7 short articles every leader should read (plus a 3-part Netflix documentary to binge)

At the end of every year I bring together a short digest of articles I've read that have influenced my thinking and so here's my 2019 list. Hope you enjoy and love to hear what you think of any of them.

1

Every leader needs to understand the main tech trends. Unless you're a CIO/CTO, technology transformation can seem bewildering but like it or not it's touching every single part of business and claiming not to be 'tech-savvy' is fast becoming leadership career kryptonite. This brilliantly accessible article covers the main tech trends for 2020, starting with the imminent major impact of 5G.

2

Purpose and profit are the new dual imperatives. My firm is currently going through the extremely demanding but incredibly inspiring process of becoming a B Corp. Whilst we're still a few tantalising marks away from the hallowed 80 point threshold we're determined to do what it takes to make the grade in 2020. That doesn't mean we're ashamed to make money, just that this programme makes sure we are responsible corporate citizens too. What are you doing in your firm, function or team to be more purpose driven? It's no longer just a nice to do. This excellent, research based set of articles make the case brilliantly.

3

Ask better questions. Those who know me well will know that teaching leaders to ask better questions is something approaching obsession with me. It was great therefore to read this piece back in the summer that offers practical advice from someone running a real company on how to use questions to inspire turbo-charged engagement.

4

Sometimes a complete reboot is the only way forward. Whilst we're on the theme of real company stories (they really are the best aren't they?), I loved this article from the spring that tells the story of how a BBQ (sorry, Backyard Grill!) manufacturer took extraordinary steps to turn a previously toxic culture around and get growth back in the business. Lessons herein for every type of business.

5

In praise of the generalist leader. A lack of 'specialist knowledge' can make some leaders feel inferior up against their seemingly brainy subject matter expert contemporaries. This clever article (summarising a new book) challenges the notion that to specialise is the only way forward and should give all generalist leaders a well deserved boost of confidence.

6

Performance matters but it's irrelevant if you don't manage relationships well. I've lost count of the number of leaders I've observed who though gifted in their specialism (see above) had almost wilfully woeful skills at managing relationships with peers, bosses and team members - unless of course they were timid suck ups in which case no problem! Without fail these people all eventually lose their position of influence, typically in a rage of indignant fury, and for what? This very quick read sets up two 'currencies' - Performance and Relationship - to very great effect.

7

The case for optimistic leaders. In his brilliant book Factfulness, the sadly passed Hans Rosling explains why things can be bad and better. We've all endured the pessimistic leader and probably found ways to get away from them as fast as possible. I'm not saying that every leader should be a happy clappy fantasist. Just that working for someone who has a belief that things will get better (and a plan to make that happen) is a darn sight more inspiring than some Chicken Little preaching constant woe. This year I discovered (and became addicted to) Visual Capitalist and these charts really make the point that in so many ways the world is getting better and better.