Recommended reading list for new age leaders

The rapid invasion of the human ecosystem by Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, IoT, Analytics etc. have augmented our performance capabilities to unprecedented levels. Humans and machines are working in tandem to accomplish feats, once conceived only in the sci-fi realm. As the ‘Sophia’s’ of the new world get citizenship under the aegis of ‘Ministry of Artificial intelligence’ in one country, another appoints a ‘Minister for Loneliness’ to tackle the existential crisis of its human citizens.

Maslow’s need hierarchy pyramid seems to be inverted for the ‘real talent’, who seem to be seeking fulfilment over job security. Engagement is replaced by Experience as the biggest driver of productivity, innovation and retention. Leadership has never ever been more challenging and, dichotomous, rewarding.

Leaders of today need to lead by impact & influence rather than by example. They need to navigate the dynamic patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours of individuals to remain relevant and revered.

What are the ingredients for leadership success in this new era?

Here are the Big Five:

  1. Reading: In the digital age, while knowledge has become free and available to all, adopting the right learning attitude is what makes the difference. Reading is a grossly underrated activity. From Bill Gates to Elon Musk, and from Valmadir Putin to Barack Obama, the greatest contemporary leaders are spending more time than ever on reading. How to read better and faster by Normal Lewis, therefore, is the first book you may want to pick, if you are not naturally inclined to reading.
  2. Mindfulness: while machines will rule and replace quite a few aspects of our lives, it is the consciousness of leaders that makes them indispensable. The contemporary leaders need to move from being ‘skillful’ to being ‘mindful’. While, for thousands of years, people have used mindfulness practices to deal effectively with a wide range of life challenges. The science of mindfulness: A research-based path to Well-Being by Professor Ronald D Siegel provides practices apt for modern corporate leaders along the scientific reasons for their working.
  3. Exercising choice (the crux of leadership): Leadership is all about the decisions and choices one makes every day. The dilemma between deciding for yourself or letting others decide has been a perpetual stress creator for leaders. The aspect of choice is most pertinent today where there are a plethora of choices available from relationships, to cars to jobs. Sheena Iyenger not only beautifully explains the process and implications of choices that human make but also gives solid anchoring to leaders dealing with the choice abundant generation.
  4. Understanding randomness: In the wonderful book ‘Fooled by Randomness, Naseem Taleb talks about how randomness, chance, and luck influence our lives and our work more than we realize. Because of hindsight bias and survivorship bias, we tend to forget the many who fail, remember the few who succeed, and then create reasons and patterns for their success even though it was largely random. These generalizations then manifest as create culture, processes and systems that often kill innovation, agility and the ‘startup’ DNA of the organization. Mild success can be explainable by skills and hard work, but wild success is usually attributable to variance and luck. Understanding the role of randomness in life is a critical competence for a new age leader to remain humble grounded and most importantly inquisitive.
  5. Life Algorithms: In a randomly driven, choice-laden world, how can a leader decide when to pursue and when to let go? How long on strategies, and when to start execution? How much data is sufficient? In their book ‘Algorithms to live by’, Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths bring fascinating concepts and research findings from the world of mathematics and machines to provide the most lucid formulas to apply without much thinking.
  6. The subtle art of NOT giving a f*ck: In the world of disruptions and evolving business models, leaders must make quick decisions, fail fast, learn and move on. There is only as much that can be much salvaged. While positive thinking, perception management, perfectionism etc. are important, they are often impractical and unexpected. Leaders need to be pragmatic about the ‘shit’ life throws. As Mark Manson in the book with the same title says, “there are only so many things we can give a f*ck about, so we need to figure out which ones really matter”. Leaders need to become much more intelligent about what really matters, and what isn’t worth a f*ck!

To me, these are just not books. To my mind, these are the building blocks of deep, interconnected aspects of human existence in the current times. These varied dots, once connected will take leadership effectiveness to a level unseen and unheard.

My recommendation? Read. NOW!

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