One of the most important decisions every leader makes every day is how to spend his or her time. I’ve noticed that highly successful CEOs often allocate their time in unconventional ways. It makes sense; if they used their time like CEOs in the broad middle of the distribution, they wouldn’t get results way out on the right-hand tail.
The issue comes to mind as former Microsoft CEO and world’s richest person Bill Gates yesterday announced his annual suggestion for a summer reading list – books he has read in the past year that he recommends because he found them gripping and they “made me think in new ways.” This year the list includes a science fiction novel in which the moon blows up as well as books by a mathematician and a biochemist. Plenty of CEOs read books, obviously, but not many do it like Gates. He devours them. As CEO, he scheduled a week each year at a quiet location where he would be entirely undisturbed so he could just read and think.
Does that remind you of anyone? How about another contender for the title of world’s richest person? Warren Buffett has observed that “I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions, than most people in business.” He has said that he spends 80% of his time reading. Asked for advice on how to get so smart, he held up a sheaf of papers and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.”
Such time use is decidedly weird, as Buffett observed. Researchers at the London School of Economics and Harvard Business School found that CEOs they studied spent only 11% of their work time working alone. Other research has found that CEOs spend 33% of their time in meetings, on average, and 30% on email. None of them will ever be another Buffett.
Not that his model is the only one that works. When Jack Welch was CEO of General Electric, he estimated that he spent 50% to 65% of his time evaluating people – his most important job, he said, so it deserved most of his time. I’ve met lots of CEO who say human capital is their company’s most valuable asset and the key to its competitiveness, but I’ve hardly ever met one who walked the talk like Welch did. And I’ve hardly ever met one who was so successful.
The big point being that on this dimension, as on many others, the best leaders dare to be different. Because a leader’s behavior cascades down through the organization, changing his or her time use can amount to blowing up the culture. Do you dare?
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What We’re Reading Today
Another carmaker admits to fuel-test mistakes
But Suzuki’s Osamu Suzuki says cheating didn’t cause the fuel economy errors. Methods for testing 16 models did not comply with regulations, but the company says the results don’t need to be amended. The admission comes weeks after Mitsubishi announced it falsified fuel economy data; on Tuesday the company announced that president Tetsuro Aikawa will resign. BBC News
Dow CEO: It doesn’t matter who wins the presidency
CEO Andrew Liveris said the economy will be fine if Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton becomes president because Washington is gridlocked. Speaking at Fortune‘s Brainstorm-E conference, he also said anyone would be better than President Barack Obama because his administration has regulated the oil industry so heavily. Fortune
Nokia to reenter mobile phone handset business
But it won’t manufacture phones. Rajeev Suri‘s company, once among the world’s largest cellphone makers, will license technology to a newly created Finnish firm, HMD Global Oy. That company will have exclusive rights to some Nokia cell phone patents and the brand for 10 years. It’s another push by Suri to move Nokia back into the consumer market; it bought a health tracker tool last month. WSJ
Alibaba broke takeover rules
So say Hong Kong securities regulators. The violation came in 2014 when Jack Ma‘s company bought a healthcare firm whose vice chairman was Chen Xiao Ying. Around the same time, it also bought a company owned by Chen’s brother, Chen Wen Xin. In the second purchase, the regulators claim Alibaba received “favorable terms.” Alibaba will appeal the decision. Reuters
Building a Better Leader
White House to extend overtime pay for millions
Under new Labor Department rules, the overtime pay limit will rise from $23,660 to $47,476. The change will make 4.2 million employees newly eligible for overtime. USA Today
One of the biggest mistakes a new hire makes…
…is not seeking a mentor who can help the new employee understand how the organization works. Fortune
Women in elite job roles make far less than men
Male doctors working full time earned $210,000 on average while women doctors earned 36% less. Similar results were found for personal financial advisers and judges. WSJ
Clinton declares victory in Kentucky
Hillary Clinton claimed a half-percent Kentucky victory after a surge of last-minute spending. Bernie Sanders easily won in Oregon. While Clinton continues to command a large lead in the delegate count, she can’t seem to shake Sanders. CNN
Sanders defends supporters in Nevada
At a Democratic convention in Nevada, state party chairwoman Roberta Lange said she was threatened as Sanders supporters argued over delegates; the situation grew violent as Sanders supporters rushed the stage. Sanders has stood behind his followers, denying they were inciting violence. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called Sanders’s response “anything but acceptable.” NPR
Donald and the RNC agree on fundraising deal
Under the agreement, an individual can donate up to $449,400 to the Trump Victory Fund. The money will go to the RNC, Donald Trump‘s campaign, and 11 state committees. Individual donations direct to the Trump campaign are limited to $5,400. It’s an important agreement for Trump, who says he won’t self-fund his campaign, for which he may need over $1 billion. NBC News
Up or Out
David Epstein, who headed Novartis Pharmaceuticals in America, will leave the company. Reuters
Fortune Reads and Videos
Verizon and striking workers are talking again
A plea from Labor Secretary Thomas Perez got discussions rolling again in the bitter dispute. Fortune
Clean energy investors admit they must bet on…
… technological moonshots. But they also invest in improvements on existing technologies such as solar and wind. Fortune
Delta may soon hike fares…
…to counter rising fuel prices. The airline will also pare expansion plans. Fortune
Taco Bell to unveil upscale store designs
It’s an effort to entice customers away from the likes of Chipotle. Fortune