Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 2
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

A holiday book list designed to keep execs reading, learning

The underlying theme of this year’s annual selection of books to note as we move into the holiday season is leadership. The month of October and the campaign trail heading toward the November elections showed me quite clearly how hungry we are for great leaders and leadership.
Sometimes the best read is a re-read or a new take on some thoughts and ideas that might be more relevant the second, or even third, time around. Whether you are reading on your iPad or Kindle, or turning pages in the traditional way, the key is to keep reading and learning every day. With that sentiment in mind, here are my offerings for gift ideas this holiday season.

“Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout
I suggest the 20th anniversary edition if you can find it. While it is often hailed as the most influential advertising book ever written, it is also a fantastic read on how best to make sure the message you want to send has the best chance of reaching your audience. I just re-read the book thinking about Twitter and other forms of social media and felt that the core messages and content are applicable regardless of the channel and that technology can only enhance the ideas.

“Culturematic” by Grant McCracken
In today’s world, while we still consume content, we have countless opportunities every day to manage and create our own content and disseminate that content globally in a matter of seconds at very little expense. Culturematics are ways we create meaning and attract interest and attention. I can’t think of anything more relevant to the sports industry in 2013 than creating meaning, retaining customers and attracting the interest of new potential consumers.

“The Advantage” by Patrick Lencioni
I recently heard Lencioni speak at the NFL marketing meetings, and as always, he delivered a simple yet powerful message about organizational health that, if acted upon, is a game changer in any business. Through a series of examples and a clearly defined blueprint, Lencioni makes the case that leaders and organizations need to shift their focus to becoming healthier, allowing them to tap into the more-than-sufficient talent, intelligence and expertise they already have in their employees and management teams. Building upon two of my favorite Lencioni works, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and “Death by Meeting,” “The Advantage” is exactly what it promises to be.

“Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius (translated By Gregory Hays)  
I recently received this book as a gift and decided to include it here as a self-help tool. Similar to Lencioni in its simplicity and power, “Meditations” is still relevant and meaningful after almost 2,000 years. It speaks to human nature, the importance of knowing your strengths and weaknesses, staying true to your values and beliefs, understanding your core mission, and the challenges of leadership when your integrity and philosophy are challenged daily by interactions with others. A classic read in every sense of the word.

“Marketing Your Dreams: Business and Life Lessons from Bill Veeck” by Pat Williams
My recommendation of “Veeck as in Wreck” by Veeck and Ed Linn has appeared in this column in the past, and I believe it is still a must-read. Williams, whom I recently referred to as a modern-day Mark Twain, offers his thoughts on Veeck and his accomplishments and philosophies. I would be hard-pressed to find better information for anyone involved in the marketing and sales of any sports franchise or organization regardless of the level of play or the structure of the league. It’s a great read for anyone in the attendance business or for students who hope to join that area of business. Veeck was a student of consumer behavior and purchasing decisions. Williams is professorial on the subject and provides valuable lessons that are easily understood and waiting to be applied.

“Great by Choice” and “Good to Great” by Jim Collins
My advice to aspiring job seekers and students hoping to enter the workforce, regardless of the type of business, is to not show up for an interview without having read these two essential books. The lessons and examples illustrating those lessons are some of the best case studies ever put in print. They are well-researched, with an easily understood theoretical base that translates easily into a series of best practices. “Great by Choice” focuses on uncertainty, chaos and luck — three factors that unfortunately seem as though they are going to be part of our everyday lives from now on because of the global economy and culture that affects what we do on a daily basis. Great leaders in 2012 and beyond must be more disciplined, much more empirical and paranoid about what might happen if they are not continually striving for greatness. According to Collins, innovation must be blended with creativity and discipline to achieve greatness.

Each year, I ask my son Dan, who joins Google this month after stints with the Martin Agency, Apple, Wieden & Kennedy, and Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, for his recommended reads. This year, he suggested two books that are on my list of books to read:

  “Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business” by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine
It focuses on the importance of the customer experience and how that experience can be the key to financial growth, particularly in a challenging economy.

“Insanely Simple: The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success” by Ken Segall
The former Apple creative director, who worked closely with the late Steve Jobs and is credited for the iconic iMac name, focuses on simplicity as the core value that permeates every level of Apple and separates it from other companies.

Wishing all of my readers a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2013.

Bill Sutton ( is the founding director of the sport and entertainment business management MBA at the University of South Florida, and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_Impact.