Medifast Executive Chairman Mike MacDonald Chooses Different Books for Different Purposes

Like many voracious readers, Mike MacDonald, executive chairman of Medifast, gravitates toward different types of books for different purposes. “History books are my favorite, but I get a lot out of a good business book as well and, when I’m on a plane or looking for entertainment, I like a good mystery from a writer like David Baldacci or Vince Flynn,” he says. In the history genre, he prefers books about leaders overcoming adversity, while his ideal business read is one that offers new perspectives on management challenges, reports MacDonald, who recently shared a few favorites in each category with Chief Executive.

FOR BUSINESS INSIGHTS:

HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2016: The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year

By Harvard Business Review, Herminia Ibarra, Marcus Buckingham and Donald Sull This compilation of 2016
HBR articles covers topics like profit without prosperity and reinventing performance management. “Books like this are great to go through because even after you’ve been to business school and experienced many of those things, it’s helpful to see the latest thinking and ideas from other companies and industries,”
says MacDonald.

Good to Great

By Jim Collins
There’s a reason this classic comes up on nearly every CEO’s must-read list: “Collins offers key concepts that you can apply no matter what kind of business you are in,” says MacDonald, who cites the author’s “right people on the bus” hiring philosophy. “I came away from that book thinking, ‘Every time I hire someone, I am going to hire the right individual, with the right skill set who really understands that business.”

TO GLEAN LESSONS FROM HISTORY:

Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever

By Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
A fan of O’Reilly’s megabest-selling series of history books, MacDonald particularly enjoyed this account of the events leading up to Lincoln’s assassination and its aftermath. “His books give you a third-party perspective of history, but they also talk a lot about leadership and the major issues that different people dealt with in critical times,” he says. “You learn how they reacted from an intellectual standpoint, from a strategy standpoint and from an execution standpoint.”

The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War

By Michael Shaara
A historical novel that depicts the Battle of Gettysburg through the eyes of the principal generals and other key players “gives you tremendous perspective about how other people process huge changes,” says MacDonald. “As business leaders, we deal with change—changes in the environment environments, changes in strategy, changes in the marketplace, changes in politics—every day so considering how other people who were fairly successful dealt with their changing circumstances is useful.”

TO PASS THE TIME ON A PLANE:

The Confession

By John Grisham
A pioneer of the legal thriller genre, Grisham’s novels are both entertaining and educational, says MacDonald. “He gets every detail about the legal process, which is great for business leaders because if you don’t have good business processes and good checks and balances, you will not be successful.”

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As editor-at-large at Chief Executive magazine, Jennifer Pellet writes feature stories and CEO roundtable coverage and also edits various sections of the publication.

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