What executives are reading this summer

Published
  • August 03 2017, 3:38pm EDT

Every year we offer summer reading lists of advisor-recommended books. This year, we took a different approach by asking for recommendations from the top.

Their suggestions spanned the gamut with tales from a Founding Father, a late-night talk-show host and a contrarian Silicon Valley investor.

Scroll through to see some of the top picks from industry executives.

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

By Phil Knight
Recommended by Jeff L. Rosenthal, president and CEO, Triad Advisors

"'Shoe Dog,' the memoir of Phil Knight, the co-founder and former CEO of Nike, is more than just a refreshingly authentic look into the mind of a successful CEO. It offers food for thought for those of us in the retail financial advice industry. Consider the parallels: Athletic apparel and footwear on a stand-alone basis are highly commoditized products. But by pushing beyond being a shoe-focused margin business, and building a brand and culture that appeals to consumers by standing for something more than just products, Nike was able to build an enduring business with widespread appeal.

"Also noteworthy, the book makes it clear that the enormous cultural influence the company grew to exert across the world wasn't built in a day. Moreover, Knight reveals that some of Nike's most memorable attributes – its iconic logo and even the company's name – were created on the fly, and not necessarily viewed by the company as something that would be kept permanently."

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Washington's Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations

By John Avlon
Recommended by Neal Simon, CEO, Bronfman Rothschild

"With wisdom and a humble leadership style, George Washington was able to bring together Americans of disparate views. In his farewell address, he warns against the formation of factions and counsels future leaders to maintain their loyalty to their country above their loyalty to any party or ideology. He also advised against fighting unnecessary wars and taking on too much debt. I think today's government leaders would do well to heed his warnings."

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

By Trevor Noah
Recommended by Anton Honikman, CEO, MyVest

"A collection of heartbreaking and funny tales from The Daily Show host's childhood, this is one of the finest books I've ever read. A mixed-race kid coming of age in post-Apartheid South Africa, he offers lessons for all of us. Despite being raised in poverty and experiencing the absence of a parent, social isolation and racial discrimination, he emerged happy and successful.

"He has repeatedly drawn on his resources of humor, creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit to survive and thrive. This should inspire us to gain perspective, to not to be victims of our circumstances, instead to build resilience by leveraging our own ‘natural resources,’ like family, community and intrinsic motivation, as Noah did."

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

By Peter Thiel with Blake Masters
Recommended by John Stuart, executive vice president, InvestCloud

"This is a quick and applicable read that exemplifies the idea of continually providing new value to clients as a key to business success. Many attributes of a high-performance technology company, such as people, distribution and durability, are key aspects of growing a client-centric business, just like financial advice. Every advisor today should be thinking about providing unique, defensible value to clients, which is a key take-away of 'Zero to One.'"

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Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

By Angela Duckworth
Recommended by Brian McLaughlin, CEO, Redtail

"An inspiring read, this book is aimed at helping the reader achieve a level of “grit” by focusing not so much on natural talent, but rather on the effort one can summon when they really want something bad enough. This is particularly relatable in the financial industry, as all advisors have had setbacks and successes alike that have helped shape them into the financial professionals they are today. How did they deal with those setbacks? How did they celebrate the successes? Did they learn anything in the process?

"It also focuses on the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In the fintech industry, you’re dead in the water if you approach your business with a fixed mindset because technology will pass you by."

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism

By Doris Kearns Goodwin
Recommended by Robert Moore, CEO, Cetera Financial Group

"'The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism' offers a compelling narrative of the first 15 years of the 20th century in America. There are valuable lessons for us today. First, the transition to digital communications has heightened the positive impact of more traditional methods, like the power of a personally handwritten note, or picking up the phone and having a real conversation. More broadly, there was a time when etiquette and a patient, disciplined focus ruled the day, versus constantly veering from point to point to chase the latest new thing, while discounting the importance of civility.

"One could argue that the pendulum has swung too far in recent years, and those who lead the way in finding a better balance will have a strategic edge, whether they're in politics, financial advice or any other field."

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics

By Richard Thaler
Recommended by Alan McKnight, CIO, Regions Asset Management

"This is a wonderful read on the power of behavioral economics. Professor Thaler takes you through the history of the discipline and the long-term explanatory value in the decisions we make and the way economies work."

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The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

By Ryan Holiday
Recommended by Mark Spina, head of U.S. Private Client Services, Russell Investments

"I’ve been talking to advisors recently about looking at their practices with as much distance and objectivity as possible — a valuable, yet difficult, exercise. In “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph,” Ryan Holiday offers great insights into perception of what occurs around us and how we decide what those events mean. Holiday’s examination of how perceptions can be ‘a source of strength or of great weakness’ is worth a read for any advisor interested in focusing less on what they think is true about themselves and more on concrete results from their practice."

The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour

By Andrei Cherny
Recommended by Rick Frisbie, CEO, RobustWealth

"'The Candy Bomber' recounts, in heart-warming detail, the delivery of millions of pounds of Hershey's chocolates via ‘kerchief parachutes’ to the desperate children of the Third Reich, in Soviet-occupied Berlin. Starting in the summer of 1948, WWII pilot Hal Halverson was motivated by empathy for their plight and received the blessing and support from the military leadership, which had just recently architected the Allies victory against a brutal foe. What started out as one man’s effort to help the innocent, evolved into the successful campaign of benevolence that was the Berlin Airlift. It kindled the faith and hearts of Germans to see democracy and freedom prevail, despite the debilitating length and toll that was the Cold War."

The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves

By Matt Ridley
Recommended by Brad McMillan, CIO, Commonwealth Financial Network

"'The Rational Optimist,' by Matt Ridley, is a detailed and hard-headed look at what got the world where it is now. As the book shows, it’s better than ever. People are richer, healthier and living longer. On almost every metric, the improvement has been phenomenal.

"Every decade, though, there are multiple reasons why we are all “doomed.” Paul Ehrlich, author of ‘The Population Bomb,’ is repeatedly called out, but there are many other examples as well. Ridley looks back at history to show that the doomsayers have consistently been wrong in the past and why he thinks they are likely to keep being wrong. Read this book if you want to have a better context as you read the news."

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Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

By Simon Sinek
Recommended by Mark Schoenbeck, executive vice president, Kestra Financial

"This book highlights the importance of knowing why we do what we do. Any person or organization can explain what they do. Some can explain how they’re different or better. Very few can clearly articulate why. “Why” is not about money or profit — those are results. “Why” is the thing that inspires us and inspires those around us."

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

By Mary Roach
Recommended by Mike Ott, president, U.S. Bank Private Wealth Management

"Having a natural sense of curiosity and learning rigor, I like the fusion of applied science and important problem solving as it relates to human endurance and safety. It reflects innovation and a willingness to assess problems from diverse perspectives. I find the insights apply to leadership in the areas of incorporating data, information from multiple and uncommon inputs."

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

By Greg McKeown
Recommended by Ben D. Jones, managing director of intermediary distribution, BMO Global Asset Management

"The pace of demands on advisors’ time continues to grow every year – from understanding new and more complex product offerings, integrating the latest technologies into their practice, keeping up with the markets, and most importantly doing good work for clients. In ‘Essentialism,’ Greg McKeown lays out how one can think about their intent and get to extreme clarity for themselves and their staff so that they can choose the highest and best use of their precious time. “Essentialism” teaches discipline so advisors can make the highest possible contribution to things that really matter."

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The Essential Advisor: Building Value in the Investor-Advisor Relationship

By Bill Crager and Jay Hummel
Recommended by Patrick A. Sweeny, cofounder and principal, Symmetry Partners

"This book provides an honest look at what financial advisors have to look forward to and dread when it comes to the future of this industry. The average client is becoming more educated and even more demanding. When robo-advisors are charging pennies on the dollar, it is up to the advisor to be dynamic and nimble. This book provides great insight into how an advisor can provide transparency, interactivity, involvement and empowerment that engages the modern client."

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success

By Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Klemp
Recommended by Michael J. Nathanson, chairman, CEO and president, The Colony Group

"This book is now required reading for all new Colony Group employees. It offers insights into how each of us can commit to building a life that is consciously made 'by me' and not just passively happening 'to me.' It is a book about living life free of victimhood and avoiding the victim-villain-hero drama triangle."

Powerhouse: Insider Accounts into the World’s Top High-performance Organizations

By Brian MacNeice and James Bowen
Recommended by Grant Rawdin, founder and CEO, Wescott Financial Advisory Group

"In this easy and fun read, the authors apply a framework of the principles of plan, priorities, processes and people to a dozen extraordinary companies and institutions. They include the U.S. Marines, the St. Louis Cardinals, Southwest Airlines and the Curtis Institute of Music. Following the historic roots of these organizations to the present day, the authors define a dozen principles that underlie their greatness. These fascinating tastes of enduring and exemplary organizations are not beyond the reach and talents of an inspired CEO."

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Fad Free Management

By Richard Hamermesh
Recommended by Jamie Price, CEO, Advisor Group

"Written in 1996, it’s a timeless book that re-grounds you in the principles of leadership and management and reminds you that an average or good strategy flawlessly executed is infinitely worth more than a perfect strategy poorly or partially executed. The book rings true for any financial advisor or business executive."

Platform Revolution: How Networked Markets are Transforming the Economy and How to Make them Work for You

By Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, Sangeet Paul Choudary
Recommended by Halbert Hargrove, CEO, Russ Hill

"This book is relevant to RIAs and planners today in facing the issue of providing the services needed by clients and making a profit. The authors delineate “pipeline” businesses as employing a step-by-step process to design a service, offer it for sale, and wait for a customer to purchase. A “platform” business, on the other hand, enables value-creating interactions between external producers and consumers. Think Amazon. Platform businesses are winning in the marketplace. While we cannot all be Amazon, clients are used to a bit of amazing. This book can help a business owner determine which set of product and service providers to align with, plus it’s fun to read."