Leadership Reading to Start Your Week: 9/22/14

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Here are choice articles on hot leadership topics culled from the business schools, the business press and major consulting firms, to start off your work week. I’m pointing you to articles about leadership, strategy, industries, innovation, women and work, and work and learning now and in the future. Highlights include five things to know about Alibaba’s leadership, the secrets of family business longevity, Zara builds its business around RFID, how three execs opted out for motherhood, then opted back in, and unlocking the power of the virtual workforce.

Be sure to look for dots that you can connect.

Note: Some links require you to register or are to publications that have some form of limited paywall.

Thinking about Leadership and Strategy

From Gautam Kumra and Avinash Goyal: A CEO’s guide to building a strong organization

“It is important for leaders to learn to side-step common failure modes, be aware of their own biases and not let these influence their decisions.”

From Kellogg Insight: Getting the Growth Strategy Right – In industries ripe for supercompetitors, adopting the right growth strategy is key

“In a recent article on the evolution of supercompetitors across various industries, three Kellogg School professors—Thomas Hubbard, also Senior Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives, Paul Leinwand, a senior partner with Strategy&, and Cesare Mainardi, CEO of Strategy&—argue that becoming (and competing with) a supercompetitor requires new ways of thinking about strategy. Firms must adopt a laser-like focus on their capabilities, or the specified outcomes relevant to their business that they can consistently deliver.”

From Jena McGregor: Five things to know about Alibaba’s leadership

“On Friday morning, Jack Ma, the charismatic and already super-wealthy founder of Alibaba Group, is expected to ring the bell of the New York Stock Exchange. It will mark the much-anticipated debut of shares of the Chinese company, and could become the world’s largest initial public offering ever. Here are some key points you should know about the people leading this e-commerce giant:”

Industries and Analysis

From Morten Bennedsen: The Secrets of Family Business Longevity

“Clear and well defined family values, trust, networks and innovation are often the bedrock for success in family firms, but designing governance structures to face ownership and succession roadblocks are also essential for longevity.”

From Ellen Jean Hirst: Repurposing fills gap for nonrecyclable junk

“The growing popularity of repurposing among farmers, builders and manufacturers has given rise to middleman businesses that specialize in selling such materials they buy or get for free or were paid to haul away — businesses like Colorado-based Repurposed Materials, which, in April, opened a location in Manteno, Ill., north of Kankakee.”

From Judith Magyar: Hijacking Customers, Augmenting Reality and Analyzing Data are Helping Retailers Drive Business

“Attracting buyer attention in front of shelves stacked with goods that are hard to tell apart has always been challenging. Retailers have resorted to a number of tactics over the years like discounts, promotions and loyalty programs, but to succeed in today’s mobile driven consumer world, they’ll have to be a lot more resourceful than that!”

Innovations and Technology

From Christopher Bjork: Zara Builds Its Business Around RFID

“‘Fast Fashion’ Meets Smarter Inventory; Retailer Learns From Others’ Mistakes”

From Steve Lohr: IBM Offers a Data Tool for the Mainstream, With Watson’s Help

“Developing technology is one thing; democratizing it is another. The latter involves finding the innovation that opens the door to widespread adoption with usefulness and usability.”

From Adrienne Selko: UnConference: A Meeting of Innovative Minds

“The UnConference, which will take place Sept. 24 in Cleveland, is a way for companies, such as Rockwell Automation, to explore innovative ideas as well as find new partners.”

Women and the Workplace

From Lisen Stromberg: Back on the fast track: How 3 execs opted out for motherhood, then opted back in

“A woman spends years building her career. Then family becomes her new priority, so she steps out of her high-powered job to raise children. What happens when she wants to get back in the game? Since Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg launched the ‘Lean In’ movement in 2013, much attention has been paid to figuring out how to keep mothers in the workforce, but many have already left and are trying to get back in. There’s not one route for all. As these three Bay Area executive women demonstrate, you can reignite your professional life — and even take it in a wildly different, equally or more successful direction — even after taking years off from work. Here they share their stories and their advice.”

From Nina Simosko: Putting a STEM in STEM for Women

“Clearly there are not just factors that prevent women from taking up STEM related roles – there are also factors that drive them elsewhere once they have them.”

From Fortune: The Most Powerful Women in Business [2014]

“Nearly half the women on our list run huge companies—a record. And all are working hard to transform their businesses.”

Work and Learning Now and in the Future

From McKinsey & Company: Artificial intelligence meets the C-suite

“Technology is getting smarter, faster. Are you? Experts including the authors of The Second Machine Age, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, examine the impact that ‘thinking’ machines may have on top-management roles.”

From Accenture: Unlocking the Power of the Virtual Workforce

“As companies extend their operations around the globe, capturing the advantages and overcoming the difficulties of virtual work will become even more critical.”

From James Bessen: Workers Don’t Have the Skills They Need – and They Know It

“How do workers feel about the adequacy of their skills? Until now, few studies have examined their views. Today, a survey of employees is being released that provides strong confirmation of the notion that employees need better skills to do their jobs well, especially skills related to technology.”

More Leadership Posts from Wally Bock

3 Things I wish I had learned sooner

I’ve learned a lot in over four decades in business. Here are three things I wish I’d learned sooner.

By and About Leaders: 9/16/14

Pointers to pieces by and about Tony Thompson, Neha Sampat, Anthony Bay, Susan Story, and David Girodat.

From the Independent Business Blogs: 9/17/14

Pointers to posts by Lolly Daskal, Jesse Lyn Stoner, Lisa Rosendahl, Chris Edmonds, and Mary Jo Asmus.

Stories and Strategies from Real Life: 9/19/14

Pointers to stories about Banco Santander, Southwest Airlines, Amazon, Sidewalk, RadioShack, and Porch.com

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