the abilities of others.

While I thought the book was quite good, I found parts of it difficult to pay attention. I kept having to put it down and pick it up a day or two later.  This was due mostly to my inability to focus in sections of the book because I felt like some of the material was repetitive.

That said, this is a well written book. There are quite a few real world examples provided and some excellent discussion of leadership styles…well worth the read if you are into leadership books.

Lead Like Ike: Ten Business Strategies from the CEO of D-Day {affiliate link}

Lead Like IkeWritten by Geoff Loftus. I liked this book….but not necessarily because it offered great, actionable, ideas for leadership. I loved this book because it takes a look at the historical context around Eisenhower’s leadership styles and decisions he made.

I love history and history books and this one doesn’t disappoint.  That said, there’s not really a lot of actionable information in this book that you can’t find in every other leadership book out there.

Like I said..great book…if you like history.  If you’re a student of military history, military leadership or leadership in general, you’ll probably like this book.  If you’re looking for leadership and strategy advice I’d say find another book.

Leading at Light Speed: Build Trust, Spark Innovation, and Create a High-Performing Organization {affiliate link}

Leading at Light Speed Written by Eric F. Douglas.  According to the PR release, this book is a leadership book for anyone wanting to build organizations that perform at high levels.

Now…I think everyone wants to build organizations that perform at high levels. So..this book is for everyone right?

The book goes into the fundamentals of leadership and then describes ten ‘quantum leaps’ to take to become a better leader. Sounds awesome right?  Quantum leaps makes you think of physics…or that television show with Scott Bakula.

Douglas’ ten quantum leaps are nothing new really.  Things like ‘align the core values’, ‘lead through others’, ‘manage decisions well’ and ‘stimulate the creative flow’ along with others.

Like I said…the ideas aren’t anything new but they are delivered in a way that’s at least interested to read.  This book is well written and, although it uses some corny terms and doesn’t really market itself well, its not a bad book.   I can’t really recommend it though…while I liked the book, I didn’t find much in it that made me think or gave me new insights.

Be Bodacious: Put Life in Your Leadership {affiliate link}

Be BodaciousWritten by Steven D. Wood. When I first received an email about reviewing this book, I took a look at the title and was intrigued. I said yes and I’m glad I did.

I expected this book to be similar to those written by Patrick Lencioni and others…it was a bit different. The author uses stories to highlight various topics…and he does a pretty good job at it.

I loved this book…very very straightforward, honest and it definitely makes you take a second to think about your leadership style and your life.

While not a perfect book, I did enjoy it immensely and I think you would too.

Now…on to the last one.

Welcome to the Company (or what it’s really like working here) {affiliate link}

Welcome to the Company (or what it's really like working here)Dear lord…I love the cover of this book. I love that suit.

Written by Eileen McVety, this book probably has the best cover ever.

This book was actually sent along with Leading at Light Speed as a ‘bonus’ and boy was it a bonus.

I have to say this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. It’s not a prize winner, but for shear enjoyment and, at times, I found myself laughing out loud at what Eileen writes.

The book is based on a fictional company and is written to mimic a new employee on-boarding & procedures book.   Funny stuff…and for the most part its extremely true.

I’ll leave you with this quote from the flap of the book:

We’re confident you’ll find your employment experience at The Gordon Wiggins Group to be a richly satisfying one. Not overly confident, mind you. Like we wouldn’t lay money on it…but hey, it’s a job, right? So quit your griping.

Great stuff.  Highly Recommended.

Open Leadership – Book review

Open Leadership by Charlene LiI grabbed a copy of Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead (affiliate link) by Charlene Li for my business trip last week.  Gotta have something to read on the plane you know.

I enjoyed this book.  Not only is the subject matter interesting, but the way in which Li presents the material is fresh, interesting and engaging.

The main premise of the book is that in order for organizations to use social tools and technology, they need to be able to operate in a more open manner.

I do have to say that when I first saw the title “Open Leadership”, I was perplexed. I thought that Li had somehow decided to move away from her area of experience and expertise in the social space and move into the realm of ‘leadership’ books.  The subtitle helped assuage that fear though and after opening the book and starting to read, I realized that the title made perfect sense.

In this book, Li declares open leadership to be a vital factor in whether an organization succeeds using social media.     She argues that by becoming more open, organizations will be able to build real / honest relationships with their employees, clients and vendors.

This is a good thing.  Building long-lasting and valuable relationships with people (whether they are clients or employees) is the entire reason for moving into the social space.  Having a culture of openness within an organization helps tremendously with building those relationships.

Li argues that the old ‘command and control’ structure that most organizations have used (and still use) will not work in this more open environment.  While this argument is made fairly successfully, there are many places in the book where Li tries to assuage those who still prefer the top-down command approach with her ‘controlled’ open-ness approach. When I first ran across the idea of a controlled ‘open’ environment as Li discusses, I was a little disturbed, but after thinking about it and reading more, I realized that Li wasn’t really advocating for continuing the command and control approach; she’s arguing for processes that help shape the open environment.  As long-time readers of this blog know, I’m all for processes as long as they don’t hinder the ability of the business to be ‘human’.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in social media, social technologies, customer service and marketing.  There are a lot of really great stories & case studies that highlight how organizations are using social media to get closer to their customers and the problems those customers are having.

If you liked Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (affiliate link), a great book in its own right, you’ll like this book too.

CIO’s need to fascinate to survive

CIO's need to fascinate to surviveHey CIO – if you want to survive, you need to figure out a way to fascinate your organization.

I’m currently reading “Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation” (affiliate link) by Sally Hogshead.

I picked the book up on my kindle on a whim while waiting to board the flight from Dallas to Chicago.

While this book is focused on approaches to marketing, the concepts in the book could easily be applied to other aspects of the business….and I can easily think of ways that CIO’s and IT leaders can apply the concepts of the book in their organizations.

Question for all the non IT folks:

When’s the last time you were fascinated by your IT group?  When was the last time you were enthralled with what your organization’s IT team were doing?

I’d wager you’re answering ‘never’.

Why is that?

The answer has to do with the focus of  most information technology groups being an operational one.

But….what if, in addition to an operational focus, the IT group begins to use some marketing approaches to improve service and understanding within the organization?

What if we were able to use the 7 triggers outlined in Sally’s book to fascinate the organization?

Add a Marketing focus  –  7 Triggers applied to IT

The 7 Triggers and brief explanation of each are:

  • Lust – creates a craving for sensory pleasure
  • Mystique – lures with unanswered questions
  • Alarm – threatens with a negative consequence
  • Prestige – earns respect through symbols of achievement
  • Vice – tempts with “forbidden fruit” causing rebelling against norms
  • Trust – comforts us with certainty and reliability

Now…don’t get all puritan on me when you see ‘lust’ and ‘vice’ and the like.   Think about the triggers above….are you using any of these in your IT organization when communicating?

You probably are without really know it.  Think about the last time you had a person within your company ask for a new computer and told them no. That person then notices the Director of IT (and many other people within IT) with brand new top-of-the-line computers.  What does that tell that user?

That user doesn’t realize the IT folks have these new computers to test them out before ordering 1000 more to outfit the company…that user only knows that they have a 3 year old computer and can’t get another one and “everyone” in IT has new computers.

You’ve just used Lust, Mystique, Vice and Prestige negatively.  And you’ve damaged the trust that the user might have had for your IT group.

What if you used these 7 triggers to develop a better message for that user? What if you showed them the new models you’re testing and how cool the new features and operating system is and that they’ll have one of these new machines within a few months?  What if you let that user (or at least a subset of users in the company) help test these models with the IT group?  You’ve now just used Lust, Mystique, Vice, Prestige and Trust to help that user better understand why they can’t have a new machine, when they can expect one and how that wait will pay off for them.

In scenario one (using negative triggers), you’ve got a user who has very negative feelings toward IT. Using scenario two (using positive triggers), you’ve got a friend for life in that user.

According to the author of Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, these triggers are meant to assist in creating a fascinating message and Sally provides a glimpse into he hallmarks of a fascinating message are:

  • Provokes strong and immediate emotional reactions
  • Creates advocates
  • Becomes “Cultural Shorthand” for a specific set of Actions of Values
  • Incites Conversation
  • Forces Competitors to Realign It
  • Triggers Social Revolutions

Think about those hallmarks….do you find any of them in any messages from your IT group to the rest of the organization?

I think most IT groups already provoke strong and immediate emotional reactions…but for the wrong reasons!

Has your IT group created advocates throughout the organization?  Have you been able to incite positive conversation about IT and IT’s service?  If not, it may be time to rethink your approach and begin using things like these 7 triggers to help change the perception of your IT group.

Fascinate or Die?

Of course, you won’t die if you don’t fascinate your organization, but you may be out of a job.

Think about your approach to communicating with the people within your organization?  Are there ways you can use the 7 triggers to create a fascinating message?

Or…will you continue to enforce IT processes and procedures using IT language and continue to evoke the negative reactions?

Perhaps these 7 triggers aren’t perfect for you and your IT team…but some method of changing how you communicate with your organization should be reviewed.

I’d highly recommend picking up Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation and take the message within the book to heart…you might be surprised to find that you can communicate better with your organization.

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