The CEO crowd isn’t the best place to go for book suggestions because they have so little free time to read. Nevertheless, we asked in our recent survey of Fortune 500 CEOs: What’s the best book you have read in the last year? And we got a grab bag of answers–some 40 different books, ranging from autobiographies (Long Walk to Freedom) to classics (The Bible) to fiction (I Am Pilgrim) to nonfiction (The Soul of America.)
Only seven books got mentioned more than once, so I’ll highlight those here. Author Ron Chernow wins the prize for writing two of the seven: Grant (3 mentions) and Alexander Hamilton (2). The only book besides Grant to get three mentions was Principles, which is billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio’s effort to share the secrets of his success with the rest of the world. Worth noting that a fourth CEO cited Radical Candor, by former Google executive Kim Scott, who shares a key element of Dalio’s philosophy.
Four other books got two mentions:
— The Rise and Fall of American Growth, by economist Robert Gordon (we didn’t ask whether they actually finished the 785-page tome.)
— Grit, by psychologist Angela Duckworth, which claims to offer the secret to success in any field.
— Hillbilly Elegy, the highly readable memoir of J.D. Vance, which rocketed on the bestseller lists after Trump’s election.
— And the classic guide to business success, Good to Great, written by Jim Collins nearly two decades ago, but still captivating business readers today.
Meanwhile, since it’s Friday, a bit of reader feedback:
D.M., who works as a recruiter, took a cynical view of my report that nearly 15% of Fortune 500 CEOs used the term “servant leadership” to describe their own leadership style. “Not to sound cynical,” he said, but “servant leadership, while noble in theory and widely proclaimed, rarely exists in reality and/or execution…Here’s hoping we see a new trend of ‘practicing what they preach.’”
And P.B. commented on my report that most CEOs, while convinced AI is “very important” to their business, are making only modest investments in it. “The fast follower approach does not bode well for these companies.”
More news below.
North Korea has said President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a summit with Kim Jong-un was “very regrettable,” and the meeting remains “desperately necessary.” Trump withdrew from the planned talks after the North Koreans emitted a belligerent statement. “Internally we have been quietly giving president Trump high marks for making a decision no other American president had the courage to pursue,” said North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan in a statement. Guardian
Happy GDPR Day!
Europe’s sweeping new data privacy law came into effect this morning, and Google and Facebook have already been hit with formal complaints over alleged contraventions. Privacy activists have accused the companies of forcing people to consent to having their data exploited in order to use Android, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) expressly forbids this sort of thing. Fortune
The Chinese phone giant Xiaomi is on track to float on Hong Kong’s stock exchange in the first half of July. According to the South China Morning Post, Xiaomi is shooting for an IPO valuation of at least $70 billion, based on a projection that its profits will be growing by more than half annually over the next three years. If it pulls it off, this will be the biggest IPO in history, by far. SCMP
Apple has won the right to a $539 million payout from Samsung over the Korean firm’s copying of features in the original iPhone. The two companies have been at legal war since 2011, and in 2012, Apple was awarded $1.05 billion in damages. With a lengthy argument ensuing over that figure, the latest ruling attempts to end the matter—but Samsung, which insists it only owed $28 million, is not happy. BBC
Around the Water Cooler
An Amazon Echo device was apparently incorrectly triggered by part of a conversation that its owners were having, so it recorded their conversation and sent it to one of their contacts. Amazon has confirmed the incident and said it is trying to ensure that this won’t happen again. But the episode at least gives a bad impression, given that Amazon insists its Alexa virtual assistant isn’t always listening to what goes on around it. Wall Street Journal
Bloomberg has a piece on how U.S. officials and allies are struggling to deal with President Trump’s sudden policy reversals, which he makes without consultation at home or abroad. “Trump himself conveys the sense that every announcement is spur of the moment,” the article notes. “The Europeans, Iranians, Palestinians, Syrians, the Chinese and others have been left flummoxed by the president in recent weeks.” Bloomberg
An online petition is calling on major sponsors to cut ties with the NFL over its ban on players kneeling during the national anthem. The NFL now says players who want to protest police brutality must stay in the locker room during the anthem. The companies include Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Bose, Ford, Hyundai and Under Armour, all of which have previously urged the league to let players express their views. Fox Business
Fortune‘s Clifton Leaf spoke with Sean Parker about his backing of Spotify, and how co-founder Daniel Ek warned the Napster founder: “You do realize you’re throwing yourself back into the furnace here. Do you really want to go through this again?” So why did Parker push on? “The apocalyptic scenario in the music industry had already come to pass. The industry had collapsed. There was a legitimate openness to trying something new because CD sales continued to drop,” he said. Fortune