Nobody has ever isolated what makes great entrepreneurs great, but that doesn't stop people from trying. Business historian Maury Klein takes on the question in The Change Makers: From Carnegie to Gates, How Great Entrepreneurs Transformed Ideas into Industries (Times Books), which compares and contrasts American entrepreneurial legends. He looks at how Thomas Edison and Edwin Land generated creativity, how Jay Gould and Bill Gates battled antitrust regulators, what the entrepreneurs did on their own time and more.
Klein uncovers many differences. Railroad magnate E.H. Harriman, for example, eagerly spent money on anything that might improve his tracks, while retailer J.C. Penney made a ritual of re-using bits of paper and string.
Klein describes the commonalities he found in a short list: All were determined to make their mark no matter what the cost, were supremely talented, had a deep need for independence, knew their businesses inside out, had enormous ability to focus and were highly creative types. Oddly, he wraps up this unusually original book with the well-worn observation that they became great primarily because they worked really hard and never quit. Maybe that really is all there is to it.
One common role of a business leader is listening to employees. But when problems mount and workplaces become saturated with turmoil due to poor management, excessive change or other causes, managers can become dumping grounds for pain, rage and other toxic emotions. In Toxic Emotions at Work: How Compassionate Managers Handle Pain and Conflict (Harvard Business School Press), management professor Peter J. Frost warns against becoming a business "sin eater" and offers ways to acknowledge, manage and, at best, transform people's workplace pain and conflict into constructive forces for change.
Mark Henricks is Entrepreneur's "Smart Moves" columnist.