A roundup of the year’s best busi­ness reads

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - CAREERS - HAR­VEY SCHACHTER MAN­AG­ING

Whether you’re look­ing for prac­ti­cal lead­er­ship tips or a mogul’s suc­cess story, here are 10 books worth con­sid­er­ing

The best book I read this year about lead­er­ship and ca­reers un­ex­pect­edly was The Bully Pul­pit, by Doris Kearns Good­win. It in­ter­weaves bi­ogra­phies of two pres­i­dents and friends, Theodore Roo­sevelt and Wil­liam Howard Taft, with the growth of what she calls the Golden Age of Jour­nal­ism, the rise of the muck­rak­ers as­so­ci­ated with Mc­Clure’s Mag­a­zine.

It’s an in­spir­ing coun­ter­point to to­day. With the rise of pop­ulist pro­gres­sives, their ally Mr. Roo­sevelt worked hand-in-hand with the muck­rak­ers against the po­lit­i­cal and cor­po­rate bosses, as com­pared with to­day’s pres­i­den- tial en­mity to the me­dia.

But it’s also Shake­spearean in telling of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two pres­i­dents. Mr. Roo­sevelt men­tored Mr. Taft to be his suc­ces­sor in 1909, gave him room to be his own pres­i­dent by tak­ing a one-year sa­fari to Africa, and yet, on his re­turn, slowly be­gan to un­der­mine his friend, even­tu­ally run­ning against him for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion and, af­ter los­ing, formed his own party. By split­ting the vote with Mr. Taft, he helped to elect Woodrow Wil­son in 1912.

Mr. Taft, iron­i­cally, never wanted to be pres­i­dent; he wanted to be chief jus­tice of the United States but was pushed in the po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tion by his abil­i­ties and Mr. Roo­sevelt, al­though later in life he was chief jus­tice, a tes­ta­ment to life’s twists. The book is about ca­reers and power, friend­ship and men­tors – and ego and be­trayal.

I missed it on pub­li­ca­tion in 2013 and, while rec­om­mend­ing it fer­vently if be­lat­edly, I also have, more tra­di­tion­ally, 10 noteworthy of­fer­ings from this year’s crop of busi­ness books for your hol­i­day sea­son read­ing:

Great at Work: Mor­ton Han- sen, a Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Pro­fes­sor and co-au­thor with Jim Collins of Great by Choice, tested var­i­ous per­sonal pro­duc­tiv­ity pos­si­bil­i­ties and came up with seven for our con­sid­er­a­tion. Among them: Do less but ob­sess on your pri­or­i­ties and test new ap­proaches for your work ev­ery day, learn­ing from the re­sults.

The Book of Beau­ti­ful Ques­tions: Jour­nal­ist War­ren Berger of­fers a litany of ques­tions that can help you im­prove de­ci­sion-mak­ing, cre­ativ­ity, con­nect­ing with oth­ers and lead­er­ship. The book sep­a­rates the ques­tions into lists but the au­thor also guides you through them with ex­pla­na­tions of where they stem from and how to em­ploy them.

It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work: Ja­son Fried and David Heine­meier Hans­son, founders of the Base­camp soft­ware com­pany, have an icon­o­clas­tic ap­proach to run­ning a com­pany and build­ing a cul­ture. The book is a se­ries of jolts to our con­ven­tional think­ing, from shun­ning goals to warn­ing the shared work cal­en­dar is one of the most de­struc­tive in­ven­tions of mod­ern times.

When: Writer Daniel Pink takes a trip through what sci­ence can tell us about time, look­ing for prac­ti­cal tips to han­dle mood swings through the day, restora­tive breaks and build­ing group tim­ing.

Back to Beer … and Hockey: Ex­ec­u­tive coach He­len An­to­niou takes us into the Mol­son fam­ily and their busi­ness ven­tures as she tells the story of her fa­ther-in­law Eric Mol­son. It’s a solid look at a solid guy, who be­lieved in re­strained, hum­ble frayed-col­lar lead­er­ship – a wealthy man who made sure his clothes were well worn and oth­ers were given a chance to shine. It’s hu­mane, in­spi­ra­tional, richly de­tailed, at times puts him in a less-than-favourable light and, at least for this reader, sur­pris­ingly grip­ping.

Mind Tools for Man­agers: Con­sul­tant James Mank­telow and Lon­don Busi­ness School Pro­fes­sor Ju­lian Birkin­shaw of­fer 100 tools to know your­self, man­age your ca­reer, man­age your time, work ef­fi­ciently and solve problems ef­fec­tively. The book is a se­ries of rapid-fire, eclec­tic ideas and charts – not some­thing you can read for a long time in one sit­ting, but a valu­able prod and re­source.

Lead­er­ship in Tur­bu­lent Times: In her lat­est ef­fort Ms. Good­win draws lessons from Abra­ham Lin­coln’s trans­for­ma­tional lead­er­ship with the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion, Theodore Roo­sevelt’s cri­sis man­age­ment of the 1902 coal strike, Franklin Roo­sevelt’s turn­around lead­er­ship in his famed first 100 days, and Lyn­don Baines Johnson’s vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship on civil rights. Those lessons won’t ap­ply eas­ily to your work and there are too many of them, but it’s an in­spir­ing, thought­ful work.

Cos­to­va­tion: Con­sul­tants Stephen Wunker and Jen­nifer Luo Law show how to com­bine cost­cut­ting with in­no­va­tion, elim­i­nat­ing frills but in a de­lib­er­ate (rather than delu­sional) at­tempt to wow cus­tomers.

The Chal­lenge Cul­ture: Nigel Travis, chair­man of Dunkin Brands, uses ex­am­ples from his own 40-year ca­reer to show how to build a com­pany in which push­back is en­cour­aged as long as it is civil de­bate in line with the shared pur­pose.

The Only Cer­tain Free­dom: Toronto con­sul­tant Pa­trick O’Neill’s paean to the free­dom of en­trepreneur­ship, shar­ing the ups and downs of his per­sonal jour­ney.

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