Book Review: Winners Dream

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There are three kinds of business books. There are big idea books like Humanocracy. There are process books that show you step-by-step how to do something that will make your business better. And there are first-person accounts of business. In my experience, the most readable books with the most lasting lessons are the first-person accounts.

Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office is the story of Bill McDermott and his career through the time he was CEO at SAP. It’s a really good book. You can put it on the shelf next to other great first-person books like Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance, Shoe Dog or That Will Never Work.

McDermott begins his story with his youth on Long Island and the people (mostly his mother) and events that shaped his leadership style. After college, Bill went to work for Xerox. The account of how he got that job is one of the most interesting in the book.

He tells about his time at Xerox. As a young salesperson he was the company’s top producer. Then he takes over a succession of underperforming operations and turns them around. He always takes a servant leadership approach. He quotes a Xerox executive who was one of his role models, Barry Rand, who defined leadership as “the art of developing followership.”

If you’re a young person, just starting out in business, there’s a lot here for you. There’s also a lot if you manage a team of any size. Things that worked for Bill McDermott may work for you.

This is a good book for you if you’re thinking about your career and career direction. At several points in the book, McDermott describes the career choices that he made. He gives you his thinking and tells you how it all worked out. One of the good things, for me, is that he shares the analysis of decisions that worked out and decisions that didn’t.

There are nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout the book. Here are four of my favorites.

“Money is only as good as the happiness it can buy you and those you love.”

“People are most likely to change their minds when the world they knew no longer exists. A leader’s challenge, then, is to explain why the old world went away, show people what the new world looks like, and get them excited to be part of it.”

“Winning was the process, not the destination. A journey of striving to be better—to be kinder, more compassionate, hungrier, more humble, more audacious, more inspiring, more rigorous—that was what turned me on, what inspired me. The quest was the best.”

“If a vision is not supported by the workforce, even the most brilliant ideas risk being nothing more than lightbulbs in a basket.”

“Simplicity was not about being small, simple-minded, or easy. On the contrary, simplicity was sophistication in disguise. Simplicity prioritized. Simplified ideas invited everyone in and freed people to see the world from a sharper but shared lens.”

In A Nutshell

Winners Dream is a great business autobiography. There’s value here for you whether you are just starting out or in a senior corporate position. There’s wisdom about making career choices. And there are many nuggets about how to be successful that you can use in business and other parts of your life.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on GoodReads.


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