First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Putting Steve Jobs in perspective

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/GETTY IMAGES

Here is an excerpt from an especially insightful article written by Nancy Koehn. It is part of The Washington Post‘s recent  On Leadership roundtable exploring Tim Cook’s succession of Steve Jobs as CEO of Apple, and how to follow in the footsteps of an icon. At the conclusion of the excerpt, I provide links to several other outstanding articles. To read all of Koehn’s complete article, please click here.

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At this week’s iPhone 5 launch, we have our first official glimpse into Tim Cook’s leadership style as he takes the stage as Apple’s CEO. Many wonder how Cook will handle running a business handed over by one of greatest leaders and entrepreneurs of our time, Steve Jobs. Jobs is an icon who forever changed the way we connect. However, he was not the first American business leader to exercise tremendous influence over the way people live and think about what is possible. And this is not the first time such a leader has been replaced.

True, Jobs is on a short list of great American entrepreneurs. Along with Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller and Estée Lauder, Jobs has had an exceptional ability to envision what could be: products and services we couldn’t have imagined that we now can’t live without. These leaders all share an intense passion, a driving persistence, a keen sense of strategy and a relentless focus on the details of executing their respective visions. In the 14 years since he returned to the company he helped found, Jobs has embodied all of these attributes (as Apple’s long streak of product homeruns, its $350 billion market capitalization and its powerful brand attest). Given this context, the elephant in the room at the iPhone 5 launch is this: With Jobs gone, can Tim Cook carry the legacy?

Jobs has said he spent a lot of time selecting and developing his executive team. But Apple is not generally known for nurturing talent and giving its smart people the authority and scope to grow on the job. With Jobs’s dogged focus on “what’s next,” as well as his reputation for holding the reins of power tightly, it is reasonable to ask whether he has had the bandwidth (and inclination) to develop a succession plan that could render him obsolete.

But, history offers up several examples of gifted, charismatic (and controlling) founders successfully passing the baton to their successors. Take Thomas J. Watson, Sr., at IBM. By the time his son, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., took over in the 1950s, many of his father’s contributions had been baked into the company culture. Not only did this keep the organization from faltering during transition, it enabled the son to focus on the next stage of important changes as its market and customers evolved. At McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, who did more to create the fast-food company than anyone else, built a team from inside the company that could carry his leadership torch after he was no longer as active in the business.

The most decisive factor in a successful leadership transition—and the reason IBM and McDonald’s stayed strong—is whether the founder or CEO has effectively institutionalized his or her own contributions. Certainly those within Apple well understand Jobs’s values and attributes: his painstaking attention to detail, his boldness of vision and his confidence in understanding what the consumer wants. And as a longtime member of the company’s executive team, Tim Cook (who came to the company in 1998) has seen Jobs’s work ethic, energy and hands-on management style up close.

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Nancy F. Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School and author, most recently, of The Story of American Business: From the Pages of the New York Times.

More On This Story:

Tim Cook, here’s how to lead Apple

Putting Steve Jobs in perspective

Should Tim Cook wear a black turtleneck?

More from On Leadership

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here is the October, 2011 New York Times Hardcover Business Best Sellers List

Here is the October, 2011 New York Times Best Sellers Hardcover Business Books list.  As I regularly note, there are some “long-time” titles on this list (Drive; Delivering Happiness; 4-Hour Workweek; Strenghts-Based Leadership).  But there are some new titles this month.  The new Friedman and Maddelbaum book, That Used to Be Us, is number one.  Basically, every new Tom Friedman title ascends quickly up such lists.  My opinion:  after reading this book — it has a typical (for Friedman) compilation of good stories, but is a little lacking in comparison to his earlier books.  And, in my opinion, short on solutions.  I don’t blame necessarily blame Friedman for this — I think we are in an era that is short on solutions.  That is the great challenge of this hour.

In fact, there is still a lot of interest in “what went wrong” (see #’s 1, 7, and 15).

Here’s the October list.


THAT USED TO BE US, by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum.






LEAN STARTUP, by Eric Ries.


TWO-SECOND ADVANTAGE, by Kevin Maney and Vivek Ranadive.


SWITCH, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.


AFTERSHOCK, by David Wiedemer, Robert A. Wiedemer and Cindy Spitzer.


4-HOUR WORKWEEK, by Timothy Ferriss.


ULTIMATE QUESTION 2. 0, by Fred Reichheld with Rob Markey.




STRENGTHS-BASED LEADERSHIP, by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.


GRAND PURSUIT, by Sylvia Nasar.






RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT, by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | | Leave a comment

What is on your own “one piece of paper”?

I agree with Albert Einstein that it is important to “make everything as simple as possible but no simpler.” One of the best exercises for learning how to do that is what Mike Figliuolo introduces in his new book, One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership, published by Jossey-Bass (October, 2011).  In a recent post for her website, Heidi Grant Halvorson shares what she came up with when completing one of the several worksheets that Figliuolo recommends. Check it out and then for formulate one of your own (on a single piece of paper) on one or more of these topics: leading yourself, leading the thinking, leading your people, and leading a balanced life.

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My One Piece Of Paper

Inspired by Mike Figliuolo’s new book One Piece Of Paper – which challenges leaders to distill their philosophies to a single sheet, making it easy for them to live and others to follow – I’ve completed Mike’s worksheet for “Leading Yourself.”  See my answers below.  What are your leadership maxims?

Leading Yourself  (Heidi Grant Halvorson’s Leadership Maxims)

Why do you get out of bed every day?

My maxim is:  Don’t visualize success.  Visualize the steps you will take to succeed.

I wish I could make the universe deliver wonderful things to my doorstep just by imagining them.  I can’t – and neither can you, no matter what anyone tells you.   There is not a single piece of hard evidence that “visualizing success,” and doing nothing else, will do a damn thing for you.  In fact, you are less likely to achieve your goals when all you do is imagine yourself achieving them. People who think not only about their dreams, but about the obstacles that lie their way  – who visualize the steps they will take to make success happen – are able to stay motivated despite setbacks, dig deep, and turn their dreams into reality.  You have what it takes to succeed – stop waiting for it to happen to you, and make it happen for you.

What guidelines do you live by?

My maxim is:  I love it when a plan comes together.

The A-Team’s Colonel “Hannibal” had it right – it’s all about having the right plan.  If-then planning, in particular, is a really powerful way to help you achieve any goal.  Well over 100 studies, on everything from diet and exercise to negotiation and time management, have shown that deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal (e.g., “If it is 4pm, then I will return any phone calls I should return today”) can double or triple your chances for success.

When you fall down, how do you pick yourself back up?

My maxim is:  It’s not about being good.  It’s about getting better.

Most people assume success has a lot to do with intelligence, but that’s surprisingly wrong.  No matter how high your IQ is, it says nothing about how you will deal with difficulty when it happens – whether you will be persistent and determined, or feel overwhelmed and helpless. What matters is whether your goals are about being good or getting better.  Where being good is about proving how smart, talented, and capable you already are, getting better is about developing those skills and abilities – about getting even smarter.  Studies show that people focused on getting better  – who see a less-than-perfect grade on a math test or awkwardly-given presentation as a sign to try harder next time, rather than as evidence of “not being good at math” or “not being a good public speaker,” find their work more interesting, and are less prone to anxiety and depression than their be-good colleagues. They are more motivated, persist longer when the going gets tough, and are much more likely to ultimately reach their goals.

How do you hold yourself accountable?

My maxim is:  Focus on the finish line.

Imagine you’re running a marathon, and you see the Mile 10 marker.  Is it more motivating to think about how far you’ve come (10 miles), or how far you have left to go (16.2 miles)?  The answer, which will seem a bit counter-intuitive to some, is that you should focus on the miles to-go.  Too much to-date thinking, focusing on what you’ve accomplished so far, will actually undermine your motivation to finish rather than sustain it.   Studies show that to-date thinking can lead to a premature sense of accomplishment, which makes us more likely to slack off.  We’re also more likely to try to achieve a sense of “balance” by making progress on other important goals.   We end up with lots of pots on the stove, but nothing is ever ready to eat. If, instead, we focus on how far we have left to go (to-go thinking), motivation is not only sustained, it’s heightened.   So don’t make the mistake of settling for a job only half done – always keep your eyes on the prize.

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Mike Figliuolo is the founder and managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC, a professional services firm specializing in leadership development, and a nationally-recognized speaker and blogger on the topic of leadership. An Honor Graduate from West Point, Figliuolo served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Co., and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. Mike actively blogs about leadership, strategy, communications, innovation, and other critical business skills at his website. to visit it, please click here. His work has been featured on, SmartBrief, and many other well-recognized media outlets. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, three children, and three overly-energetic dogs.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



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