10 Leadership Lessons From 2016’s Bestselling Nonfiction Books – Forbes

Photo Courtesy: Gallo Communications

Photo Courtesy: Gallo Communications

Many of 2016’s bestselling nonfiction books can set you up for success in 2017. From Adam Grant’s Originals to Megyn Kelly’s Settle For More, this year’s bestsellers offer effective lessons, tools and roadmaps by those who have achieved excellence as leaders, entrepreneurs, and communicators.

Megyn Kelly, Settle for More

Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly reminds us that pursuing one’s passion does not always follow a straight line. In high school, public-speaking was her favorite course, but she didn’t have a clear plan on what to do with it. She entered the legal profession where years of 18-hour days left her near a nervous breakdown. One day she heard Dr. Phil say: “The only difference between you and someone you envy is, you settled for less.” Kelly decided to settle for more at the age of thirty-two. A Chicago cameraman said he would help Kelly make a demo tape if she passed a quiz. “Tell me a story in sixty seconds or less,” he said. She did so, without a stumble. “You’re gonna be on TV,” the cameraman said.

The zone of genius is the place where your talent and passion intersect. It took 15 years for Kelly to find that intersection, but she found remarkable joy and success once she did.

Angela Duckworth, Grit

The power of passion is also a theme for University of Pennsylvania psychology professor, Angela Duckworth. In Grit, she reveals the following formula for turning your talent into achievement:

Talent x effort = skill

Skill x effort = achievement

Here’s the key. Passion and talent alone are not enough to achieve success. “Effort” factors into the equation twice. “There are no shortcuts to excellence,” writes Duckworth. “Grit is about working on something you care about so much that you’re willing to stay loyal to it.” Paragons of grit, says Duckworth, are always ready to improve no matter how excellent they already are.

Phil Knight, Shoe Dog

Nike founder Phil Knight is certainly a “paragon of grit” and a leader with a strong work ethic. He also reminds us to pursue “crazy ideas.” At the age of twenty-four, Knight realized that one dream— to be a world-class runner—simply wasn’t in the cards. Fate, he writes, had made him good, not great. Knight turned his attention to a bigger dream, one that was “prodigious” and “improbable” and chased it with “an athlete’s single-minded dedication and purpose.” Knight started selling running shoes from the trunk of his car and it would take another ten years before he paid himself a salary. “I told myself: Let everyone else call your idea crazy. Just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping.”

Knight says only pursue passions and crazy dreams that you truly care deeply about. “I wasn’t selling. I believed in running…people, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief is irresistible.”

Thomas Friedman, Thank You For Being Late

The New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, beautifully synthesizes and connects complex ideas in his books. Although Thank You For Being Late traces the exponential growth and disruption of the age we’re living in, Friedman also tackles the issue of how to communicate such trends. Friedman’s approach to writing benefits any leader who delivers presentations or writes blogs and insights. Columnists, Friedman argues, are in the heating or the lighting business. “Every column or blog has to either turn on a light bulb in your reader’s head–illuminate or inspire–or stoke an emotion in your reader’s heart that prompts them to feel or act more intensely. The ideal column does both.”

Friedman reminds us writers to remember the human element in writing. “The columns that get the most response are almost always about people, not numbers. Also, never forget that the best-selling book of all time is a collection of stories about people. It’s called the Bible.”


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