Between the Covers: Credit Union CEOs' Reading Interests Run the Gamut from the Mundane to the Fantastic
SHREWSBURY, N.J. -- Confucius said, "No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance."
Credit union CEOs are some of the busiest people in the industry, but everyone has to take a little down time to read, even if it is for work. So what are credit union CEOs reading these days? Credit Union Times offers a look into the summer reading list of a diverse group of CEOs.
State Employees' CU, Raleigh, N.C.
Leading the nation's second largest credit union, with $14 billion in assets and over 1.3 million members, it's no wonder that Jim Blaine reads mostly for work. As he puts it, "I generally consider that what I do for a living now is read."
Blaine gave up reading fiction long ago, well except for his monthly managers' reports, he joked. But still recommends that those within the credit union industry read "outside the movement." There are "many ideas and techniques to be discovered in other sectors of the economy, of the world," he said.
His reading selection ranges from books on the world in general, the Financial Times, The Economist, all the way to financial and credit union periodicals, and some 20 newspapers.
Some of his favorite pieces of literature are Age of Reason, Rights of Man, and Common Sense by Thomas Paine. Because as Blaine puts it, "Thomas Paine is one of the world's most inspirational writers on human rights, freedom and democracy. People need to be free to express their lives, writers need to be free to express their ideas!"
Provident Credit Union, Redwood City, Calif.
With his intense interest in military history, it's no surprise that Wayne Bunker's all-time favorite book is They Marched Into Sunlight by David Maraniss, which details the conflicts in the U.S. during the Vietnam War from the very different perspectives of the military, the anti-war movement and government officials.
But military history isn't the only genre Bunker enjoys. Recently, he completed three books: Break from the Pack--How to Compete in a Copycat Economy by Oren Harari, A Leader's Legacy by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, and Zebra by Clark Howard. He admits that the first two were for business while the third was for pleasure.
Having grown up in the Bay Area around the time of the Zebra Murders, Bunker found Zebra to be a fascinating read. "It was interesting to me to see how much racial strife there was even in a liberal city like San Francisco in the 1970s and how these murders were a reaction to those struggles," he said.
The two business books were gifts from friends/colleagues. The first, Break From the Pack, discusses "perpetual imitation and the commoditization of everything", according to Bunker. It supplies the reader with alternatives to traditional management thinking in an effort to help businesses differentiate from competition.
A Leader's Legacy, though business oriented, can affect both professional and personal life, said Bunker. It focuses on the legacy leaders leave behind and how that can have a positive impact on an organization for years to come.
Credit Union 1, Rantoul, Ill.
Paul Simons, like many credit union CEOs, believes in volunteering his time to help other credit union organizations. He serves as vice chairman of the Illinois Governor's Board of Credit Union Advisors and as a director for private insurer American Share Insurance. Even with a tight schedule, he always makes time for a good book.
"I'm sure you're looking for CEOs that like to read books like Who Moved My Cheese or One Minute Manager, but hey I like to read just for the pleasure of it not necessarily to move my career forward," Simons said.
The "action techno-thriller", as he puts it, is the genre that gets his blood pumping. His most recent thrill-seeking reads are Pandemic by Daniel Kalla, Simple Genius by David Baldacci and Edge of Battle by Dale Brown. All three books were entertaining and interesting, two essential qualities for a book to serve as an escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
His favorite book Red Phoenix by Larry Bond is an action-packed thriller that chronicles a chain reaction that occurs from the removal of American troops in South Korea.
First Financial FCU, Wall, N.J.
Issa Stephan is currently reading two books: The Orthodox Church by Timothy Ware for pleasure and Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan for business. He also recently finished reading The Anatomy of Peace by The Arbinger Institute Authors as a way to fulfill both business and pleasure reading.
Stephan's business reading would be helpful to anyone regardless of their occupation. He chose Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done to "strengthen [his] abilities to close the gap between planning and execution", a problem that occurs both inside and outside the credit union world, as well as in personal life. Stephan recommends this book because he believes it can offer techniques to strengthen the ability to develop and demonstrate strategic (financial and non-financial) thinking. The book also hits on the importance of technology in a credit union's strategy.
In order to deepen his understanding of his faith, Stephan chose The Orthodox Church, which describes the history of the Eastern Church over the past two thousand years. It also explains the beliefs and worship of the Orthodox Church today and considers the possibility of reunion between the East and West.
The Orthodox Church correlates nicely with Stephan's favorite book, The Bible. "The Bible walks us through a very important time in history. It gives us a great insight on how and where people lived. It also sheds light on the daily life of people and the governments ruling them," he said.
For both business and pleasure, Stephan tackled The Anatomy of Peace, a book that explores conflict resolution. According to Stephan, the book is "a story of peacemaking, showing principles that apply in the family, business and world stage."
The Golden 1 Credit Union, Sacramento, Calif.
Credit union CEOs that might be pushing too hard in the office, while their personal lives suffer might want to pick up Chasing Daylight by Gene O'Kelly. That's the book Theresa Halleck most recently read on a friend's recommendation. It looks to assist those who may be workaholics and in need of some life/work rebalancing.
Other than this somewhat business-related book, Halleck has recently read two books that pertain to the foster care system a topic of great interest to her. Both Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison and Orphans of the Living: Stories of America's Children in Foster Care by Jennifer Toth discuss the foster care system and how it affects so many young people. "For anyone with an interest in the foster care system and the huge challenges faced in addressing the needs of youth caught in the system, [these two books] offer interesting insights into the challenges that exist," Halleck said of the two books.
Semper Fi Business Leadership the Marine Corps Way by Dan Carrison and Rod Walsh makes the top of the list as Halleck's favorite business book. According to her, "It focuses on successful leadership and staff development in a non-perfect environment."