LEADING THROUGH CULTURE

HOW REAL LEADERS CREATE CULTURES THAT MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO ACHIEVE GREAT THINGS

An illuminating bird’s-eye view of leadership.

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A former bank CEO offers forthright advice in this debut business book.

As CEO of Silicon Valley Bank for a decade, Wilcox faced a series of daunting challenges. He writes in this candid work that “tech was in the doldrums and interest rates were among the lowest in the history of the Fed.” The author had no choice but to lead through tough times, and his experience led him to craft a practical “field manual” to guide other executives. In three succinct but informative parts, Wilcox expounds on leadership principles and qualities, building teams and managing during change, all anchored by a strong emphasis on corporate culture. The book begins with an exploration of leadership motivation; the author asks penetrating questions about readers’ visions, delegation skills, and management styles. Wilcox wisely points out that leaders must not only be authentic and confident, but also vulnerable: “They’re willing to admit to their shortcomings and mistakes. Without this quality, no one can be a true leader.” The author references Gandhi and Lincoln as examples. In the first part of the manual, Wilcox stresses honesty, humility, and collaboration. Part 2 concentrates on leadership fundamentals, including building and steering a team, developing a corporate culture, sharing a vision, executing decisions, and communicating effectively. The author draws liberally on his own experiences, citing numerous examples of what to do and, perhaps more importantly, what not to do. Much of his advice is specific and actionable; for instance, he provides six recommendations for what kind of people to hire, engages in a captivating discussion about “the spectrum of human behavior,” enumerates “The Magic 12” (a list of 12 ways to cultivate trust), and shares “The Four Ds,” a useful process for making decisions.

Part 3 of the book, “Accomplishing Great Things: Revolutionary Leadership,” is a journey into more ambitious, cutting-edge goals. A chapter on managing change demonstrates the author’s deep understanding of organizational behavior. Wilcox writes that employees generally break into three groups when it comes to a company’s direction: those who like it, those who are neutral, and those who object. He wisely suggests that the time many leaders expend trying to convince the unhappy workers to follow the course would be better spent devoted to the happy employees because they’ll help steer the others. A discussion of innovation is insightful; Wilcox supplies eight salient ideas to foster invention, such as “Build a Culture in Which People Will Have the Courage to Speak Out” and “Praise Creativity, Avoid Criticizing Failure.” The appendix focuses on the experience the author had organizing a banking operation in China, delivering a personal, firsthand look at the unique challenges associated with doing business in the country. Wilcox’s perceptive observations about building a “shared culture” should prove invaluable to any leader who has global responsibilities. Throughout the book, he looks back over his senior executive experience with a critical eye, unafraid to reveal his own shortcomings. That, writes the author, is exactly what a great leader should do.

An illuminating bird’s-eye view of leadership.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949003-35-2

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Waterside Productions

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

MAGIC WORDS

WHAT TO SAY TO GET YOUR WAY

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.

By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063204935

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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