In How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers, American lawyer and co-founder of the private equity firm The Carlyle Group, David Rubenstein interviews and profiles some of the world’s most successful individuals. He shares his discussions, advice, and wisdom from CEOs, presidents, founders, and master performers from the worlds of finance (Warren Buffett, Jamie Dimon, Christine Lagarde, Ken Griffin), tech (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, Tim Cook), entertainment (Oprah Winfrey, Lorne Michaels, Renee Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma), sports (Jack Nicklaus, Adam Silver, Coach K, Phil Knight), government (President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Nancy Pelosi), and many others.

David Rubenstein has had a long fascination with different individuals becoming and staying leaders. In 2008, he became the president of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., and began almost monthly interviewing a prominent business, government, or cultural leader. As a follow up he started the Peer to Peer interview show on Bloomberg TV in 2016 (broadcast on PBS as well since 2018). The How to Lead Book is an outgrowth of these interviews and is designed to provide the reader with the perspectives of different kinds of leaders, with the hope that readers might be inspired to develop or enhance their own leadership skills.

Rubenstein divides the leadership experience of interviewees in the book into six categories:

  • Visionaries: Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, and Warren Buffett
  • Builders: Phil Knight, Ken Griffin, Robert F. Smith, Jamie Dimon, and Marillyn Hewson
  • Transformers: Melinda Gates, Eric Schmidt, Tim Cook, Ginni Rometty, and Indra Nooyi
  • Commanders: George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Colin Powell, David Petraeus, Condoleezza Rice, and James A. Baker III
  • Decision-Makers: Nancy Pelosi, Adam Silver, Christine Lagarde, Anthony S. Fauci, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Masters: Jack Nicklaus, Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, Renée Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, and Lorne Michaels

English comedian, actor, writer and activist Russell Brand is a man of extremes with a loquacious and flamboyant lifestyle. Brand struggled with drugs, sex, alcohol, food, fame and online shopping addiction for several years. In Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions, he writes about his journey of recovery using the twelve-step program of Alcohol Anonymous framework and principles.

Initial Resistance to 12-step program

Brand was initially resistant to the 12-step addiction program, but upon further examination of the principles he found out that self-centred, egotistical thinking is the defining attribute of the addictive condition. Self-centredness is a tricky thing; it encompasses more than just vanity. It’s not just Fonzie, looking at himself in self-satisfied wonder and flexing his little tush, no.

I can attest personally that the 12 Steps work with severe addiction issues. If you have them, you should engage with the appropriate 12 Step support group.

The Alchemists: The INEOS Story – An industrial giant comes of age is an autobiographical account of how British billionaire, chemical engineer and businessman Jim Ratcliffe built INEOS from a  single site in Antwerp to the fourth-largest chemical company in the world and Britain’s largest private company. According to Forbes, Ratcliffe is the 77th wealthiest person in the world and the second richest Briton.

The Alchemist – About the rise of an unassuming and perhaps unlikely team with a canny combination of vision, intelligence, integrity, humility and steady competence in the face of recurring high stakes. A team that, together, created a lean, entrepreneurial, expanding business quite unlike any of its kind.

“You are right not because others agree with you, but because your facts and reasoning are sound.—Benjamin Graham

In The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success, author  William N. Thorndike profiles eight unconventional CEOs whose firm average returns outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of twenty—in other words, an investment of $10,000 with each of these CEOs, on average, would have been worth over $1.5 million twenty-five years later. Thorndike referred to these unconventional, radically rational chief executives as “The Outsiders.”

As a group, these CEOs faced the inherent uncertainty of the business world with a patient, rational, pragmatic opportunism, not a detailed set of strategic plans.

In My Life: Earvin “Magic” Johnson, former NBA player Magic Johnson writes about how he dealt with the greatest challenge of his life: HIV diagnosis. He also delves into his life, on and off the court, his family and friends that stood behind him during the most trying time. He describes his relationship with former teammates, coaches, friends, and rivals such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pat Riley, Larry Bird, Micheal Jordan, and Isiah Thomas. Magic also reflects on growing up in East Lansing, Michigan, the showtime Los Angeles Lakers, his relationship with women, and his fight against HIV and AIDS awareness advocacy.

Magic writes about his wife Cookie, who he had been dating since college, retirement, and post-retirement. My Life: Earvin “Magic” Johnson is a very inspirational book on how to brave the toughest challenge of life such as a health scare diagnosis like Magic experienced. Magic smile is always radiant and gives testament that no matter what happens in life, we can always make the best use of our circumstances and keep it moving.

The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography is a book of reflection by Bahamian-American actor Sidney Pottier wherein he reflects on lessons learned during his seventy-plus years of sojourn in life. Sidney described what he absorbed through his early experiences, lessons learned from his parents and adventures. Sidney Pottier was the first black actor and the first Bahamian to win the Academy Award for Best Actor.

In Becoming Trader Joe: How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys, the founder of Trader Joe, Joe Coulombe, shares the founding story of building the grocery store chain, lessons learned in the process and insights for navigating the entrepreneurial journey. He started the company in 1958, and as of 2020, the company generated revenue of US$16.5 billion and employed 50,000+ people.

As a partner of Rexall, Joe had started Pronto in 1958 as a copy of 7-Eleven, because there were no 7-Elevens in California.

Trader Joe’s was conceived from those two demographic news stories. What I saw here was a small but growing demographic opportunity in people who were well-educated. 7-Eleven, and the whole convenience store genre, served the most basic needs of the most mindless demographics with cigarettes, Coca-Cola, milk, Budweiser, candy, bread, eggs. Dimly, I saw an opportunity to differentiate ourselves radically from mainstream retailing to mainstream people.

In Am I Being Too Subtle?: Straight Talk From a Business Rebel, American Billionaire, and Real Estate Entrepreneur Sam Zell shares his story of how a restless, curious boy who grew up in Chicago made it to the Forbes 400. He describes the risks that paid off and those that didn’t and what he learned in the process. Sam is best known for building several commercial real estate companies with investments also in other industries such as energy, manufacturing, retail, travel, logistics, and health care.

Sam is the son of Jewish immigrants who fled Poland to escape the Holocaust and come to the United States. A former lawyer, he is the founder and chairman of Equity Group Investments, a private investment firm, founded in 1968.  According to Forbes, Sam has an estimated net worth of USD $5.2 billion as of March 2023.

Abiola Bawuah was recently appointed to become the first female CEO of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Africa operations. With her appointment, she joins the UBA Group Board as an Executive Director, overseeing the Group’s operations across the African continent, outside Nigeria. She was formerly the regional CEO of UBA, in charge of six countries (Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Liberia and Sierra Leone).

In Government Cheese, author Steve Pressfield narrates his roller coaster journey of becoming an author, how he dealt with resistance, the multiple jobs he undertook (Marine Corps reservist, truck driver, secretary, orchard picker, copywriter, cab driver, Golf Caddie, Janitor), navigating the challenges of becoming a creative and the mentors that guided him on his path to greatness.

Steve Pressfield’s story is an excellent reminder of what a lot of creatives go through before they eventually get their breakthrough. Pressfield dealt with shame, poverty, resistance, self-doubt and rejection. But in spite of all these challenges, he persevered, endured, kept showing up daily and eventually achieved his goal of becoming a writer.

In Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, Coach Wooden shares timeless wisdom about every aspect of life, his personal philosophy on family, achievement, success, and excellence. Coach John Wooden won 10 NCAA champions in his 12 years reign as the UCLA Bruins, including seven national championships in a row: 1967, 1968, 1969,1970, 1971, 1972, 1973. He is considered one of the most successful National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) coaches.

Iron Mike Tyson is considered one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. In a career that spanned thirty years (1985-2005), he reigned as the undisputed world heavyweight champion from 1987 to 1990. Tyson made over 400 million dollars in his boxing career. However, he lost most of his wealth due to a series of poor financial decisions, drugs, alcohol and sex addiction. In 2003, Tyson filed for bankruptcy with $23 million dollars in debt.

In It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, Captain D. Michael Abrashoff shares his experience commandeering the once-underperforming destroyer USS Benfold, to becoming the best ship in the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

He reflects on lessons learned, successes and failures made and leadership principles garnered  leading the ship.

“My biggest mistake was to focus down the chain of command, trying to improve my ship and my crew, instead of seeing myself as one captain in a battle group.I didn’t do enough to collaborate with my fellow captains as a member of a larger team. Instead, Benfold’s achievements stood on their own, and as a result the battle group wasn’t as strong as it could and should have been.”

Self-mastery is an unending process. Your job is NEVER  FINISHED!

 In Never Finished: Unshackle Your Mind and Win the War Within, David Goggins takes readers inside his Mental Lab, where he developed the philosophy, psychology, and strategies that enabled him to learn that what he thought was his limit was only his beginning and that the quest for greatness is unending.

Living the Dream: My Life and Basketball by Hakeem Olajuwon is one of my favourite sports biography of all time. I have read loads of biographies and autobiographies, but living the dream stands out. I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, just like Hakeem. Most of the places and peculiarities about being a Nigerian are very familiar to me, and being of the Yoruba tribe like Hakeem makes the book more relatable.

“Being a Nigerian is abysmally frustrating and unbelievably exciting” – Chinua Achebe 

In Living the Dream, Nigerian-American former professional basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon chronicles his life trajectory from growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, in a middle-class Nigerian family. The star of the Houston Rockets chronicles the cross-cultural journey from his Nigerian childhood to the heights of fame with the NBA, discussing his life on and off the court, rivalry with other players, confrontations with owners and referees, and his religious faith.

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