FT business books: what to read this month

“Nick Saban’s Leadership Secrets: How the Alabama Coach Became the Greatest of All Time”, by John Talty

Whether you love American football or hate it, team management is a leadership role under pressure, and business leaders can learn many lessons from these coaches: adapting to change and lifelong learning. life skills are just some of the skills that transition easily from the field to professional life. .

In his book, sportswriter John Talty sheds light on Alabama coach Nick Saban’s winning strategy – he’s won six of the last 12 national titles – and shows readers how to adapt Saban’s tactics.

As well as being a biography, the guide is also a case study in motivational strategy, effective communication, and how to create meaningful culture change in an organization (often not an easy task). Based on interviews and on-the-ground leadership concepts, the author covers a number of executive topics, from ensuring outside factors don’t affect your goals to how complacency kills success. future. Each chapter ends with a summary of lessons beyond football.

A chapter of particular interest explores “the process” – the engine that powers Alabama’s organization. It focuses on completing the task immediately ahead of you, without worrying about what came before or what might be around the corner.

Talty concludes that “as a leader, you have to find what works best for you.” Pick the things that best apply to who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish.

“The Benefits of Uncertainty: A Guide to Finding Possibilities in the Unknown”, by Nathan Furr and Susannah Harmon Furr

Uncertainty in life is, ironically, certain. The past two years in the midst of a pandemic have been no exception. Whether you’re a CEO leading a business through the negative effects of shutdowns, an employee on furlough or, worse, someone who has lost their job, the uncertainty for many has at times been crippling.

However, Nathan Furr, professor of strategy and innovation at Insead business school in Paris, and Susannah Harmon Furr, an entrepreneur, believe that we can reframe uncertainty in a way that helps us use it to our advantage.

According to the authors, our brains are wired to fear the downsides of uncertainty, but since it doesn’t go away, “learning to deal well with the unknown is essential to our ability to survive and thrive.” Based on both research and interviews, the book provides a practical framework that can be applied to help us find the possibilities of uncertainty and act on them.

Divided into four parts – “Reframe”, “Prime”, “Do” and “Sustain” – each provides tools to help the reader discover new possibilities and how to carry on when things don’t go as planned.

The book is less about resilience, which the authors say is “being able to withstand shocks and recover,” and more about approaching those shocks in a different way, which they believe is akin to transilience. .

Uncertainty will happen even if we try to avoid it, so we might as well learn to deal with it better.

“The Messenger: Moderna, the vaccine and the business gamble that changed the world”, by Peter Loftus

Before the pandemic, Moderna’s share price was below $20 and its chief executive, Stephane Bancel, feared that after 10 years investors’ patience with the company would run out.

However, in the The messenger, Peter Loftus documents how the coronavirus pandemic has changed Moderna’s fortunes. The messenger RNA technology that the biotech group had developed was about to have its moment.

Based on nearly 300 interviews with more than 150 people, including Moderna employees, co-founders, company board members, and past and present investors, the book tells the story of the bet that Moderna made on the development of a vaccine against Covid-19.

At the time he made the decision, the virus was being watched closely but US President Donald Trump, writes Loftus, did not seem concerned when the first case of Covid-19 finally arrived in the United States. “We have everything under control. Everything will be fine,” Trump said.

Loftus sheds light on how Bancel and other experts were confident the virus would spread widely and how Bancel later persuaded Moderna chairman Noubar Afeyan to pivot resources towards developing a vaccine at mRNA for Covid – and quickly.

The book ends just as the Omicron variant was on the rise. Since then, we know there has been a race for population immunity to be boosted with further injections of Covid – from Moderna and competitors such as BioNTech/Pfizer. Despite the near-impossible challenge, Moderna’s gamble paid off, both for the world’s population and for the group — it’s now worth around $70 billion.

‘Building better boards; How to Lead and Succeed in a Changing World, by Seamus Gillen

Leaders may be born, not made, but they are certainly made better by the right people around them. This is the premise of this guide on the topic of governance and how to appoint directors who can embed good leadership and accountability in an organization.

Seamus Gillen has experience in a career of working as both a corporate secretary and a director, as well as studying the subject as director of policy at the Chartered Governance Institute and as founder of Value Alpha, providing resources for people working in the area of ​​corporate governance.

This book offers a comprehensive overview of its subject, starting with the origins of governance practices when signing the Magna Carta, then explaining the purpose of the councils, and finally giving examples of how to do it well.

Gillen’s intention is to explain that good governance should not be seen as a box-ticking exercise – as it so often is – but as a means for organizations to perform better in order to achieve their goals, whether maximizing profits or social change.

The use of tables and bullet points gives this book the air of a handbook for ambitious directors. If he achieves his goal of educating a generation of boards to better hold their leaders to account, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

“Building Better Organizations: How to Fuel Growth and Lead in the Digital Age”, by Claudy Jules

Continuing the theme of organizational leadership, McKinsey Partner Claudy Jules draws on her 20-year career as a consultant, advisor and researcher to present her three-part playbook on how to create better organizations. Based on organizational behavior research and hundreds of interviews with business and technology executives and investors – with a particular focus on private equity and venture capital firms – Jules’ philosophy is to tackle the “tech stuff” and the “organizational stuff” in tandem. .

While the book is rather heavy on jargon, the premise is worthy. The three building blocks of Jules’ approach are building a sound foundation for your business, using AI strategically, and working with investors. Based on his research, Jules identifies seven essential categories: strategic direction; Culture; leadership; Talent; organizational design; diversity, equity and inclusion; and well-being. Succeeding in each of these areas will build a strong foundation that will help teams perform better.

From there, Jules explains how to integrate artificial intelligence such as machine learning into your operating model, and discusses mindset, welcoming change, and investor relations. This book is for all leaders who want their business to evolve towards profitable growth, as well as investors, board members, and anyone at any organizational level looking for a holistic perspective on growth and performance.

Colin L. Johnson