April 27, 2009
News & Opinion: Read History So You Don't Repeat History
Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Airlines, was interviewed for The New York Times' Corner Office column yesterday. Books came up a couple of times in the course of the Q&A.
From the piece:
Q. Let's talk about hiring. What are you looking for in job candidates?
A. Typically, when you're hiring a vice president of a company, they already have the resume and they already have the experience base. And so what you're trying to find out about are the intangibles of leadership, communication style and the ability to, today, really adapt to change.
And there are a lot of ways to go at that. I like to ask people what they've read, what are the last three or four books they've read, and what did they enjoy about those. And to really understand them as individuals because, you know, the resumes you get are wonderful resumes. Wonderful education, great work history. So you have to probe a little bit deeper into the human intangibles, because we've all seen many instances where people had perfect resumes, but weren't effective in an organization.
So it's not just education and experience. It's education, experience and the human factor. The situational awareness that a person has and their ability to fit into an organization and then be successful in the organization. It's a whole series of intangibles that are almost gut instincts about people.
Q. Any good management or leadership books that you've read?
A. I think good history books are the best books on management. And particularly autobiographies and biographies. Right now, I'm reading "Theodore Rex."
He also talks a lot about the importance of communication skills. The "Blow-up PowerPoint" crowd is going to like Andersen' quote:
I don't think PowerPoints help people think as clearly as they should because you don't have to put a complete thought in place. You can just put a phrase with a bullet in front of it. And it doesn't have a subject, a verb and an object, so you aren't expressing complete thoughts.
The whole interview is worth the read.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.