Jun 2 2022

Book Short: New to the Canon of Great CEO Books

Please go put Decide and Conquer: 44 Decisions that will Make or Break All Leaders by David Siegel on your reading list, or buy it. David’s book is up there on my list with Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things. It’s a totally different kind of book than Startup CEO, and in some ways a much better one in that there’s a great through-line or storyline, as David shares his leadership framework in the context of his journey of getting hired to replace founder Scott Heiferman as Meetup’s CEO after its acquisition by WeWork, including some juicy interactions with Adam Neumann, through the trials and tribulations of WeWork as a parent company, through COVID and its impact on an in-person meeting facilitator like Meetup, through to the sale of Meetup OUT of WeWork.

It’s hard to do the book justice with a quick write up. It’s incredibly concise. It’s clear. It’s witty. Most of all, it’s very human, and David shares a very human, common sense approach to leadership. I particularly like a device he uses to reinforce his main points and principles by bolding the key phrases every time they show up in the book: be kind, be confident, be bold, expand your options, focus on the long-term picture, be pragmatic, be honest, be speedy, do what’s right for the business, work for your people and they’ll work for you, be surprised only about being surprised. These all resonate with me so much.

One of the interesting things about the book is that David is a CEO, but not a founder (although he was sort of a re-founder in this case). A lot of CEO books talk about how to run a company, or give stories from the trials and tribulations thereof, but few focus on the elements of interviewing for the CEO job, or taking over the reins of a company in the midst of a turbulent flight. So the book is about getting the job, starting the job, doing a turnaround, leading a company through growth, a buy-out, and managing a company inside of another company. And because Meetup is such an iconic brand and business, it’s easy to understand a lot of the backdrop to David’s story.

I just met David for the first time a few weeks ago. We knew a bunch of people in common from his DoubleClick days. We instantly hit it off and traded copies of our books, and then were reading them at the same time trading emails about the parts that clicked. I just can’t recommend the book enough to any CEO or founder. In my view, it joins a pretty elite canon.