Skip to main content

Columbia Business Monthly

Local leaders never stop reading

By Amanda Capps

Whether you’re starting a new venture, taking a concept to the next level or looking for direction, chances are the answers are in the written word. From childhood classics to recent nonfiction releases, community leaders agree—successful people never stop reading. We asked which books were on their minds and found inspiration in many forms as we turned the page on the first quarter of 2020.



Jill Hendrix, CEO 

Fiction Addiction

Recommended Reading: “Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know” by Malcolm Gladwell


Summary: Gladwell uses real-life examples to illustrate how modern communication often goes wrong and shares strategic tips for more accurate and productive interactions.
Who should read it: Anyone in business or political leadership
Why it speaks to me: “Malcolm Gladwell has done it again with an elegant deconstruction of an important and timely topic that will shift your perspective and encourage new ways to debate important public policies.”

Notes: Malcolm Gladwell is the host of the podcast Revisionist History and author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “Outliers.” For his most recent work, he interviewed criminologists, military psychologists and other experts to give perspective on those whose scandals made the news and evaluate the way we come to think we know people.


Mike Chibbaro, President
Battlefield Leadership, LLC

Recommended Reading: “Give and Take, A Revolutionary Approach to Success” by Adam Grant

Summary: Grant states that people operate as takers, matchers or givers. Takers strive to get as much as possible from others, matchers aim to trade evenly and givers contribute to others without expecting anything in return. Rejecting a commonly accepted belief that “givers” will likely become doormats, the author challenges readers to reverse the typical plan of succeeding first and giving back later, asserting that those who give first are best positioned for success. 

Who should read it:  Anyone who operates in a highly competitive world and is looking for a more meaningful and fulfilling pathway to success and purpose

Why it speaks to me: “I believe deeply that the most effective and endearing leaders are servant leaders. Adam Grant’s book provides a fresh way of looking at the benefits of selfless leadership. The theme is best summarized by a quote Grant includes from English writer Samuel Johnson: ‘The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.’”

Notes: Organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant is the host of WorkLife, a popular TED original podcast. His TED talks on givers and takers have millions of views, and he has been named to “Fortune” magazine’s 40 under 40. 


Stacey Mills, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Regional Engagement and Executive Director

USC Upstate Greenville Campus

Recommended Reading: “The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, A Death, and America’s Dilemma” by Alex Kotlowitz

Summary: St. Joseph and Benton Harbor are two Michigan towns separated by the St. Joseph River and race. One, a prosperous lakeshore community, is 95 percent white; the other is 92 percent black. Fears and mistrust arise when the body of a teenage black boy is found in the river. 

Why it speaks to me: “Gifted by a trusted colleague who knew I had ties to Benton Harbor, ‘The Other Side of the River’ is an example of two communities working together through differences and misperceptions to heal after tragedy. At the core of our being, we find similarities regardless of our physical characteristics or social differences.”

Notes: Alex Kotlowitz is a Peabody award-winning journalist and the author of the 1991 bestseller “There Are No Children Here.” He is considered a poignant observer of race issues in America.


James Gibbons, President

Gibbons Peck Marketing Communication

Recommended Reading: “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White

Summary: Wilbur is a runt pig, condemned to death because he’s too little. A character named Fern becomes his heroine and defender and moves him to a barn cellar, where Charlotte (the writing spider) enlists fellow cellar animals to save his life. 

Who should read it: It’s advertised as a children’s book, but everyone over 10 years old would benefit from reading it —especially writers! I’m reading it for the zillionth time. As a writer, I like the underlying theme, “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” If you want to know what it is to be a friend or to have a friend, read this book.

Why it speaks to me: “It speaks to me because it’s so well written; the story is so compelling. E.B. White is one of the great writers of the past 100 years. His little book, ‘The Elements of Style,’ is one of the most helpful (and amusing) grammar books ever published.”

Notes: Gibbons noted that White’s work during the early days of “The New Yorker” defined the style of one of America’s most stylish periodicals. He considers “Charlotte’s Web” to be White’s magnum opus and aptly extrapolates the writer’s messages, regardless of genre, to the type of unmistakable vision business leaders have. 


Gil Gerretsen, President

Biztrek Marketing Mentors

Recommended Reading: “Seeing Around Corners” by Rita McGrath 

Summary: Critics are calling McGrath’s book the first prescriptive guide to forecasting and managing paradigm shifts in the business landscape.

Who should read it: Business builders who want to effectively anticipate and navigate emerging changes in the marketplace

Why it speaks to me: “As a mentor to ambitious business builders, I know that snow melts from the edges; similarly, marketplace changes are often building quietly at the edges of society. If leaders learn how to keep an eye on those edges, they can see emerging market inflection points. Smart business builders armed with the right strategies and tools can see these shifts coming and use them to gain a competitive advantage.”

Notes: Regularly published in “Harvard Business Review,” Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath is regarded as a global authority on growth and innovation during uncertain times.


Aïda Rogers, Instructor, South Carolina Honors College; 

Associate Producer, Koelker and Associates

Recommended Reading: “Twilight on the South Carolina Rice Fields: Letters of the Heyward Family 1862-1871” edited by Margaret Belser Hollis and Allen H. Stokes; Introduction by Peter A. Coclanis

Summary: Letters between members of the incredibly wealthy Heyward family during the Civil War and Reconstruction illustrate the differences between early American aristocrats and their African servants and white employees. The prized Carolina Gold rice made the Heywards and other families rich, but those who guided the grain from planting to harvesting, winnowing and threshing were enslaved. The process of growing the rice that won international awards and had Parisian chefs drooling changed much of South Carolina’s Lowcountry landscape forever.

Who should read it: Anyone interested in South Carolina history, agriculture and fabled families should read this book; it shows a plantation owner’s take on the Civil War and bears witness to the way a prominent family dealt with financial loss as hurricanes, pests and war decimated the crop that made them rich. 

Why it speaks to me: “Scholars have found that slave owners thought they had gotten their money’s worth if their slaves lived five years in the marshy, mosquito-thick fields of South Carolina. It’s shocking to realize how they talked about their servants and to also see that the Heywards were still people with flaws, fears, vanities, family squabbles and love for each other. The love letters widower Edward Barnwell Heyward sent his fiancée are sometimes funny due to their modern and lovesick tone. From his viewpoint, we see famous people he encounters and come to recognize how important certain South Carolina locations were during this time. 

Notes: With scientists bringing back the extinct Carolina Long Gold rice, business leaders may find it interesting to note how a once-profitable crop might be made profitable again. In addition to reading a variety of books on the subject, Rogers, acting as a freelance journalist, is assisting with an upcoming documentary about this South Carolina staple.


Jonathan Haupt, Executive Director

Pat Conroy Literary Center

Recommended Reading: “Long Walk Home: Reflections on Bruce Springsteen” edited by Jonathan D. Cohen and June Skinner Sawyers

Summary: Music critics, writers, scholars and performers share their thoughts and memories of the still-unfolding legacy of Springsteen as a storyteller, performer, leader and cultural icon. Collectively, the essays get to the heart of how and why his message resonates with generations of fans and explore the ways it challenges and shapes a sense of self and community, along with individual responsibilities to both.

Who should read it: Anyone who loves a good story well told and obviously fellow fans of the Boss

Why it speaks to me: “Lyrics from my favorite Springsteen song, ‘Land of Hope and Dreams,’ are tattooed on my left arm: ‘Dreams will not be thwarted. Faith will be rewarded.’ I’m that kind of Springsteen fan—plus, I’m in the business of fostering and interpreting the legacy of another iconic writer and teaching about servant leadership and responsible literary citizenship—all of which abounds in this essay collection.”

Notes: “Long Walk Home: Reflections on Bruce Springsteen” commemorates the legendary musician’s 70th birthday. Even those who are not Springsteen superfans can take note of Haupt’s alignment of personal mission and vocation and the way his reading list reflects that.


Lese Corrigan, Owner

Corrigan Gallery, LLC

Recommended Reading: “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life” by Twyla Tharp

Summary: Renowned Choreographer Twyla Tharp explores the joys and struggles of the creative process. Through stories from her own life, as well as the lives of notables from other fields, she aims to help others develop the habits that will maximize their own creativity.

Who should read it: Anyone and everyone seeking a clear understanding of how to get from one to 10—regardless of whether that applies to a creative project or any type of endeavor

Why it speaks to me: “It’s concrete acknowledgement of the daily process of getting things from the mind into reality.”

Notes: Tharp, whose credits include choreography for the Broadway sensation “Movin’ Out,” featuring the songs of Billy Joel, combines memoir with prescriptive nonfiction in a way that transcends genre and industry.


Katie DePoppe

Director of Culture & Brand Relations, Chick-fil-A of Summerville and Chick-fil-A of Goose Creek

Recommended Reading: “Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture That Wins the Hearts of Customers” by Dee Ann Turner

Summary: Despite the rampant misconception, bring-your-dog-to-work day, foosball tables and dress-down Fridays are not corporate culture. If your company were a person, what values, beliefs and shared behaviors would guide it? Therein lies the answer to your unique corporate culture. Dee Ann Turner clearly, concisely and with poignant storytelling ability draws upon her years as the former Vice President of Talent and Sustainability at Chick-fil-A, Inc. to equip the reader with practical tools to find extraordinary talent and, in turn, to cultivate an environment dedicated to excellence and continuous improvement that wins the hearts of employees and customers alike.

Who Should Read It: Anyone who manages others or has influence within his/her department or company

Why It Speaks to me: “Many of our philosophies at Chick-fil-A are quite simple but are counter-intuitive to what mainstream business teaches. I enjoy seeing these fundamental reasonings written with precision and illustrated well through the sharing of insightful stories.”

Notes: Dee Ann Turner became Chick-fil-A’s first female officer in 2001 and worked closely with the company’s founders to develop its distinctive culture. She was also instrumental in Chick-fil-A’s efforts to implement sustainable practices. She currently works as a writer, speaker and coach through her own company, Dee Ann Turner, LLC.


Carl Eugene Moore, Lecturer & Director of Healthcare Administration

Columbia College

Recommended Reading: “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Summary: The former U.S. Navy SEAL officers who led the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War reshaped SEAL training when they returned home. This book relates their story and illuminates the mindset of a true leader in any sector.

Who should read it: Anyone in a leadership position or aspiring to lead others

Why it speaks to me: “I recognize that professional leadership is a perishable skill that needs to be tended like a garden, watered and fed with ongoing training and education. As a lifelong learner, I read in my field, listen to podcasts, and interact with colleagues to develop relationships and networks and to ask advice and direction to become a little better. I try to view mistakes as opportunities for improvement, in myself and others, and I endeavor to keep a positive attitude throughout as I lead others in an effort to accomplish the organization’s mission.”

Notes: Many leaders are prolific readers because they recognize the value of gaining perspective outside their own fields. Willink and Babin, who formed a leadership training company after retiring from the SEALS, translate their skills to business and life without typical business jargon. Their latest book is “The Dichotomy of Leadership.”


Upcoming Events Near You

No Events in the next 21 days.