20 January 2023

Books worth reading: recommendations from Exness leaders

Imagine having a library at your workplace where you can spend your break reading something new while sipping your coffee. Well, at Exness it's a reality. 

This summer, our Learning and Development team asked our top managers to share their thoughts on books they consider helpful and inspiring. The best books were put on our library shelves so every employee can take a fresh copy and learn something new.

Take a look at this short list if you're looking for inspiration.

High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove

This book is recommended by Daniel McChane, Customer Operations Director in CIB/Shared. Here is what he says about it:

My background is in operations, and most of my career was focused on the transactional. Give me a task and let’s see how fast I can accomplish it. Once it’s fixed it’s on to the next problem.

But over my years I realised while that is valuable, the real skill is to identify what is broken under the surface and how to fix something so it doesn’t break again. This particular book focuses on two areas that are super important to me: seeing everything in your business environment as a “process” and learning what the “output” of that process should look like.

It’s written and endorsed by some big names in tech, and I think Exness shares a huge part of our culture and core values with many of these companies. I personally feel like it’s a smart, safe fit for Exness employees.

Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee

This recommendation is from Maria Fedorova, our Chief Operating Officer:

I believe emotional intelligence is becoming more and more relevant in our environment, although it is underrated and sometimes even neglected. Daniel Goleman’s Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence is based on management and business research and focuses on the impact of our emotional intelligence at work from a leadership perspective.

I believe that it is healthy to recognize the role of emotions that we, as leaders, can create through our actions and communications. A good leader can empower others with positive energy and harmony. Conversely, if a leader is gloomy or depressing and creates imbalance or dischord, it can bring the whole company down. I noticed that the people I consider to be good leaders care about the positive aspect of their leadership and, therefore, their teams are much happier and achieve better results.

In a growing organization with very ambitious plans, we barely have time to think about the necessity and power of emotionally intelligent leadership. This book is a great tool to remind you about it and help you develop a new aspect of your leadership skills to make managing easier.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Let’s have a look at why Damian Bunce, Chief Trading Officer, recommends this book:

It was written by a Chinese military general and master strategist, Sun Tzu, who was victorious in the 5th century BC during the Qi dynasty. And it’s not the easiest of reads as the language is not of a storytelling style, but you can draw uncanny parallels between strategic approaches of the past and modern-day business solutions.

Contrary to what its title suggests, the book’s value doesn’t come from a heavy focus on smart military tactics and thorough preparation for armed conflict (which it also features). It’s how the author describes managing the spirits of your troops. Leaders of teams or divisions set explicit rules and impact standards that filter down to their subordinates. If the example set at the top is not excellent, it will be felt across the entire group and will reflect on the image of that group across the company. I have always been conscious of my own leadership style as I understand its impact and how it can cascade. This was one valuable lesson I’ve extracted from the book, and to this day I apply it to myself and my leaders.

The book describes how to deal with adversaries by outflanking and outthinking them. Of course, this is not our starting point at Exness, and our culture seeks to avoid confrontation, but it’s a fact of business life that at times you need to think on your feet and be smart – be it during an interview, or a presentation for the CEO. Most of it is summarized with good planning and preparation, which is the primary focus of the book.

Sun Tzu reminds us about the importance of rest for the troops and staff. We all know roles and staff that might exhibit burnout, so it’s critical that leaders adjust structures to ensure this cannot happen – a lesson in self-care.

The thinking Sun Tzu described so long ago is very much relevant in the modern day when you apply it to business and life in general. That peek I got into history was part of the appeal of this book. Hopefully, it helps you emerge victorious from your business battles.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

This bestseller is recommended by Elena Krutova, our Chief People Officer:

After reading this book, I realized that my brain is living its own life. And I can not manage or control it – my brain is smarter than me.

Irrespective of our consciousness, our mind is a Pandora’s box, and only the bravest can understand why we think, act, or live a certain way. Daniel Kahneman in his Thinking, Fast and Slow explains with fact-based evidence how our subconscious works and who is the man behind the curtain manipulating all the switches. It helps us learn the truth about our decision making process.

You have chosen fast food again for lunch although you promised yourself to eat healthy food? Daniel knows why! You missed your typos in the most important presentation although you checked it twice? Daniel knows why! He will even explain to you why people are trading CFDs with the highest leverage despite our warnings that it is risky!

This book is a great example of evidence-based cognitive science at its best. It critically analyses the anatomy of human thought: its rationalities, irrationalities, presumptions. It helps us to overcome biases to make better decisions and acquire a higher quality of life.

It’s a slow read in the way that you have to absorb the contents, scan through your process of thinking, and reflect. And it’s when you do that that you will truly get the most out of this book.

Start reading it today to become smarter tomorrow!

Playing to Win by Alan Lafley and Roger Martin

Here goes the recommendation from Kirill Ermakov, our Chief Security Officer:

At some point in my career I faced a new challenge – the creation of a strategy. Doesn’t sound too difficult, does it? But when you are trying to structure your thoughts without any experience, you end up facing the fact that the longer you work on it, the farther the end result appears to be. Each new paragraph and slide bring you closer to the realization that the document is impossible to finish.

And, in that moment of despair, this book came to my rescue, having become my personal “hitchhiker’s guide” to strategy. It focuses on five main issues and provides a fairly simple framework that allows you to achieve the result: determining a medium-term strategy. The ability to focus on success is crucial for both current and upcoming leaders, but it often demands more than mere intuition. Therefore, I recommend this book not just as a guide, but as a captivating story that will help any of you learn a few interesting ways of structuring your thoughts.

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