Leadership books

I suspect many of you who read this blog are software programmers. If you’re not, great! For those of you who are, suppose for a moment that you are not. All together now, suppose that you are an accountant or an analyst. Suppose further that you’re good at it: your assignments are completed at high quality; you find novel solutions to difficult problems; you plan your work and communicate progress; you finish on time. One day the CEO says, “you know, you’re doing such a great job at accounting/analysis that we’d like you to write some code now.” “Great!” you say, “I’m good at lots of things, I can figure out this software engineering thing too.” You’ve heard that a lot of programmers use IDEs, so you download a copy of Eclipse, open it up and start typing.

Sound strange? Now substitute “management” for “software engineering”. This presents a more familiar scenario: individual contributors who are rewarded for their contributions with a promotion to management. But the job of engineering management is about as far from engineering as accounting or analysis. It’s a completely different skillset. Yet many of us charge ahead thinking, “I’m smart, I’ll just figure it out.”

While some do, most of us have to read books, take classes and learn from more experienced practitioners. In the past year I’ve done a lot of the first. Currently I’m working through The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company. A few chapters in, the most interesting observation is that we cannot divide work into the simple roles of “contributor” and “manager”. The skillsets required of a “manager of doers”, for example, are not the same as the skillsets required of a “manager of managers”. Looking forward to the rest. Two of the book’s authors were part of the leadership team at General Electric, a company with hundreds of thousands of employees and many layers of management. Not the same as the challenges that face a typical startup, but interesting nonetheless!

Sizzle Reel

Great sizzle reel — literally — from the crew over at Stella Culinary

Have been a fan of the work Chef Jacob is doing since the Free Culinary School Podcast days. It’s a great source for real world tips and techniques. This is where I learned about “squaring off” irregularly-shaped root vegetables in order to create a uniform dice. And tasting to gauge the salt level in your pasta or blanching water (sometimes the best tips are the ones that should be obvious but go unsaid).

Highly recommended if you’re into food and cooking.

More about Stella Culinary.

iBooks Mini-Review

Recently I read a couple of books on the iPad using iBooks software. Here are a few quick observations on iBooks vs traditional aka “dead trees” books:

  • When reading a traditional book, you orient yourself so that light shines on the pages. When reading an iBook, you do just the opposite — avoid light sources, which create distracting reflections on the screen.
  • You can highlight passages in both iBooks and traditional books. You can do so in a more uninhibited way with iBooks, since the highlights are non-destructive and editable. In iBooks, you get a handy auto-generated index of all highlighted passages.
  • You can carry a virtually infinite number of iBooks around without straining your shoulders or back.
  • You can purchase and start reading an iBook within seconds of receiving a recommendation.
  • Traditional books don’t need to have their batteries charged.
  • Traditional books can be shared or sold when you’re done with them.
  • Very unlikely that your kids will wander off with your traditional books and use them to knock down towers of wood and rocks in which pigs live.

Big idea: create a social network around electronic books. For example, online, impromptu book clubs that can form instantly and last a few weeks and then disperse.

Online Personality Tests

While there’s a risk of over-interpreting the results or getting lost in navel-gazing, I found the online personality tests below enlightening.

You might ask, what is to be gained? Think of your personality as the water that surrounds a fish. It pervades and impacts everything you do, yet it’s largely invisible to you. Taking a few minutes to get some perspective on how you approach the world can be instructive.