My job requires me to read extensively, and keep myself updated with research and analysis. So, when I read books, I look for a complete change—nothing to do with business or management. High on my list are biographies, autobiographies and memoirs. I also thoroughly enjoy the classics.
One book that had a deep impact on me is Personal History by Katherine Graham. Graham led her family’s newspaper The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal that eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon. After her husband committed suicide, Graham unexpectedly found herself taking over the leadership of the company and the newspaper. This was a role she had no preparation or grooming for. She explains her lack of confidence and distrust in her own knowledge. Her transformation into a woman who came into her own, led her newspaper through some very difficult times and eventually became one of America’s most admired women is a gripping and inspiring story. It also portrays how her role changed over the last century, mirroring the dynamic we have seen in women’s roles from the home to the workplace. The book won the Pulitzer Prize.
Graham’s approach to business was based on high principles and tremendous courage. Despite having no background in business, she effectively nurtured and harnessed the talents of a great team. She also knew how to take tough decisions: With the unions, for example. She built a business that not only had a huge impact—be it breaking the Watergate scandal or the Pentagon papers—but also created a huge financial value. When The Washington Post went public in 1971, the share price was $6.50. When she stepped down in 1991, it was $221. Her son took over after her, and recently Jeff Bezos purchased the newspaper, making headlines around the world.
Roopa Kudva is MD and CEO, Crisil
(Co-ordinated by Aangi Kothari)
Ex-Libris is a column in which business leaders talk about books that have inspired them
(This story appears in the 15 November, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)