Sharpening Those Leadership Skills

by Dianna Brodine, managing editor, Plastics Business

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership these days. Some of that has been driven by the article in this issue of Plastics Business on MAPP’s leadership training initiative (see page 24). We’ve also hired three new employees in the past two months, and I’ve had to reframe my daily To Do list to ensure I’m meeting their needs as well as my own deadlines. But mostly, I’m watching my local school district and wondering who will step up to lead as we navigate a situation that will quite literally define our identity in the future. Voices from all corners are shouting out direction, but a leader hasn’t yet emerged to bring the factions together.

The choice of topic for this edition of the Booklist was an outgrowth of that discord – that heavy feeling I have as the back-to-school date approaches on the calendar. A lack of strong leadership – of direction – of collaboration – causes the same discord in the organizations in which we work. New releases from four authors offer insight into why some companies succeed and others fall; how to lead in times of crisis; the importance of absorbing wisdom from everyone you meet; and how to questions that lead to better decisions. These are the lessons from which all leaders can benefit.

The Art of Business Wars: Battle-Tested Lessons for Leaders and Entrepreneurs from History’s Greatest Rivalries
Author: David Brown
Released: April 13, 2021

Business is a fight for survival. In business as in war, leaders match their wills in pursuit of opposing outcomes; they devise strategies and marshal resources for victory. Success can turn on the smallest of details; a single tactical blunder can topple an empire. Ultimately, one side triumphs – and victory is all that matters.

David Brown, host of the hit podcast Business Wars, masterfully frames some of the biggest business rivalries in history using revered Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu’s insights and pragmatic advice. Each rivalry he examines tells a story of combined wits, strategies and resources. Brown chronicles the rise of companies as they vanquish rivals, formulate innovative plans and adapt to keep up with shifting societal needs. The goal? Stay ahead of the competition and emerge victorious as an industry titan.

By compiling powerful insights uncovered over hundreds of episodes and more than a year of in-depth research, Brown has developed a formula for business intrigue that uses popular history as a hook to lure readers in. The stories in The Art of Business Wars are fascinating, but the lessons we draw from the – about determination, ingenuity, patience, grit, subtlety and other traits that contribute to a victorious enterprise – are invaluable, whether you’re a software-slinging freelancer or the CEO of a multinational manufacturer.

Clarity in Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the CIA
Author: Marc E. Polymeropoulos
Released: June 8, 2021 

Marc Polymeropoulos has had to live with the consequences of decisions made under the most high-stress circumstances you can imagine as a senior intelligence officer in the CIA, retiring from his 26 years of service as one of the CIA’s most decorated field officers. Though your crisis situations may not entail international counterterrorism as Marc’s did, in our age of social media and a 24-hour news cycle, the consequences of mishandling a crisis can escalate quickly, leaving irreparable damage to a company’s reputation and bottom line in its wake.

In Clarity in Crisis, Marc shares how true leaders need to lead in and through times of crisis and thrive under conditions of ambiguity, rather than message their way out or duck from hard decisions. Far from mere theory, Marc outlines the unique and specific mindset and strategies he himself practiced and honed throughout his remarkable career. Clarity in Crisis provides proven strategies and core principles that leaders can apply to meet any crisis head on and lead through it, including:

The critical elements to managing crisis, such as knowing who you can always count on to execute under high-stress situations.

An understanding of the importance of following and stressing key fundamentals and avoiding shortcuts that often do more harm than good.

Implementation guidance from the “Mad Minute” section at the end of each chapter that summarizes key points and action items you can begin applying right away. 

How to gain confidence that you are ready for the next crisis, wherever it comes from, and embrace less than ideal situations with no fear.

Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets: 5 Questions to Help You Determine Your Next Move
Author: Andy Stanley
Released: Oct. 20, 2020

Good questions lead to better decisions. Discover five game-changing questions to ask every time you make a decision – questions that will help you in your finances, relationships, career and more. Your decisions determine the direction and quality of your life. Your decisions create the story of your life. And while nobody plans to complicate their life with bad decisions, far too many people have no plan to make good decisions. This book will help you live differently.

In Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets, Andy Stanley will help you learn from experience and stop making bad decisions by integrating five questions into every decision you make, big or small. You’ll discover how to: develop a decision-making filter that reveals which choices will likely lead to positive results; avoid selling yourself on bad ideas and making quick decisions when time is short; find truth and clarity in any tricky decision; improve relationships and heal division through better decisions; consider the long-term impact of your choices; and easily identify any red flags that signal which decisions may result in future regrets.

No One Succeeds Alone: Learn Everything
You Can from Everyone You Can
Author: Robert Reffkin
Released: May 4, 2021

No one expected a dreadlocked 15-year-old who cared more about his DJ business than his homework to grow up to become one of the youngest-ever White House fellows, create multiple nonprofits and found a multibillion-dollar company. But Robert Reffkin – raised by an Israeli immigrant single mother, disowned by his maternal grandparents for being Black and abandoned by his father – always has defied the odds.

Now, Reffkin is the founder and CEO of Compass, a real estate technology company that is now the largest independent brokerage in America, having helped clients buy or sell homes worth more than a quarter-trillion dollars since its founding. Reffkin graduated from Columbia in two and a half years, earned an MBA from Columbia Business School and worked at McKinsey, Lazard and Goldman Sachs. He ran 50 marathons, one in each US state, to raise $1 million for charities.

Compass’s mission is to help everyone find their place in the world, and in these pages, Reffkin distills the wisdom he’s gathered along his journey. Each chapter offers a part of his life story and a practical lesson, such as “love your customers more than your ideas” and “find someone to give you the critical feedback others won’t.” The advice in No One Succeeds Alone will inspire you to dream bigger than you ever have before, realize your full potential and give back by helping make someone else’s dreams come true, too.