Running a Shop Leadership How to Lead

Shop Owners Share their Favorite Reads

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Whether it’s from formal training, going to a movie, listening to a podcast, or talking to a trusted friend, there’s no shortage of ways to learn how to become a better leader. And one of those ways just might be from a good book.

From ideas about culture and people to process and operations, books can be a source for helping your shop stand out and thrive.

Five industry leaders share their favorite reads that shaped the leaders they’ve become today.

The Book: The Game of Work: How to Enjoy Work as Much as Play by Charles A. Coonradt
The Leader: Joe Sevart, owner of I-70 Auto Service, Kansas City, Mo.
The Takeaway: As a former athlete, Sevart says he is always drawn to books about beating the competition (Tony Dungy’s Quiet Strengths is another favorite). 

That’s why The Game of Work has remained at the top of his favorites list since it was given to him by Jasper Engine and Transmission president Doug Bawel. 

Throughout the book, Coonradt examines why productivity and teamwork seems to be higher during sports games than at work. Coonradt posits that the difference is that in sports, a player has constant feedback on their performance. The score is known and the effort needed to win is established. This is unlike at work, Coonradt says, where feedback can be inconsistent and it’s difficult to “know the score.” 

Sevart easily connected to the leadership and goal-setting strategies presented in the book via sports metaphors. 

“It’s a phenomenal book,” says Sevart. “It talks about setting goals and how they have to be measurable, specific and written down. It has to be something that is realistic and attainable. It really helped me get focused.”

Since reading the book, Sevart says he always has a running list of goals and tasks in a document on his computer. 

“I make lists and mark off when I hit that goal or cross it off my bucket list,” he says. “It’s about being organized and prioritizing.”

The Book: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ by Daniel Goleman
The Leader: Ruth Weniger, founder of Powerful Business Strategies
The Takeaway: “I love anything by Daniel Goleman,” Weniger says. “I started with Emotional Intelligence and I’ve read them all from there.”

An internationally known psychologist, Goleman first came into prominence with Emotional Intelligence, his argument that emotions play a large role in thought, decision-making and individual success. As defined by Goleman, emotional intelligence has five components (self awareness, self regulation, internal motivation, empathy and social skills) that promote emotional and intellectual growth. 

Goleman also ties that ability to the world of business. In his research at 200 global companies, Goleman found direct ties between emotional intelligence and direct measurable results. According to Goleman, emotional intelligence sets apart which individuals will be the best leaders. Throughout the book, he offers descriptions of each component of emotional intelligence, how to recognize it in potential leaders, how it’s connected to performance, and how it can be learned.

“We all know that IQ is really important but if we don’t have emotional intelligence, we miss really important parts of the interaction in being leaders,” Weniger says. “It’s the need for this intellectually and emotionally capable leader that will help us move forward exponentially.”

Weniger says the book was a powerful reminder that it’s important to look beyond skillset in staff and also look at emotional makeup. 

“For example, it doesn’t matter how talented a technician is if they can’t get along with the people they work with or if they don’t look at the consequences of their actions,” she says.

The Book: The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
The Leader: Juan Chavez, director of operations at JMC Automotive Equipment, auto repair shop consultant
The Takeaway: Chavez says that in business, there is, to some degree, always a power struggle at play. Looking to better understand how to gain control, he turned to Robert Greene’s cult classic, The 48 Laws of Power.

“He basically talks about how to gain power and control in any type of setting,” Chavez says. “Especially in a leadership position, you have to keep control of the situation without being aggressive.”

The book offers a collection of 48 laws that show people how to gain power, preserve it, and defend themselves against other powerful people. Those laws run the gamut from “never outshine the master” to “concentrate your forces,” “enter action with boldness,” and “preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once.” 

To illustrate the laws, Greene uses anecdotes from more than 4,000 years of history to show how various historical figures used a particular law to achieve their goal. 

“The thing I love most about the book is how he explains every law,” Chavez says. “He shows something persuasive you have to do in order to gain or maintain that control.”

The Book: TNT: It Rocks the Earth by Claude Bristol
The Leader: Rick White, owner of One Eighty Business Solutions
The Takeaway: White begins and ends every day the same way: reading a book. 

“I read 40 to 50 books a year,” he says. “When I look at reading, there are three main areas that anybody who wants to improve needs to concentrate on: attitude, belief and skills.”

When it comes to belief, White’s top pick is TNT: It Rocks the Earth by Claude Bristol. Bristol offers practical advice on how to get what you want out of life using the power of belief.

“Its big thing is that you have to believe in what you’re doing 100 percent,” he says. “There are so many people that want success but they have this little voice in their head that says they can’t do it. If you have that critic inside, it will win.”

White says that understanding how belief affects both attitude and skill was instrumental in developing his business and confidence. He now considers the book required reading for all of his coaching clients.

And for those who balk at reading a book written in 1932, White says there’s a good reason he chooses to read older books.

“The cool thing about reading older books is that every generation thinks that what it’s going through is unique and that the previous generation has no idea what we’re going through,” he says. “We think we’re going through a unique period of time when there have been others before us who have gone through it, so why not learn from them?” 

The Book: Patton: A Genius for War by Carlo D’Este
The Leader: Bob Dupre, owner, CARS of America, Inc., Glenview, Ill.
The Takeaway: Dupre says that, in hindsight, opening his own shop in 1972 with little business credentials, experience and financials was a risky move.

“I guess it was a do or die situation,” he says.

Looking for guidance, Dupre says that he turned to books.

“I read a lot of books,” he says. “Some of which had absolutely nothing to do with automotive but speak to character and ethics.”

Among those books he considers influential is the biography of General George S. Patton. A United States Army general best known for his command of the Seventh United States Army, the first to see combat in World War II, Patton’s leadership principles remain meaningful for many business owners today. 

In particular, Patton’s colorful language, use of intimidation and hard-driving personality have been cited as keys to inspiring the troops he led. 

“He pretty much believed in destiny and willing things into existence,” says Dupre. “I think that’s what entrepreneurs do. I think they will things into existence despite all odds.”

Dupre says that while he hasn’t necessarily adopted Patton’s somewhat controversial leadership styles, the general’s story has served as inspiration throughout his career. 

“Based on the fact that I started a business with almost no experience, it was hugely influential and instrumental to my becoming a leader,” he says. 

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