I was recently promoted to CEO of Windward and one of the things I’ve been doing is reading a number of highly recommended business leadership books. And I’m finding a common stream in a lot of them that strikes me as total bullshit.
Let’s take Exponential Organizations to pick on the most recent one. They list out what they see as the common features of super successful companies and then say that those companies are so successful because they follow these procedures.
One of my physics professors would say that if you torture the data enough, it will agree with anything. By this measure wearing a hoodie when you talk up your stock on Wall St. will lead to a phenomenal opening price. After all it has done so 100% of the time a CEO has done this (once, by Mark Zuckerberg).
These companies are successful because they have come up with something that a lot of people use. Better management is a giant advantage, but you can be successful with horrific management.
Everybody’s got their own theory of what makes for effective management. Everyone then trots out examples from Facebook, Apple, & Amazon to back up their theory. And everyone cherry picks like crazy to do so. They even admit it (mostly) because all the books say they started with their theory and then looked at successful companies to see if it validated their theory. Giant surprise – it did.
There’s the occasional useful idea in these business leadership books. And sometimes reading one will cause me to think of something related. Or questioning what is presented will have me think through what we’re doing and why. So I do think they’re worth reading.
But if you think that if you follow the guidelines in any of these books that will lead to great success – sorry, no. Instead, measure everything you try, make lots of mistakes fast, and find out what works for you.
Author: David Thielen
Dave, Windward's founder and CEO, is passionate about building superb software teams from scratch and dramatically improving the productivity of existing software teams. He's really proud that he once created a game so compelling (Enemy Nations) that a now-professional World of Warcraft player lost his job for playing it incessantly on company time. You can read more from Dave on his personal blog, and at Huffington Post.
Other posts by David Thielen