Breakthrough Leadership

If you are unaware of Fast Company, then you are missing out. They are the one-stop website for everything business, innovation, creativity, technology, and leadership. There are many sub-brands (i.e. Co.Design, Co.Exist, Co.Create, Co.Labs) but they pride themselves as a magazine and website as the curators of innovative business content.

One of the areas the tackle in articles and blogs most often is leadership in business. From productivity based on open or closed office spaces to tips on creativity within a team, their topics span CEO level to entry level positions. Since finding information on these topics from years past through archives of posts can be time intensive, Fast Company has compiled eBooks of some of their most-read articles based on topic. The most recent one is titled Breakthrough Leadership.

In Breakthrough Leadership eight companies and/or executives are featured and their leadership stories are told. Profiled first is Elon Musk of Tesla Motors. His laser-focused strategy about revolutionizing the car manufacturing realm illustrates the importance of having a plan and sticking to it no matter what the critics say. Then the next section is an excerpt from a Fast Company roundtable discussion between Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, and Ben Horowitz explores how no one is born a fully-functioning CEO, rather it is a learned position that takes time, patience, failure, vision, and a team around you that is better than you by yourself. Next follows an inspiring story about Dr. Govindappa Venkataswamy who founded an hospital in India, without government or foreign aid, that gives people their sight back through removing cataracts. Then a brilliant piece on J.Crew and the two individuals (Jenna Lyons and Mickey Drexler) who reinstated it at cult brand status and the difficult decisions it took to get it there. Starbucks and its CEO Howard Schultz discuss the trick of navigating how to rebound such a large company from the brink of falling apart. Next, the edgy athletic brand Under Armour is spotlighted as its CEO Kevin Plank is trying to learn how to continue to innovate while fending off competitors such as Nike, Adidas, and Reebok. CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos gives readers a peek behind the curtain of what is next on Amazon’s plate and just what it means to push the envelope by creating new ways people can get what they want and get it faster. Lastly, GE takes the reader inside its GE/Durham plant where there are no bosses but everyone functions as each other’s bosses creating a culture of accountability and a team that believes and trusts each other.

The beauty of this eBook is not only its length (under 120 pages) but its depth. In eight concise stories, you are exposed to some of the same leadership principles you would have to read five other books to pull out… and they are real life examples! No existential principles that leave you wondering how they actually work in “real life.” These are real stories of real people doing real things. It brings a very tangible feeling to leadership which can sometimes feel like an elusive concept.

I have always loved Fast Company’s work, and being able to pick up an eBook that compiles stories and articles together around a common theme is brilliant. It saves me time from having to look all over the place for relevant content and provides me with practical, applicable takeaways I can use in my sphere.

While Breakthrough Leadership isn’t going to drop any inspiration that can’t be found in any other leadership book, the length and portability allows it to challenge our thinking in small doses forcing us to consider new perspectives and ways to approach leading our teams and ourselves.

Maybe, in that sense, it is breakthrough leadership.


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