CEOs and business owners are always looking for the best talent to groom for the future. One way to determine who has the talent is by getting a feeling for the person’s level of understanding about how the world works, how business functions and current events. If the CEO walks up to you and asks; “How do you think the recent currency swings in the Yuan will impact our business?” you better have an intelligent answer. The best way to assure you have the required level of understanding is to be well read. Reading can literally make or break your next promotion.
Reading is not enough though, you have to read the right material. Ultimately you will want to seek out and read the same periodicals and books that CEOs and business owners read. As far as newspapers go, the two you want to read every day are the Wall Street Journal and one of your local papers. As an example, if you live in Naples, Florida, read the Wall Street Journal and the Naples Daily News. By reading these two papers, you will have an excellent understanding of important local events and an above average understanding of business and economics and their potential global impact on your company.
As far as magazines, some of the most read magazines by executives are; Forbes, Fortune, Fast Company, Business Week, The Harvard Business Review and industry trade publications. Thus if you were in the wireless industry you might read publications such as RCR News, Mobile Europe and Above Ground Level.
In regards to books, many C-level executives I speak with read a minimum of one non-fiction book per month. These will include best selling business books and books on politics, finance, marketing and strategy. Here is a list of my personal favorites that aspiring executives should plan on reading as time permits:
The Art of War – Sun Tzu
The Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
Reengineering the Corporation – Hammer & Champy
Managing Brand Equity – David Aakers
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind – Jack Trout
Lean Thinking – James Womak
The Toyota Way – Jeffrey Liker
The Tipping Point – Malcom Gladwell
Only the Paranoid Survive – Andrew Grove
The Customer Driven Company – Richard Whiteley
That’s right – Good to Great is not on the list and if you want to know why, feel free to contact me. In regards to lean manufacturing, while I mentioned Lean Thinking and The Toyota Way, there are several great books on lean. I would encourage anyone involved with manufacturing to read several. One of my all-time favorites is Managing Brand Equity by David Aakers. If you read this book carefully so that you understand the key points, you will find yourself entertained with all the branding mistakes you see companies make. There are reasons the great brands survive and it’s not by accident.
You also find that, for senior level positions, one of the interview questions that may be asked of you is; “What have your read lately?” or “What are some of your favorite business books you have read and why?” Being well read assures you will have a great response to these, or any similar questions. I’ve frequently asked these questions when conducting interviews. The responses are telling.
If you are not an executive yet, but want to be an executive, you need to think like one and to think like an executive, you should read like an executive. Yes, some of you will want to read fiction or sports magazines or maybe not read at all, but if you want to be an executive, take the time to read like one. You will learn more than you ever imagined about business, management and the world and you will ultimately receive some well deserved respect from those around you and above you.