Legendary Books

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Leadership Essentials From: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner’s idea of “fewer things done better.” He uses acronym FCS or (FoCuS)

F – fewer things done better

C – communicating the right information to the right people at the right time

S – speed and quality of decision making
Set an essential intent. Pretty clear is not good enough, defined intent must be really clear.

Bad example: “Profitable growth through superior customer service, innovation, quality, and commitment.” Reading this, you have no idea what type of business it is.

Lead Essentially

(Table formatting is screwed up. Remind me to fix this).


Mindset: Everything to everyone.

Talent: Hires people frantically and creates a “Bozo explosion.”

Strategy: Pursues a straddled strategy where everything is a priority.

Empowerment: Allows ambiguity over who is doing what. Decisions are fickle. Changes mind frequently.

Communication: Talks in code.

Accountability: Checks in too much or is so busy he or she checks out altogether. Sometimes does both: disrupting the focus of the group and then being absent to the group.

Result: A fractured team that makes a millimeter of progress in a million directions


Mindset: Less but better

Talent: Ridiculously selective on talent and removes people who hold the team back.

Strategy: Defines an essential intent by answering the question, “if we could only do one thing, what would it be?” Eliminates the nonessential distractions.

Empowerment: Focuses on each team member’s highest role and goal of contribution.

Communication: Listens and extracts the essence of information. Speaks less, very clearly. Consistent messaging repeated. No jargon.

Accountability: Checks in with people in a gentle way to see how he or she can remove obstacles and enable small wins.

Result: A unified team that breaks through to the next level of contribution

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown

Leaders can be divided into two groups: multipliers and diminishers. Multipliers get 110% of someones potential, while diminishers get ~50%.

Logic of Multiplication:

* Most people in the organization are under-utilized

* All capability can be leveraged with the right leadership

* Intelligence and capability can be multiplied without hiring more

* Mindset: “There are smart people everywhere who will figure this out and get even smarter in the process.”

5 Disciplines of the Multiplier:

1. Attract and Optimize Talent

2. Create intensity that requires best thinking.

3. Extend challenges

4. Debate decisions

5. Install ownership and accountability

5 Disciplines as Archetypes:

Empire Builder (diminisher) vs. Talent Magnet (multiplier)

1. Look for talent everywhere

2. Find people’s native genius

3. Utilize people to their fullest

4. Remove the blockers (including yourself, get out of the way).

The Tyrant (diminsher) vs. The Liberator (multiplier)

1. Create space

2. Demand best work (demand excellence)

3. Generate rapid learning cycles – learn from mistakes

The Know-it-all (diminsher) vs. The Challenger (multiplier)

1. Seed the opportunity

2. Lay down a challenge

3. Generate belief in what is possible

The Decision Maker (diminisher) vs. The Debate Maker (multiplier)

1. Frame the issue

2. Spark the debate

3. Drive a sound decision

The Micromanager (diminsher) vs. The Investor (multiplier)

1. Define ownership

2. Invest resources

3. Hold people accountable

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

The authors share lessons hard learned on the battle-field. These lessons are distilled into a core set of principles applied to business and other walks of life. The life-and-death extremity of their combat experiences drives the lessons home.

Extreme Ownership means holding yourself accountable for your failures and the failures of your team. There are no bad teams, only bad leaders. Putting a great leader at the front of an underperforming team produces a breakthrough. Those with less natural ability can develop into highly effective leaders. Leaders can be made. If the leader does not learn from failures, the team will not improve, and it starts with the leader taking Extreme Ownership.

The authors share many great references and tools such as the Dichotomy of Leadership, which shows how a leader must find a balance in many different skills and traits. For example, a leader must lead and also follow. The authors also reiterate principles of 360 degree leadership, leading up and down. They discuss these principles in detail within the context of Extreme Ownership. For example, the leader must hold themselves accountable when the leaders above misunderstand and make decisions that negatively impact the team.

The book concludes with this uplifting thought: “Leading people is the most challenging, and, therefore, the most gratifying undertaking of all human endeavors.”

 Read: 5/8/2016


Mindsets are divided into 2 groups: fixed mindset and growth mindset. Everyone has some mixture of both. Generally, fixed mindset comes with the belief that people are born with natural talents. Growth mindset comes with the belief that people can learn any skill, and talents can be developed over time.

Heavily fixed mindset individuals constantly seek validation / approval. When they meet difficulty and failure they try to excuse it away, cheat, or lie. Students with a heavily fixed mindset care more about the grade than the learning.

Heavily growth minded people learn from failure and try new approaches. Growth mindset people use every strategy possible to make sure they succeed. Students with heavy growth mindset care more about the learning than the grade.

Coaches, teachers, and parents play a critical role in creating children’s mindsets. It’s best to praise effort and lessons learned as to help mentees reach their potential.

Read: 5/1/2016


Quality and speed are no longer enough. Businesses need to find new ways to differentiate. Businesses and professionals often fail to think like their customers. When their competitors zig, they should zag. Entrepreneurs must acknowledge that someone will try to imitate ideas.

Distinct products and brands don’t have to compete on price, they are in their own category. They do things that don’t scale!

Read: 3/9/2016 


Defining success and excellence: “Success is about results. Excellence is about the process”…“Excellence is the act of living up to our full potential.” Small tweaks can yield BIG CHANGES.
3 Rules of Excellence
  1. The Iceberg Principle – a majority of efforts are invisible to the eye.
  2. The Law of Not Selling Out – don’t let go of your principles, values and beliefs. Stick to your guns.
  3. The Journey Mindset – failure is a meaningful detour on the path to success.

Other take aways:

  • Foster a growth mindset. Mindless practice is not enough. Mindful practice is required. Your brain needs to be fully present, learning is not a spectator sport. The more we prepare, the better we will perform when it matters.
  • The Broken Windows crime-fighting theory of applies to your mindset. Clean out your Inner Graffiti and change your inner dialogue. “I HAVE GREATNESS IN ME!”
  • People in a hurry are less like to help others. Reaction, problem solving, and creativity are impacted the same way. You have to slow down to speed up. Let go of things outside your control.
  • Regular communication and transparency with stakeholders is extremely valuable. “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.”
  • Push the boundaries of your comfort zone, take off the brakes. Don’t waste time trying to draw attention to yourself. Do the work.

Read: 3/8/2016


Kagan compares his experiences working at Intel, Facebook, and Mint.com. In big companies, internal politics creates an “inertia of inefficiency”. In a small company, you have to be willing to do anything. Idealize the self-starter spirit, or get out. In general, work with people much smarter than you are. You will grow tremendously.
Very intelligent leaders, respected visionaries, motivate people by demanding excellent work and giving favor to the best ideas. This creates some internal competition between people. As a leader, speak with brilliance. Every word is important, so speak slowly and deliberately. Stick to your guns, people don’t know what they want. If you patiently, they will adjust to change and start to love it. Lastly, avoid emotional attachment. If you worked on a feature for 2 weeks, and it sucks, it’s not shipping, let it go.
Zuck was obsessed with quality and his ultimate purpose: world domination. This allowed for effective decision making: if a proposed feature did not help the product gain more users, it was canned. Zuck is the final approver for shipping any feature.
Read: 3/7/2016

Band of Brothers by Stephen E. Ambrose

Not all leaders are equally effective in all scenarios. Some are excellent during training, others are excellent during combat. A good leader adapts to the situation at hand.

Make the right decision again and again, either instinctively or after careful deliberation. People will follow you. Poor leaders show indecision and freeze under pressure, or are incompetent and unwilling to learn. When human lives are on the line, someone else has to step in. Great leaders keep moving. Take over when the guy in charge fails to act.

  • Respected leaders take more risks than anyone else. They lead the charge. Excellent leaders show grace under pressure.
  • Great leaders respect. They are not overly harsh, they keep dignity intact.
  • Great leaders are in short supply. When lieutenants are weak, rely on sergeants to get the job done. Sergeants can manage up.
  • Leaders look and act a certain way. Leaders are tall, fit, stoic, tough, brave, resourceful. It’s not clear if this is cause or effect.
  • Leaders are expected to inspect the units under their command and visit with the troops.
  • Leaders cannot make the mistake of failing to communicate their plans. In combat this results in death of good men. Followers rely on you to do this simple thing.
  • Men can do horrible, unpredictable things when provoked and under the influence of substances.
  • Military experience is a rapid maturing experience. Self-confidence, self-discipline, obedience, teamwork.  The friendships are remembered forever.
 Read: 3/4/2016

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