Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Leaders are Readers!

If you study the life of anyone who has achieved at a very high level you will undoubtedly discover that they are uncharacteristically curious and strongly dedicated to lifelong learning. It is an old cliche’ but it is true… leaders are readers. So, in an effort to help you along that path, I’d like to share a few really good business books I have recently read and very highly recommend.

Let me begin with a disclaimer: I have a total crush on Joe Calloway. I LOVE all of his books. I love the topics. I love his writing style. I just happen to think he is one of the most insightful, witty and talented business thinkers and speakers in the world today (and I am truly not exaggerating). If you want to know how to differentiate your business and create wildly loyal customers, his two books: Indispensable and Becoming a Category of One are MUST reads. So you can imagine my great joy when his newest book: Never By Chance arrived on my desk last week. I read it immediately (twice!!!) and… another home run!

Joe, with his co-authors Chuck Feltz, and Kris Young, offers a highly readable business book that helps a leader adopt the mindset that “every resource that can be valuable, will be valuable.” This is a truly critical idea in today’s economic climate. In addition the book addresses such important topics as:

  • The direct link between vision and stakeholder success
  • Why a purposeful customer experience is absolutely necessary
  • Why you may no longer be relevant to your customers
  • How to use your culture as a competitive advantage
  • Why intentional leadership matters

As I read through Never By Chance I saw many parallels to the core management philosophies I believe so strongly in such as: talent, vision, culture and extreme customer focus. If you’re looking for a really good book to help trigger some creative thinking about your business – get a copy of Never By Chance right away, I am confident you will love it too.

Another valuable book I just read was Great Business Teams by Howard Guttman. I have been teaching high-performance team workshops for nearly a decade and have done a LOT of reading on the subject, and would now put Great Business Teams on my list as one of the top books I have ever read on teamwork because it is full of excellent ideas and useful tools.  If you add in Team Building by  Dyer, The Wisdom of Teams by Katzenbach & Smith and Organizing Genius by Bennis, you’d have a pretty solid base on the essentials of building and sustaining a truly high-performance team.

I also just finished Seth Godin’s newest book, Linchpin which is focused on how to make yourself indispensible. Seth is the undisputed world-champion GURU of marketing and a Zen Master in self-promotion. I am a HUGE fan of some of his books (my favorite is Purple Cow ) and not-so-much a fan of some of his other books. However, I did find a lot to like in Linchpin, not the least of which was that to get an advanced copy I had to send in a donation to the Acumen Fund – not the fund (where I am a major contributor already!!). I underlined several great ideas in this book and as far as I am concerned that makes any book a good investment of my time and money.

Lastly, I want to thank all of you for your continued support of my book, Awesomely Simple: Essential Business Strategies for Turning Ideas into Action. Having it named one of the top ten small business books of 2009 has been a big boost and the sales numbers continue to be very strong. Thank you so much for helping to “spread the word” about Awesomely Simple, I deeply appreciate your efforts.

Hope you enjoy these books as much as I did, and if you have a great business book recommendation I am eager to hear it!  Take good care — John


  1. Dear John:

    Thank you for the positive review you gave my book, Great Business Teams, on this past Monday’s blog—and thank you for putting it in the same category as some of the classics in the field. That is high praise, indeed!

    Given the growing body of literature on the subject of horizontal, high-performing teams, you would think that more companies would be moving to this structure. Yet, I find that the vast majority are still operating in following the old, hierarchical model. Why? In my experience, there are three major factors that are holding them back.

    First, many leaders are afraid to push responsibility and authority down in the organization; they equate distributed decision making with the abdication of their personal power. Second, to make the model succeed you’ve got to have the right players in place. The thought of making painful personnel decisions causes them to cling to the status quo. Third, there is still a widespread knowledge deficit. Thanks to blogs like yours and books on the drawing board, this is changing, but we still need to get the word out to leaders who aren’t aware of the benefits of the horizontal, high-performance model, not only for their organization, but for them personally.

    Howard M. Guttman


  1. […] Awesomely Simple author John Spence believes that Leaders are Readers, so he reveals his crush on Joe Calloway and discusses some of his favorite business […]