Review: John C. Maxwell – Developing the Leader Within You (S)

Developing the Leader Within You
John C. Maxwell

“In this repackaged bestseller John Maxwell examines the differences between leadership styles, outlines principles for inspiring, motivating, and influencing others. These principles can be used in any organization to foster integrity and self-discipline and bring a positive change. Developing the Leader Within You also allows readers to examine how to be effective in the highest calling of leadership by understanding the five characteristics that set “leader managers” apart from “run-of-the-mill managers.” In this John Maxwell classic, he shows readers how to develop the vision, value, influence, and motivation required of successful leaders.”

In this book, there are both commendable and average aspects. Some sections can be skimmed through, while others provide valuable insights. Unfortunately, the author’s frequent use of poems, motivational and self-help language didn’t resonate with me.

I was captivated by the first portion of the book. However, it then went downhill and didn’t improve for the rest of the book. Although there is a wealth of valuable content within these pages, locating it can be challenging due to poor organization and vagueness. Certain sections suffer from being overly general, and much of the information presented seems to rely on common sense rather than groundbreaking ideas. Examples and stories would have enhanced the reading experience. It’s worth noting that the book does incorporate thought-provoking questions and self-evaluations regarding one’s leadership abilities.

Overall, I rate this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Quick Reviews of Non-Fiction Business Books #3 (S)

The Conversation Yearbook 2017: 50 Standout Articles from Australia’s Top Thinkers – John Watson

I was really hoping this book would be all about fascinating individuals or businesses considered as “top thinkers.” Instead, it’s filled with essays covering topics like climate change, same-sex marriage, public school education, Indigenous issues, and Australian politics – and all of them are from 2017, which makes them feel pretty out-of-date now. A bunch of these essays are just plain boring and hard to get through. I managed to read most of them, but there were a few that I had to skip. Plus, the way the book is organized feels a bit messy. The themed chapters don’t flow together smoothly. If these essays are supposed to represent the best thinking from our top minds, I’m not feeling very optimistic. I’d give it a 2-star rating.

The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite – Duff McDonald

Who would be interested in reading this? It’s essentially a history of Harvard Business School (HBS). It comes across as quite dry and unengaging, and I fail to see its purpose. I initially expected more content related to prominent business figures, akin to a textbook, but even those sections fell short. For instance, when I saw the discussion of Frederick Taylor in Chapter 3, I hoped to have fond memories of his accomplishments for that era. However, this book somehow managed to render his historical contributions as mundane and uninteresting, not reflecting Taylors true significance. I would rate it with only one star, as I was unable to finish it, but I do acknowledge that it might appeal to a different audience, warranting a two-star rating.

Flying Solo: How To Go It Alone in Business Revisited – Robert Gerrish, Sam Leader, Peter Crocker

I found this book to be quite good. It’s an enjoyable read that covers all the basics, so don’t expect groundbreaking insights. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re looking to embark on your journey into self-employment. The book provides essential tools for planning and starting a solo venture, offering a mix of motivational advice and practical strategies. Despite being released a few years ago, the content remains surprisingly relevant. It challenges the old assumptions of the 9-to-5 grind, introducing concepts that are increasingly gaining popularity. The book not only gives you the basics but also includes some practical examples, making it a valuable resource for those considering or already navigating the world of self-employment. 3 stars.

Review: Jeffrey Hull – Flex (S)

The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World
Jeffrey Hull

“Based on his popular classes with Harvard Medical School physicians and New York University business students, Hull has identified the six key elements that leaders in this new workplace need to succeed, known as Flexibility, Intentionality, Emotional Intelligence, Realness, Collaboration, and Engagement. From start-ups to universities to Fortune 500 companies, he’s been able to help leaders across the board develop the skill sets that have advanced their careers and won them accolades.”

This book is a thought-provoking book that truly inspires its readers to become better leaders. The author introduces the concept of beta leaders, a unique approach to leadership that challenges conventional thinking and encourages introverted collaborative leaders in an ever-changing world.

While the concept of beta leaders is interesting I found myself occasionally distracted by the abundance of case studies within the book. These real-world examples provide valuable insights, but their sheer quantity made it somewhat challenging to keep track of each individual and their unique circumstances. I often wished for more in-depth exploration of a single character’s leadership journey and the theory that goes with it. Then I could have been following the character through various scenarios to see how they evolved.

The book excels in presenting a collection of coaching tips, each bundled with profound leadership insights tailored for the modern workplace. It highlights numerous areas where anyone can enhance their leadership skills. I found myself particularly engrossed in the sections that resonated with my own leadership style, while some other sections didn’t capture my attention as strongly.

One of the book’s strong points is the well-crafted summaries and practical takeaways at the end of each chapter. I will re-read these again later. These sections offer a concise and valuable outline of the key ideas, making it easy for readers to reflect on and apply what they’ve learned.

In conclusion, “Flex” is an inspiring book that challenges traditional leadership paradigms and equips readers with the tools to adapt and excel in today’s work environment. The overall impact of the book is undeniably positive. It’s a valuable resource for those looking to enhance their leadership skills and navigate the complexities of a changing world. Especially in an inspiring way! I rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

Quick Reviews of Non-Fiction Business Books #2 (S)

SMART Time Investment for Business: 128 ways the best in business use their time – Kate Christie

I’m sorry but I didn’t love it. The 128 ways to best use time felt very basic and repetitive, some were also not explained enough. The book is meant to be short and to the point, and “time saving” which was fine. It then had a bunch of quotes from each business person after each point. I don’t mind a few quotes, but that many seemed to lose its point with not enough context. I find that quotes can be very contradictory, there seems to be a quote for every situation. There were a few short case study examples but again not enough context to really get the point across. The 128 ways to save time were not new tips. Maybe you’ll pick up a handful of new tips by the end but that about it. I recommend it for anyone who is not an organised person. 2 stars.

Superminds: The Surprising Power of People and Computers Thinking Together – Thomas W. Malone

This is an intriguing book that explores the concept of collective intelligence. While not aligning with my typical reading preferences, it managed to capture my attention to some extent. The beginning of the book was challenging to get through, but it improved as I progressed. Some sections stood out as particularly engaging, shedding light on the possibilities and implications of collaboration between people and machines. However, I found it lacking in substantial takeaways and not engaging throughout. It was very general and referred to already fairly outdated technology. I felt this book was much longer than it needed to be, with lots of repetition and multiple examples illustrating the same issue. Overall I give it 2 stars. It was not intriguing to continue to read it.

So Now You’re a Leader: 10 Precepts of Practical Leadership – Peter Stokes and John James

Since the book is quite old, it’s hard for me to give it a proper review. I guess it was okay back in the day, but in today’s world, it feels pretty outdated. The principles it presents are still relevant, but the stories and writing style feel old-fashioned. It’s written in a very textbook-like manner, and it even throws in theories like “SMART” goals and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s a bit dense and dry, but the points it makes about being a better leader are valid and serve as good reminders. However, there’s nothing really new or groundbreaking here, just the basics. I’d give it two stars.

Review: Carl J. Schramm – Burn the Business Plan (S)

Burn the Business Plan
What Great Entrepreneurs Really Do
Carl J. Schramm

“Schramm explains that the importance of a business plan is only one of the many misconceptions about starting a company. Another is the myth of the kid genius—that all entrepreneurs are young software prodigies. In fact, the average entrepreneur is thirty-nine years old and has worked in corporate America for at least a decade. Schramm discusses why people with work experience in corporate America have an advantage as entrepreneurs. For one thing, they often have important contacts in the business world who may be customers for their new service or product. For another, they often have the opportunity to strategize with knowledgeable people and get valuable advice.”

I quite enjoyed this book and I’m giving it a solid 4 stars. It provides a refreshing take on business and entrepreneurship, shedding light on the real struggles in a down-to-earth way. The stories are cool, especially the ones about businesses hitting the skids after years of hustling – kind of a bummer but definitely eye-opening.

Now, let’s talk real talk – the book had a bit of a slow start. The “why start a company” section? Meh. I could’ve used less of that. But hey, it rallied and got awesome towards the end. It’s a gem for anyone in the business game, especially if you’re just starting out. Forget the textbook stuff; this is some more realistic ideas of building a business from scratch. It is a reflective and impactful piece that can dispel numerous misconceptions about entrepreneurship, the pleasures of managing a business, and various other aspects.

If the idea of an MBA ever creeps into my mind, I’ll flip through this book again for a reality check. If you’re hustling in business or dipping your toes, this book’s got your back. If you love entrepreneurship, this is definitely the book for you! It’s not a perfect five, but it’s damn close and definitely worth a read. 4 stars.

Review: Bina Venkataraman – The Optimist’s Telescope (S)

The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age
Bina Venkataraman

“A trailblazing exploration of how we can think more strategically and effectively about the future–our own, our family’s, and our society’s. Many of us never learned–or have forgotten–how to make smart, long-term decisions, so we avoid making them. In a world where immediate satisfaction is the norm, it’s easy to do. Whether it’s decisions about our health (our chronic overuse of antibiotics has triggered a shocking rise in immunity to them), our finances (20% of us have nothing saved for retirement), or our jobs (we slash R and D to improve short-term balance sheets and then can’t keep pace with competitors), we avoid mastering the skills to make smart choices about the future. Yet today more than ever, we need to understand how to make such choices–for ourselves, our families, and the world.”

Considering that the book is titled “Optimist” it did not leave me feeling optimistic, as it primarily focuses on a pessimistic view of the future. While I comprehend its message, it fails to inspire motivation for future action.

Despite some historical tales and scientific insights, the book’s structure feels all over the place, leaving you a bit lost amidst the mishmash of stories tied to future thinking. It does have its engaging moments, but there are also some political and dull sections.

The book doesn’t deliver on its promise of offering tips on staying optimistic and thinking ahead, as suggested by its subtitle. Instead, it takes a gloomier approach to what’s coming our way. If you’re looking for strategies or fresh ideas on changing your mindset when dealing with current and future challenges, you won’t find them here.

In a nutshell, “The Optimist’s Telescope” may leave you feeling a bit let down, as it doesn’t provide the practical guidance or inspiration needed to tackle the uncertainties of the future, although a need to discuss the topic. I’d give it a 2.5 star rating.

Review: Robert I. Sutton – Good Boss, Bad Boss (S)

Good Boss, Bad Boss
How to Be the Best… And Learn from the Worst
Robert I. Sutton

“If you are a boss who wants to do great work, what can you do about it? Good Boss, Bad Boss is devoted to answering that question. Stanford Professor Robert Sutton weaves together the best psychological and management research with compelling stories and cases to reveal the mindset and moves of the best (and worst) bosses. This book was inspired by the deluge of emails, research, phone calls, and conversations that Dr. Sutton experienced after publishing his blockbuster bestseller The No Asshole Rule. He realized that most of these stories and studies swirled around a central figure in every THE BOSS.”

The way the book is set up didn’t quite click with me. The chapters and sections felt a bit all over the place, and I couldn’t really see the clear connections between them. It’s like everything just melted together without any standout points. A bunch of it was things I’ve seen and heard a million times before – nothing groundbreaking, just common sense stuff. I guess if you’re new to this kind of thing, it’s a decent overview that gets you thinking, but it doesn’t dive deep into anything and tends to repeat itself here and there.

I also noticed some contradictions that made me scratch my head. My advice? Take what you like and leave the rest. There’s some humor in there, but I didn’t always catch the punchline.

It’s nice to see someone trying to make the whole work and management scene better with their examples and tips. They’re onto something when they say pretty much everyone can relate because we’ve all had a boss, have a boss, or are the boss. So, there’s some wisdom in there for sure. If you’re into business and leadership books or just want to up your boss game, “Good Boss, Bad Boss” is a solid stash of info that goes down easy and I recommend it for those getting into management. 3 stars.

Review: Donald Roos & Anne de Bruijn – Don’t Buy this Book (S)

Don’t Buy this Book: Entrepreneurship for Creative People
Donald Roos, Anne de Bruijn

“The sequel to the highly successful Don’t Read This Book – Time Management for Creative People. Like its predecessor, it uses the “To Don’t List” method to help you make the right choices – choices that help you achieve your goals as a creative entrepreneur. Don’t Buy This Book walks through the necessary steps: testing your idea, getting it ready for business, and building on it. It covers everything you need to get started or improve your business as a creative and offers practical exercises to clarify who you want to be as an entrepreneur.”

I should have listened to the cover and not bought the book! It’s a quick read, throws some good ideas your way, but let’s be real, it’s not the be-all and end-all of entrepreneurship guides. This is more like an Instagram-worthy motivational pep talk with quotes galore. They toss around some practical questions to get your brain working, but don’t expect actual answers – it’s more like a brainstorming session without a whiteboard.

Sure, there are snippets about some companies, but they barely scratch the surface. Oh, and they keep bringing up their first book, “Don’t Read This Book,” but don’t stress – you don’t need to read it for this one to make sense. It’s not really a sequel.

If you’re just dipping your toes into the entrepreneurial pool and need a little inspiration, go ahead and give it a shot. But if you’re after the real deal, check out “Twelve and a Half” by Gary Vaynerchuk. My verdict? Two stars – it’s okay, but nothing to write home about.

Review: Luc de Brabandere & Alan Iny – Thinking in New Boxes (S)

Thinking in New Boxes
A New Paradigm for Business Creativity
Luc de Brabandere and Alan Iny

“When BIC, manufacturer of disposable ballpoint pens, wanted to grow, it looked for an idea beyond introducing new sizes and ink colors. Someone suggested lighters. LIGHTERS? With an idea that seemed crazy at first, that bright executive, instead of seeing BIC as a pen company—a business in the PEN “box”—figured out that there was growth to be found in the DISPOSABLE “box.” And he was right. Now there are disposable BIC lighters, razors, even phones. The company opened its door to a host of opportunities.”

“Thinking in New Boxes: A New Paradigm for Business Creativity” is a must-read for small business owners and entrepreneurs searching for fresh ideas and the next big leap in their ventures. This book serves as an invaluable resource for those eager to unlock their creative potential and break free from conventional thinking.

One of the book’s standout features is its collection of examples and engaging exercises that explain the framework it introduces. The author uses practical examples of the concepts, making it easy to grasp each step of the process. I also enjoyed the fictional video game company that you follow through the creative process.

I found that this book provides insights on innovative thinking, making you want to challenge the status quo. It reminds us that just because something has always been done a certain way, it doesn’t mean it’s the right way, the best way, or the only way. This shift in perspective is vital for entrepreneurs and business owners looking to evolve and adapt in today’s ever changing market.

I noticed that the book was somewhat lengthy, featuring occasional repetition and unnecessary details. Trimming down the content in a more concise and impactful manner without compromising the core message would have been better.

Overall, I believe this book is an essential read for business owners seeking to ignite their creative thinking and explore uncharted territories. Despite its length, the book offers valuable insights, practical exercises, and a narrative that benefits anyone looking to innovate in the business world. 4 stars.

Review: Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan – Execution (S)

The Discipline of Getting Things Done
Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan with Charles Burck

“Execution shows how to link together people, strategy, and operations, the three core processes of every business. Leading these processes is the real job of running a business, not formulating a “vision” and leaving the work of carrying it out to others. Bossidy and Charan show the importance of being deeply and passionately engaged in an organization and why robust dialogues about people, strategy, and operations result in a business based on intellectual honesty and realism.”

I couldn’t shake the feeling that this book is showing its age. It’s clearly targeted at those super high-level corporate giants, which might not sit well with folks from smaller or less traditional companies. If you’re not in a place where you can delegate tasks to an army of direct reports, you might feel a bit left out.

My biggest gripe is that the book remains stubbornly high-level throughout. It’s a bit like listening to a long-winded lecturer who uses too many big words without giving you much actionable advice. I even found myself skipping over some parts because they felt like they were going around in circles. And sadly, “Execution” doesn’t bring anything particularly groundbreaking to the table – it feels like business textbook material.

The central theme revolves around setting expectations and holding people accountable, which is a solid concept. The book is a broken record on scrutinizing business plans and making sure people are doing what they said they would. It lacks clear, practical steps on how to do this effectively.

As I trudged into Part 3, I was hoping for more detailed examples to illustrate the execution process. But, to my disappointment, there were only a few of these, and they didn’t provide the guidance I was looking for.

I felt like I didn’t get much out of “Execution.” I had read another business book recently that blew me away (Twelve and a Half), so maybe my expectations were a tad too high. Given my experience, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this one. On a different day, I might give it three stars, but for now, it’s a two-star read for me.