By the Book

Inspiration undoubtedly comes in many forms, and for business leaders, it is quite often literature. But the best books aren’t simply read and set aside; they are referenced time and time again and provide their readers with valuable insight that can be applied to a range of situations. Here are a few favorite reads from area executives that have had a lasting impact on their careers and how they approach not just business, but the world.

Craig HolleyThe Go-Giver

By Bob Burg and John David Mann


I have enjoyed numerous influential reads over my 43-year banking career, which makes choosing one a bit difficult. One of my recent favorites is The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It is a business parable that packs a big idea with its message that shifting our focus from getting to giving is not only a fulfilling way to live life and conduct business, but the most profitable way as well. The Go-Giver shares five simple principles that are the secret to achieving realistic success in life, while also becoming a better person. I have found the book and its laws to be extremely useful in every facet of life. By putting others first, you will not only enjoy business success but also personal gratification. If you enjoy business parables, you will enjoy this uplifting, quick read with a timeless message of generosity.

Craig Holley

Chattanooga Chairman, Pinnacle Financial Partners

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tim kelley mayor of chattanoogaThe New Localism

By Bruce J. Katz and Jeremy Nowak

localism book

This book really describes a complete paradigm shift in how we think about political and economic power in the world, suggesting that we are far too focused on national politics when the real opportunity to improve people’s lives is at the local level. Cities are where the vast majority of innovation and tax revenue is generated, and thanks to revolutions in technology and finance, cities have more potential now than they’ve ever had to make positive change in the world. Additionally, a local focus is the key to defeating the toxic populism that has plagued our country in recent years. The New Localism was a huge source of inspiration to me in my decision to run for mayor, and it continues to inform the work I do daily in City Hall.

Tim Kelly

Mayor of Chattanooga

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People By Stephen CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly
Effective People

By Stephen Covey

7 highly effective people book

Other than the Bible, I have found myself consistently revisiting Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People over the years, and I almost always find new takeaways that positively impact my personal and professional life. Despite being written 30+ years ago, the principles contained are still very much applicable today. The seven habits laid out in the book are great ways to build character and cultivate resilience. One of my favorite quotes from the book is, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

Randal Harrell

Market Executive, Synovus Bank

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how to stop worrying and start living bookHow to Stop Worrying and Start Living

By Dale Carnegie

stop worrying start living by dale carnegie

This amazing book is a compilation of stories about people who have suffered tremendous setbacks or tragedies. Their stories tell of how they overcame their setbacks, fears, issues, depression, etc. and how they were able to put themselves on a road to peace of mind and happiness. Not only has it helped me in my life, but through the years, my brother and I have given out hundreds of these books to people who were suffering from serious problems, and in most cases, it was a great comfort to them. One of my favorite parts of the book aims to identify a solution for worry in a four-step process: 1) Write down what your problem really is. 2) Write down the cause of the problem. 3) Write down all the possible solutions. 4) Choose the best solutions and act on them.

Ken DeFoor

Co-Owner, DeFoor Brothers Development, LLC

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Hamp JohnstonBig Potential: How Transforming the Pursuit of Success Raises Our Achievement, Happiness, and Well-Being

By Shawn Achor

big potential book

I got an opportunity to hear Shawn Achor speak, and I read the book afterward. When the four of us who make up RockPoint Bank’s executive management team were exploring whether to resign from our jobs and start a local bank, several messages from the book helped me frame and get comfortable with the opportunity. I encourage anyone interested to listen to his TED Talks. One of my favorite messages is, “Your potential is way bigger than you. Your success, your well-being, and your performance are all connected to that of the people around you.”

Hamp Johnston

President & CEO, RockPoint Bank

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Toccora Johnson-Women’s Devotional Bible
(New International Version)

By Zondervan Publisher

womens bible

The Bible has been a part of my life and upbringing since the age of four, and it’s actually how I learned to read. I was the youngest kid at my church for a while, so I was placed in a Sunday school class with much older kids. My Sunday school teacher, Ms. Carolyn Walker, demonstrated so much patience and created an environment of support week after week. Now, some 30 years later, those vivid stories and teachings taught in Sunday school would be the values that I continue to live by. Every day, I lead my team with respect, trust, and compassion because those were the stories I read about and actually saw within my church, neighborhood, and schools. As each day, week, month, and year pass by, I’m reminded of the challenges faced and lessons learned by reading the Bible! Some of my favorite scriptures are Philippians 4:13, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalms 46:10, and Matthew 6:9-13.

Toccora Johnson-Petersen

CEO, Girls Inc. of Chattanooga

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Hiren DesaiThe Five Temptation of a CEO

By Patrick Lencioni

five temptation ceo book

One of the most influential books I have read might come as a surprise, as it wasn’t written by any of the more well-known CEOs of the world, nor is it found on current best seller lists. However, The Five Temptations of a CEO by Patrick Lencioni is a book that I read very early on in my career and continue to reference to this day. It is a short leadership story that could relate to any supervisor, leader, student, or individual learning about decision-making and the core values of leadership, and it is presented in a very simple, concise way. There are many quotes that I use as guidance, but my favorite is, “Choose results over status.”

Hiren Desai

CEO, 3H Group

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Darlene Brown

Today Matters and Failing
Forward: Turning Mistakes into
Stepping Stones for Success

By John C. Maxwell

today matters book

My goal each year is to read at least two career-oriented books, and I’ve found that I always enjoy reading anything by John C. Maxwell. Two of my favorite books by Maxwell are Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success and Today Matters. During my 40 years in real estate, I have returned to them several times or referenced the many dog-eared pages. As humans, many of the things that can paralyze us from taking action in our careers are the same. Maxwell’s books are full of common sense advice about tackling fear, self-doubt, and many other common obstacles, and I’ve found his advice helpful. I regularly share the same advice with the people around me. Some of my favorite quotes include, “Successful people have learned to do what does not come naturally,” “Nothing worth achieving comes easily,” and, “The only way to fail forward and achieve your dreams is to cultivate tenacity and persistence.”

Darlene Brown

President & Downtown Managing Broker, Real Estate Partners Chattanooga LLC

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