This is a guest post by Michael A. Olguin, President & CEO, Havas Formula.
When I launched my PR agency in 1992, I devoured business books as quickly as I could get my hands on them. I thought the more good advice I could absorb, the better leader I would become. And this, in turn, would lead to greater business success. Everything from The Peter Principle to Good to Great to In Search of Excellence became page-turners for me. From each book I learned incredibly valuable concepts, smart strategies and easy-to-implement ideas that I believed would take my leadership skills to the next level.
Conceptually, I knew that business books are written to provide “how-to” knowledge by an experienced (and oftentimes well-known) expert and they are designed to make businesspersons’ lives easier and more productive. So I dove right in.
For self-improvement, I read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which talks about “the person who has technical knowledge plus the ability to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse enthusiasm among people—that person is headed for higher earning power.” For a book written in 1936, it was still extremely relevant for me in the early ‘90s as I looked to hire more employees who could help me support new clients and grow the business.
To gain a better perspective on leadership, I read Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive, in which he identifies five essential practices to business effectiveness for executives: managing time, choosing what to contribute, knowing where and how to mobilize strength, setting priorities and effective decision-making. As a result, I started to think that if you weren’t 15 minutes early you were late, and you should clear your desk (and mind) of simple to-do’s as quickly as possible so you could focus on the items that mattered most.
Seeking to broaden my overall marketing expertise, I read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow, which digs deep into the importance of differentiation and how that translates into marketplace success as evidenced by some of the biggest brand success stories in history. It provided me with the insight to develop my agency’s early positioning as a “national boutique”—a small firm capable of handling large business.
And so the furious immersion continued, as I tried to put what I learned into practice.
From Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager, I tried to implement his “one minute praisings,” and from Building Leaders the West Point Way, a fantastic read from Major General Joseph P. Franklin, I practiced a concept called leadership by walking around—each morning I walked the office saying hello to everyone to build and reinforce relationships. And when I read Dr. Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese, I tried to better prepare myself for the inevitable change that happens in all businesses.
With each book, I learned a lot. And that’s where the problem arose.
I realized that the more I tried to introduce leadership concepts into my management style, the more difficulty I had being a consistent manager. I was all over the place. Rather than recognizing that the concepts within each book were designed to work together, in their entirety and over time, I was trying to implement all of the advice as one-offs, and it was creating confusion. In short, my leadership style was becoming chaotic, or as I like to call it—schizophrenic leadership.
I knew I needed to find a leadership style that was my own, so I devised an approach to reading called 5-1-3. Simply put, for every five books you read, one should be a business leadership book, and from that book you should look to incorporate no more than three takeaways into your leadership style. This paced out cadence, which I have subsequently shared with my employees, ensured that I gave each newly introduced concept enough time to take hold before adding something new; thus establishing consistency and time for success.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m a huge believer in reading and I’m not suggesting you cut back. Whether you lean toward biographies, thrillers or New York Times best sellers, reading expands your mind. And reading leadership books, in particular, is incredibly important to business success. However, just as you can get wrapped up in a story, you can take the advice shared in business books too far and succumb to schizophrenic leadership, as I did. So the next time you pick up a business book, remember that good leadership comes less from what you read and more from knowing what makes the most sense for your personal leadership style.
Michael Olguin founded Havas Formula in 1992 as a national public relations boutique agency. A senior strategist with more than 28 years of PR experience, he is equally versed in driving B-to-C and B-to-B programs for clients across consumer, lifestyle, high-tech, consumer technology, sports, entertainment, and travel categories.