Books that made an impact

Geoff SearleGreat leaders learn every day in business that storytelling is key to their role. Reading great books is one of the best ways to learn for some. A company that inspires leaders and business owners to meet results using the power of stories, personal branding, and thought leadership is a necessity in today’s business world.

I have been fortunate enough to read some excellent books over the last 25 years – books that have inspired me to change the way I see the world, my career, business, and the opportunities in front of me. Below is a list of those books that changed my life:

1. Mark H. McCormack – ‘What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School’

Mark McCormack, dubbed ‘the most powerful man in sports’, founded IMG (International Management Group) on a handshake. It was the first and is the most successful sports management company in the world, becoming a multi-million dollar, worldwide corporation whose activities in the business and marketing spheres are so diverse as to defy classification.

In this book, Mark McCormack reveals the secret of his success to key business issues like analysing yourself and others, sales, negotiation, time management, decision-making and communication. What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School fills the gaps between a business school education and the street knowledge that comes from the day-to-day experience of running a business and managing people. It shares the business skills, techniques, and wisdom gleaned from twenty-five years of experience.

2. J.W. Marriott, JR., Kathy Ann Brown and Jim Collins – ‘The Spirit To Serve’

Since taking over the business from his father in 1964, J.W. Marriott has moved from triumph to triumph, building an international chain that includes more than 1,000 hotels making Marriott one of the most recognized names in the hospitality industry. In this book, Marriott explains for the first time the unique management philosophy that brought him this enormous success. Written in an informal first-person narrative that is both engaging and easy to read, The Spirit to Serve distills his years of hard-earned wisdom and experience into a practical blueprint that anyone wishing to emulate his achievements can follow. It includes tips on how to motivate employees, nurture in-house talent, cultivate customer loyalty, as well as invaluable advice on handling growing pains, understanding the big picture, and knowing when to take risks. Packed with many real-life examples that illustrate his principles, The Spirit to Serve is vital reading for all CEOs, middle managers, and department supervisors.

3. Phil McGraw “Self Matters”

The well-known “life strategist” and TV personality Dr. Phil begins this upbeat self-help book by recalling one of the most unpleasant phone calls he ever had to make. In 1989, ten years into a flourishing career, McGraw called his father to say that, despite the outward trappings of success, he was miserable. His new plan was to move away and start a new career and a new life. According to McGraw, many people are now in a similar situation. They are trapped in unsatisfying lives or jobs that they loathe.

Too many people, says McGraw, are “so busy being busy, that they have let the colors fade from their lives. They’re worried about superficial matters rather than what’s important: “I’ll bet 90-plus percent of them spent months, or even years, planning their wedding and almost no time planning their marriage!

To change their lives, McGraw’s readers must first complete two questionnaires that he designed to assess their “authentic self” and their “congruence” (how someone’s current life compares with a vision of an ideal life). With the scores from these tests, readers can then embark upon a specific plan for changing their lives and for determining which external and internal forces they will, or won’t, allow to control their futures.

Readers familiar with McGraw’s aggressive TV personality may be surprised by this book’s thoughtful and serious tone. McGraw’s notion of making change is not a simple one. It requires readers to look at every aspect of their daily lives and it’s likely that some readers may not be able to make all the changes he advocates. However, his book offers a thorough, realistic resource for those who are committed to turning their lives around to get what they really want and need.

4. Tom Peters – The Circle of Innovation

Business guru Tom Peters has been recognized for his originality and perception since co-authoring one of the most influential management books of all time: 1982’s ‘In Search of Excellence‘. Now, in his seventh work, ‘The Circle of Innovation: You Can’t Shrink Your Way to Greatness’, he presents a provocative new vision for prospering in the “permanent state of flux” that is ruling today’s business world. By juxtaposing short text passages and bold graphic images, Peters simply but passionately offers his prescription (perpetual innovation) in a nontraditional way intended to foster individual interpretation.

5. Paul R. Lawrence & Nitin Nohria – Driven

Harvard Business School professors Lawrence and Nohria present a socio-biological theory of motivation, claiming that humans have four basic drives

  • to acquire,
  • to bond,
  • to learn, and
  • to defend

What makes their theory novel is the way they apply it to the workplace. The authors use historical case studies to show that successful organizations are those that give their employees opportunities to fulfill these drives, while those that fulfill only the drive to acquire are ultimately less stable. Examples of both types of organizations are provided.

The authors are well versed in sociobiology and their four-drive theory makes intuitive sense. There are, however, a number of competing drive theories, from Freud’s sexual drive and death urge to Steven Reiss’s 16-drive theory. The authors acknowledge that the numbers and exact nature of our drives need further exploration and offer suggestions for research projects that would verify their hypotheses.

6. John Simpson – A Mad World My Masters

Some people just aren’t cut out for the suburbs. As one of the BBC’s top foreign correspondents, John Simpson has been at the epicentre of many of the world’s flashpoints for more than 30 years. Afghanistan, Belgrade, Hong Kong, Baghdad; you name it, he’s been there. And what’s more, he hasn’t just met the great and the good, such as Clinton and Blair, he’s met the top bogey men, too. He’s had Osama Bin Laden pleading with some Afghani guerrillas to kill him and his crew, he’s interviewed Emperor Bokassa, Colonel Gadhafi and Arkan and had close up dealings with Saddam Hussein. And it goes without saying he was one of the first people in the entire world to see in the new millennium on the specially named Millennium Island, which the Kiribati government claimed just squeezed inside the international date line.​

What books can you recommend to me?

3 Replies to “Books that made an impact”

  1. If I think of the books which did really make an impact- there are a few where I had the good fortune to meet the authors themselves and understand the context
    1. Piranhas in the Bidet- Phil Jesson – which is a snappy guide to better partnerships with customers, people and self- It did impact my interaction with people

    2.Your Book Geoff- Freedom after the sharks- which according to me is not a ordinary read, it is a bible for those who are or want to be entrepreneurs.

    We hear few success stories but there are millions of unheard stories of failures too. The author takes us through ups and downs of the mission of being an entrepreneur. It not only can help us understand what not to do but also tells us what to

    Style of writing is very fresh and looks like lot of research and personal experiences are the key ingredients

    1. Dear Neeraj,

      thank you for your response, Phil Jesson really did capture the moment with his ‘snappy’ guide, Piranhas in the Bidet. The book was in its time and was well overdue to take a good look at de-mystifying some of the overblown bulk of management theory.

      Freedom After The Sharks was always a book to show how, even in a declining economy and through multiple recessions, a business can survive and even succeed. It covered some real-life experiences and offers some suggestions for dealing with problems and issues in providing a guide to finding your way in the business world.

      I can see the similarities in Piranhas in the Bidet and my book. Freedom After The Sharks was written to suit entrepreneurs who might not be sure of the path to take or who want to benefit from other people’s mistakes and failures. Other audiences to include were middle management or junior executives who are looking for a fascinating life story of courage, drive and inspiration, as well as graduates and college students, who will find information that will help prepare them for their careers.

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