Let’s face it: being on a board of directors comes with the opportunity to earn a very nice salary in exchange for lending expertise that can help take a corporation to the next level.
However, what some may not realize is that this role also brings the challenge of broadening your intellectual horizons in order to truly understand and navigate the greater business, economic, technological, and social landscape. For board members across the globe, there’s no better way to do that than reading more books.
While you have probably already read many works on how to do your job well, you still have a need to learn about the topics that may affect your leadership or business in the near future. Whether you’re thirsty for some intellectual stimulation or looking for a good birthday or holiday gift request, consider tackling one of these seven works that can help you become a better, more knowledgeable board member.
1. The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion
By Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell
Governing well involves knowing what works and having a deep understanding of what doesn’t.
Fortunately, this book does more than just tell what Adam Neumann did to take down a billion-dollar company — you can likely find that information in the news.
What it does do is help you understand how economic changes and shifts in investor sentiment can send startup companies without a firm foundation spiraling into chaos.
2. The New China Playbook: Beyond Socialism and Capitalism
By Keyu Jin
Unless you’re well-read and culturally well-versed, you may not know much about China beyond what you see in the news. Most Westerners think about little more than socialism when they hear the country’s name. However, things are changing rapidly in China.
Undoubtedly, the country is fast becoming one of the world’s foremost economies. If you lead a corporation, it’s important to understand how China’s business landscape is changing and how it might affect things in Western capitalist society moving forward.
3. The Worlds I See: Curiosity, Exploration, and Discovery at the Dawn of AI
By Dr. Fei-Fei Li
Artificial intelligence has been around for some time, but the world is just starting to see it emerge as consumer technology. With that comes inherent risks, opportunities, and social expectations for corporations and the customers they serve.
If you’re a board member, it’s critical that you’re well-read enough on the topic to know how this technology can benefit your company now and where it might take you in the future.
Perhaps seeing AI through the lens of a prominent AI scientist can help you make some decisions about how to keep your company on the cutting edge while maintaining dignity and privacy for everyone involved.
4. Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
By Patrick Radden Keefe
The Sackler family founded Purdue Pharma, the company responsible for the production of OxyContin and long blamed for the development of America’s opioid crisis. What in the world might you have to learn from a story like this?
For anyone involved in corporate governance, it’s a vital lesson on the importance of prioritizing the well-being of customers and taking responsibility when someone gets hurt. It’s a powerful illustration of what can happen when corporations put profits before people.
5. The Good Life: Lessons From the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness
By Robert Waldinger, MD and Marc Schulz, PhD
Board members are notorious for being high achievers who work long hours and devote their lives to the success of a corporation.
Being a key decision-maker with so much on your plate can make you forget about the other things that matter.
This book is a reminder that good relationships and a healthy respect for the opinions of others aren’t things that get in the way of boards achieving their goals.
They can actually be what facilitates good governance. Learn what truly makes a satisfying life, and then go after it in every arena.
6. The Gift of Influence: Creating Life-Changing and Lasting Impact in Your Everyday Interactions
By Tommy Spaulding
These days, the word “influencer” has been heavily tainted by social media activity. It often refers to a figurehead who hides behind a computer (or phone) screen and pushes products they don’t believe in to an unsuspecting audience hanging on their every word.
However, as a board member, you know how important influence is, and you also likely know that it doesn’t quite work like that in the real world.
In this book, you’ll learn how to use lessons from interactions in your everyday life to enhance your relationships in the boardroom. You’ll get a chance to see how you can do better at building real, lasting relationships that help you do more than just get your point across.
What you can learn about influence on these pages will turn your focus to what truly matters — collaborating with your fellow board members to change the world for the better.
7. Leading Inclusion: Drive Change Your Employees Can See and Feel
By Gena Cox, PhD
Diversity, equity, and inclusion is a huge topic among board members and the next generation. Perhaps you work with a corporation where DEI efforts have been hampered by recent legislation and rapidly shifting public sentiment. What can you do to ensure you’re compliant while still building workplaces where everyone can thrive? How can you avoid the trap of faking it and risking having Gen Z see right through a flimsy DEI policy?
This book can help you set a vision for DEI that does more than just create a mantra or make announcements to the press. The practical advice contained here turns DEI from a moral issue into a leadership imperative, helping you make real changes that even entry-level employees can see, feel, and truly appreciate.
Constant Learning Is the Key to Good Governance
As a board member, your ultimate goal is to ensure you make decisions that steer the company in the right direction while creating success for all stakeholders. Maintaining a constant quest for understanding and pursuing a broad range of knowledge are both key to being able to meet that goal.
While books can’t tell you everything you need to know for good governance, they can provide valuable information, inspiration, and ideas to help you along the way.
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