There was a stage in the 90s when I was an avid business book reader and read everything I could lay my hands on. I still come back to Nuts, which is about the legendary founder and chairman of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher. He broke all the rules and created one of the most successful airlines in history.
One of my heroes is the business guru, Tom Peters. Hearing him speak is a truly riveting and mind-expanding experience. I often go back and dip into his In Search of Excellence and The Pursuit of Wow. He gets it.
Both Kelleher and Peters are passionate about people, which I love.
Another favourite books is the Band of Brothers by Stephen E Ambrose (It also became a very successful HBO mini-series). It is the story of a company of elite US soldiers during the Second World War. It is a fascinating tale of comradeship, of ordinary men who did extraordinary things. Their officer, Captain Winters, embodies for me one of the best examples of leadership in action and provides a useful guide for any businessman; It’s clear his men will follow him anywhere because he leads from the front, cares for his men and is always able to get the best out of them.
One of my favourite bands is The Grateful Dead. They came out of the hippie psychedelic drug-fuelled chaos of 1960s San Francisco. Many business theorists are now concluding that their business and marketing techniques are a model for the digital age. Apple and Google are said to be two companies that owe much to the Dead’s approach to life. Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead by Dave Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan has just come out. All this attention brings a smile to my face for as their ‘non leader’, Jerry Garcia, once said “What the hell, it’s not like we’re in it for the money.”
Tom Wright is GM, India, Middle East, Africa & Pakistan, Cathay Pacific
Ex Libris features business leaders on the books that influence them.
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(This story appears in the 22 October, 2010 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)