Hot summer reads and podcasts: Top director picks

Monday, 20 December 2021


    What’s hot on the radar for summer? Directors share their top picks for reading and podcasts that can help board members sharpen their leadership skills.

    Michael Rose AM FAICD, Chair Committee for Sydney, Northwest Rapid Transit, Greater Sydney Parklands

    Calling Bullshit - The Art of Scepticism in a Data-Driven World

    Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West (Penguin)

    “As directors, we are presented with all sorts of charts, graphs, dashboards, survey results and other forms of data. This book identifies the errors, biases, presentation choices and false conclusions that these often contain and provides examples that most directors will recognise. Since I read the book, I have spent more time on the data in board packs, making sure I understand the choices made in its presentation and testing whether it actually supports the conclusions drawn from it.”

    The Weirdest People in the World 

    Joseph Henrich (Penguin)

    “This book looks at the evolution of modern, industrial and democratic societies by examining social and psychological differences between different cultures and the impact these differences have on social cohesion, intellectual conformity, trust and other behaviour. While not strictly a book about governance, it is an astounding book about cultural and cognitive diversity and the relative weirdness of many values that we assume are universal. It has challenged me to think a lot harder about diversity in Australian society and the sources of diverse thinking in organisations and on boards.” 

    Trent Bartlett FAICD, chair Rocky Bay, Travellers Choice, director Beyond Bank, Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO)


    Digital Body Language: How to build trust and connection no matter the distance

    Erica Dhawan (St Martin's Press)

    “This book offers an explanation of the Four Laws of Digital Body Language — and the new norms of collaboration and behaviour that reduce misunderstandings and enable you to lead with more clarity. Establishing the right cadence of virtual communications among the boards I chair, while striving to be seen to be valuing visibly, communicating carefully, collaborating confidently in order to trust totally has been a matter of practice, trial and learning. As an AICD faculty member delivering the Company Directors Course online, the material has been invaluable in navigating how to better facilitate education programs online using multiple tools. Parallel to this, has been acquiring the right technology set-ups and in-home media room specifications to deliver a quality session to better enable the four laws to be observed.” 

    A Sustainable Future: Dambisa Moyo and How Boards Work

    Man Institute

    How Boards Work: and how they can work better in a chaotic world

    Dr Dambisa Moyo (Bridge Street)

    “This podcast with Jason Mitchell, co-head of responsible investment at Man Group, interviewing Zambian-born economist Dambisa Moyo, led me to Moyo’s book. Both offer unique insights into the contribution of corporate boards to our society. The quality of the board’s decision-making is heavily influenced by who is on the board, the dynamic between them and the decision-making processes they follow. 

    At APCO, the board worked to ensure its composition coming from the membership was more reflective of the entire packaging value chain. A candidate assessment panel was introduced to vet and recommend endorsement of selected candidates with specific skill sets prior to elections. Decision pathways for time-sensitive complex problems within a collective impact model across industry sectors were also agreed with the CEO.”

    Diane Smith-Gander AO FAICD, chair ZipCo

    Mission Economy: A Moonshot guide to changing capitalism

    Mariana Mazzucato (Allen Lane)

    “A very thought-provoking set of questions about the potential to redraw the boundaries between corporates and governments to get better outcomes for citizens.

    The Truth About China

    Bill Birtles (Allen & Unwin)

    “Birtles’ account of unfolding tensions between China and the West which he experienced in five years as the ABC’s China correspondent. Nothing is more important to our economy than China. It’s good to see this from all the different angles.”

    Dr David Cooke GAICD, chair UN Global Compact Network Australia, Australian Human Rights Institute (UNSW) Advisory Committee

    Restoring the Soul of Business. staying human in the age of data

    Rishad Tobaccowala (HarperCollins)

    “This book is a timely reminder for all boards of the importance of not losing sight of the human element in business, in an age where we are becoming increasingly dependent on technology. In every board meeting, if I find we are focused purely on financial data and legal and governance matters, and not talking about our team members, customers and community as real people, and how our organisation can have a positive impact on their lives, then I raise the principles espoused by Tobaccowala as a sobering reminder of the importance of restoring the soul of business.”

    Sharon Warburton FAICD, director Wesfarmers, Blackmores, Karlka Nyiyaparli Aboriginal Corporation, Northern Star Resources, Worley


    “I recommend these reports into issues around ESG including net-zero delivery, the destruction of Juukan Gorge and the current government’s inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO mining industry. There is much to read relating to these matters.”

    From Ambition to Reality: Weaving the threads of net-zero delivery

    Dr Clare Anderson, Dr Chris Greig, Dr Paul Ebert (Worley)

    Never again: Inquiry into the destruction of 46,000-year-old caves at the Juukan Gorge in the Pilbara Region of Western Australia;fileType=application%2Fpdf

    An inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO mining industry

    “I recommend these reports into issues around ESG including net-zero delivery, the destruction of Juukan Gorge and the current government’s inquiry into sexual harassment against women in the FIFO mining industry. All three highlight the significance of each of the E, S and the G in sustainability strategy and how fundamental and important this is. My learnings from these are being applied in every risk committee and board meeting I participate in. Of most importance is continuing to ask questions when I feel I don't have enough information relating to the matter at hand.

    Melinda CiIento, CEO CEDA


    “This podcast hosted by Vanity Fair contributing editor Bethany McLean and economics professor Luigi Zingales talks about the ways capitalism is — or more often isn’t — working in our world today. In terms of policy content, this is the most like where we need to be heading our board discussions. It is challenging and insightful. They zero in on someone who presents a position and really interrogate it. For example, on a recent episode on ESG, they interviewed former BlackRock CIO Tariq Fancy, who argued ESG is doing damage because it’s reducing momentum for policy change.”

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