The Essential Summer Reading (and Watching) List for Executives

Here’s what our experts are reading and watching as the summer kicks off.

Sometimes, there are lessons about leadership from leadership books. And then there are stories about the history of ice and 100-foot waves.

We checked in with partners at Korn Ferry and found that this weekend, they are particularly keen on relaxing while flexing their minds. While some will stay in business mode with work-related reading, others will dive headfirst into smart reality TV and sports. Who would guess that watching the Miami Heat of the NBA would provide some tips on corporate culture and executive stress?

Wave Watching

“I’m watching 100 Foot Wave on Max, about big-wave surfing at the place with the world’s biggest waves, Nazaré, Portugal. A series of daring, creative, resilient athletes continually push themselves to perform beyond previous accomplishments, while also inclusively building team and community—all against a backdrop of the terrifying flowing beauty of monster waves.”

Andrés Tapia, global DE&I strategist at Korn Ferry 

Iced Out

“I’m reading Ice by Amy Brady, which explores how the introduction of ice has changed the world. It shows how a novel product can have a dramatic cultural impact, as ice did over the last two centuries in America—think ice skating, iced drinks, ice hockey. The same story can be applied to other commodities.”

—Simon Constable, columnist at Korn Ferry

The Heat is On

“As a South Florida resident and basketball fan, I’ll be watching the Miami Heat [of the National Basketball Association]. There’s a lot of talk right now about the Heat’s culture under head coach Erik Spoelstra and legendary team president Pat Riley: it’s rooted in hard work and professionalism, and in always being prepared in mind, body and spirit. Minus the physical aspects, the demands of a senior executive can be equally stressful and taxing, and much can be learned about believing in yourself and your team, and finding a way to win together regardless of the situation.”

Seth Steinberg, senior client partner in Korn Ferry’s Supply Chain Center of Expertise

Building Blocks

“A candidate for a design role suggested this book to me: A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein. It describes the universal constructs of everything from how high a window in your home should be, to how to plan a city. Its most interesting premise is that the average person can design their own environment—frequently with better results than the professionals. It’s about the universality of the human experience around what ‘feels good’ from a livability perspective, and how these constants have been immutable over hundreds of years.”

David Vied, global sector leader for medical devices and diagnostics at Korn Ferry

Leadership Guide

“I’ll be reading Once Upon a Leader: Finding the Story at the Heart of Your Leadership.  It’s about the leadership narrative we tell ourselves about who we are, and what motivates and drives us toward action. Essentially, it’s about finding one’s own personal purpose as a leader and then engaging with others and aligning our teams. When we are clear about who we are as leaders, we are more effective.”

Kendra Marion, vice president of global assessment services at Korn Ferry

Running IBM

“Ginni Rometty, who used to run IBM, wrote Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World. I love how she tells the story: she starts out with childhood and the principles she started to apply to her daily life, and how those emerged and contributed to how she ran and transformed IBM. It’s really fascinating. I particularly love books by female leaders about how they lead and drive change.”

David Ellis, vice president of global TA transformation for North America at Korn Ferry