Read, read, and read. I read all the time. As much and as often as I can. Newspapers, books, usually old school real paper, but on the Kindle and iPad as well. Reading provides the experiences that you cannot often have yourself, and an opportunity to stimulate your own thoughts and to learn from others.
In the leadership and business realm, I am often asked about which books have influenced me the most. Not the “best” business books of all time, but those that have stimulated me to form my opinions about the direction that we need to go for success.
I know that you will be disappointed that the “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun,” by Wes Roberts, did not make the list, although there is something to learn about a leader who molded an aimless band of mercenary tribal nomads into the undisputed rulers of the ancient world. Please feel free to draw your own conclusions about applicability.
Here goes the list and my key learnings from each.
1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t” (2001) by Jim Collins
In addition, I recommend “Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great” (2005) also by Jim Collins.
I dog-eared my first copy, gave away my second and third, re-read my fourth.
Good companies survive, great companies thrive. Great companies, which are defined primarily by financial success, do this by relentless focus and exhibiting some simple but common characteristics, including:
- Leadership is humble and they do what’s best for the company.
- They get the right people on the bus.
- They are brutally honest with their situation.
- They are passionate and strive to be the best.
- They are disciplined and focused.
- They use technology to accelerate growth.
- They gain through multiple initiatives, not necessarily one big one.
Hospitals or health systems are not purely financially driven organizations given their social responsibilities and largely non-profit status. The monograph brings the “Good to Great” characteristics to life in social organizations and talks about how the common characteristics work well in achieving success in these organizations as well.
One important learning: for what we do, good is not good enough. To our patients and in the competitive environment we work in.
A different twist on “Good to Great” is “Turn this Ship Around: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders” (2012) by L. David Marquet.
A great story of bad to great, based on U.S. submarine service experience. Empower others through training, delegation and driving flawless execution.
2. “Redefining Health Care. Creating Value-Based Competition on Results” (2006) by Michael E. Porter and Elizabeth Olmsted Teisberg
Porter is best known as a business strategist. This book has been criticized for its view of American health care and oversimplification of health care financing and product. I chose this book because it opened Porter’s previous and subsequent writings to me as guideposts to strategy.
A white paper I wrote in 2012 on Henry Ford Hospital strategy was influenced greatly by Porter’s work. What are the programs that you can create that provide the highest value to your target consumer (patients, families, referring physicians)? Are you at least in the conversation that these are the best? How do you reorganize to create higher value?
The learning is similar to “Good to Great:” figure out what you can be best at doing (provide the highest value) and relentlessly focus on creating that strategic advantage.
3. “Emotional Intelligence” (1995) by Daniel Goleman
So many leaders fail because of their inability to recognize the importance of emotional intelligence in influencing their colleagues and workers. In technical fields, such as medicine, we often pick the wrong leaders because we value other forms of intelligence over emotional intelligence. This book underscores the importance of human connectivity in our most human of businesses, health care.
The learning is don’t get overly influenced by a curriculum vitae or intellect. Leaders do not fail because they are not smart enough; they fail because they cannot connect and relate.
4. “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization” (1990) by Peter Senge
This book is about the philosophy of management and the importance of both individual and system learning from experiences. The new idea (the “fifth discipline”) is to see an organization holistically as a system functioning within specific work and environment. Almost biological in the approach, organizations can only excel by learning and adapting.
This book was a major source of ideas within our health system in the late 1900s.
The learning is to keep learning, especially from failures, and to understand the critical nature of how systems need to learn and adapt as much as individuals.
5. “The Essential Drucker” (2001) by Peter Drucker
In addition, I recommend “The Effective Executive. The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done,” also by Drucker.
Get the right things done. Executives must manage time, choose what to contribute, know where and how to mobilize strength, set the right priorities, and make effective decisions.
Drucker was the most influential managerial thinker of his time. His words are as relevant today as they were more than 50 years ago.
Drucker also made a statement about hospitals that I have never forgotten. He called the hospital, “the most complex human organization ever devised.” I have not seen anything in my career, especially while being the CEO of Henry Ford Hospital that suggests otherwise.
The learning is simply get the right things done.
6. “The Innovator’s Dilemma” (1997) by Clayton Christenson
How companies fail when they ignore disruptive products in their competitive sector.
I also recommend “The Innovator’s Prescription. A Disruptive Solution for Health Care” (2009) by Clayton M. Christensen, Jerome Grossman, M.D. and Jason Hwang, M.D. This book is more relevant to health care but underscores the critical role of innovation in our industry. If you wonder why we have the Innovation Institute in the middle of our campus, this work defines why this is important to continue to provide the best of care.
The learning is to foster innovation in everything we do and from everyone in our organization.
7. “Leading Change” (1996) by John Kotter
Why is change so hard and so often a failure? Kotter, in a historic work on change, describes an eight step process of achieving successful change.
This book is an absolute gem and it is interesting how we often fail to heed the lessons of the past and the process needed to be managed as described.
Some of my biggest learnings: develop a widely inspiring vision and strategy for achieving it, then communicate the vision, communicate the vision, and communicate the vision.
8. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (1936) by Dale Carnegie
One of the first “management” books that I had read. It was my father’s book and I picked it up one summer in high school. I had no thoughts on management, but the title and the catchy yellow paperback cover caught my attention. Simple wisdom for success: gain technical ability, plus the ability to express your ideas, take the mantle of leadership, and arouse enthusiasm among people.
9. “Out of the Crisis” (1982) by W. Edwards Deming
Deming spent time at Henry Ford, sharing his ideas about total quality management. This started us on our journey that has led to Baldrige and so many other achievements.
Most importantly it reinforced what we know in clinical medicine that is as applicable to management: the importance of data and analytics in making decisions.
10. “The One Minute Manager” (1982) by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
Probably the second management book I read. The wisdom is summed up in three learnings: one minute goals, one minute praises, one minute reprimands. Concise, clear. Spawned the “keep it simple” philosophy. I wish I could follow this precisely.
I would love to hear from you about a book that has influenced you, not only in management but in your professional careers.