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ICONic Book Club

We create a welcoming and engaging environment for like-minded individuals to come together and discuss their favorite books. We aim to explore various genres and literary works, encouraging diverse perspectives and fostering meaningful conversations.

Can an Australian Leadership book be Relevant to Readers outside Australia?

The most recent ICON Book Club featured a lively discussion of a rare beast – an Australian leadership book with a global application. But it made us wonder whether an Australian book would be relevant for readers who don’t live and work in Australia?  

The latest Australian leadership book and what makes it stand out

Kirstin Ferguson's "Head and Heart: The Art of Modern Leadership" is not your average leadership book. It opens by painting a vivid pen portrait of the modern leader, using figures like Jacinda Ardern and Satya Nadella as examples. The core premise is simple yet profound: modern leaders lead with both head and heart, balancing strategic thinking with empathy and emotional intelligence.

Ferguson's voice and featured leaders are undeniably Australian and diverse including people like Benjamin Law, Yvette Rees, Mark Scott and Sally McManus. Their perspectives on how to lead are varied and valuable in providing life to how Modern Leaders deploy both Head (including attributes Curiousity, Wisdom, Perspective and Capability) and Heart (including attributes Humility, Self-Awareness, Courage and Empathy) at their work. 

The framework transcends borders and resonates across industries. This was evident in the ICON book club discussion, where the focus shifted from theory to application.

Our discussion centred around several key points:

Putting the Framework to Work: The self-assessment tool provided in the book allowed us to reflect on our own leadership styles. We agreed that sharing these results with our teams and peers could foster open communication and collaboration.

Head vs. Heart in Recruitment: We questioned the traditional emphasis on "head" qualities in recruitment, considering whether incorporating the "heart" aspect could attract more well-rounded and inspiring leaders. This sparked discussions about the culture and the values we prioritise and reward in professional services firms.

Aspirational Leadership: We wondered whether the framework was more aspirational - one that guides us towards becoming better leaders ourselves - when so many of our political leaders seemed to fall short of the Modern Leader ideal.

Beyond these specific topics, the book's strength lies in its ability to spark conversation. It challenges traditional leadership stereotypes and encourages readers to think critically about their own approach.

Here's what makes "Head and Heart" stand out:

  • Unique Framework: The "head and heart" model provides a clear and actionable framework for leadership development. It's not just theoretical but offers concrete tools for self-evaluation and improvement.
  • Compelling Examples: Real-life stories of successful leaders, like Jacinda Ardern and Satya Nadella, bring the framework to life and make it relatable.
  • Diverse Voices: The book showcases a range of leadership styles and backgrounds, highlighting the importance of inclusivity and diversity in leadership models.
  • Focus on Application: The book goes beyond theory and provides practical exercises and tools to help readers apply the framework in their own lives.
  • Discussion Starter: The book's thought-provoking content is guaranteed to spark lively discussions and debates about leadership in your book club or team meetings.

Overall, "Head and Heart" is a refreshing and insightful read that challenges traditional leadership thinking and provides a valuable framework for personal and professional reflection and discussion. This book could be enjoyed by readers anywhere with an emphasis on compelling and diverse examples and practical application.

This ICONIC book club session was brilliantly facilitated by Juliet Robinson from Big Goals. Check out her podcast Grow Your Leadership. The most recent episode about psychopaths at work is chilling and recognisable and there’s plenty of other interesting material in there that will help you be a better leader.

To join the next ICONic Book Club please send us an email.

Matthew Lee, April 2024 

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works

The May ICONic Book Club tackled Roger Martin’s Strategic Planning classic “Playing to Win” in advance of the EOFY strategic planning season. The Club heard some compelling examples of firms that not only use this framework but also “live it”!

Summary of “Playing to Win”

"Playing to Win" introduces a five-question framework to guide strategy development:

  1. Who will we serve? This question compels business development professionals to define the target customer segment with utmost precision.
  2. What will be our winning proposition? This focuses on crafting a differentiated value proposition that resonates with the target segment's decision-making needs.
  3. Where will we play? Here, the authors advocate for selecting a specific industry vertical or niche to focus on, allowing for deeper client understanding and targeted service development.
  4. How will we win? This section delves into the capabilities and activities required to deliver the chosen value proposition consistently.
  5. What capabilities must we have? This final question compels an honest assessment of the firm's current capabilities and the need for development to deliver on the strategic plan.

Overall, "Playing to Win" offers valuable insights for business development professionals in professional services firms. Its emphasis on strategic clarity and client-centricity provides a robust foundation for developing winning strategies.

What the ICONic Book Club thought of “Playing to Win”

The book offers a methodology originally designed for business-to-business (B2B) environments which makes it more relevant to a professional services context than some other strategic planning approaches. While “Playing to Win” leverages established strategic concepts the Club thought that the presentation is fresh and insightful bolstered by strong case studies. The core framework is simple and applicable across various situations.

“Playing to Win” makes a critical distinction between strategic and operational plans. The book emphasizes the need to differentiate between the two with clear examples. Effective strategy requires a broader perspective, a "helicopter view," focusing on key choices.

Leadership was viewed as a main factor for those firms really embedding the methodology into action through integrating the framework into the training program for high-potential employees and using it as a decision-making tool.

Additional Reading

·         Roger Martin’s  new book – ‘A new way to think which develops the “Playing to Win” framework,

·         BCG Strategy Pallette – a really useful tool which helps you adapt your strategic approach to your business environment 

Our Next Book

Please join us for the discussion on Friday 9 August at 1pm AEST of Can marketing save the planet: 101 ways to use sustainable marketing as a force for good.

The ICON book club also features pointers to additional resources such as podcasts, articles that may enhance your enjoyment of the book and tips on how to use the book in your organisation. In fact, you don’t have to read the book at all to be part of the discussion!!!!

Matthew Lee, May 2024