Marcus Shaw came to Chattanooga from Baltimore, Maryland, in 2017 to lead CO.LAB, a local nonprofit that nurtures startups and empowers entrepreneurs. But his background runs the gamut from engineering and finance to leading diversity efforts for corporations. Shaw is a former senior director of business development and partnerships for Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that helps build diversity and leadership pipelines for corporate institutions, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. In that role, he grew partnerships with Fortune 500 companies and led the proposal for an entrepreneurship development program focused on women and minorities. He is also the founder of a boutique consulting company that specializes in working with startups and small to medium-sized businesses. Shaw holds a master's of business administration from Duke University, as well as a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Morehouse College and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.
What books have you read that have influenced the way you lead and grow your career?
Books recommended by mentors, colleagues, and friends have had a significant influence on my career. Through 20 years in technology, finance, diversity strategy, and entrepreneurship, I have benefited greatly from the experience and advice of others. At each stage in my career there are a few books that have helped to shape my approach to learning and leading.
As a young engineer designing and building complex communications networks, I was fascinated with the evolution of telecom networks to the internet. Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma" is a fantastic read for anybody intrigued by disruptive technologies that change the world. This book inspired me to learn more about the business of technology companies, and ultimately influenced my decision to go to business school.
When I started my career on Wall Street, mentors shared a number of must-read books that provide insight into a culture built on capital and risk. Peter Bernstein's "Against the Gods" chronicles how humans have perceived risk throughout time and its impact on civilization. As an investor, I take risk for a living. Honing the skill of anticipation and growing comfortable with uncertainty is key for any successful investor.
I spent several years passionately helping companies build strong talent pipelines. I have worked with some of the most influential companies in the world to build a high-performing, diverse workforce. Working at the intersection of talent and diversity is challenging work that exposes our most human qualities. Successful companies and people lead with a sense of empathy for others. In "Taking on Diversity," author Rupert Nacoste strengthens our sense of empathy through sharing the harrowing experiences of several college students. I have found empathy to be the most undervalued aspect of leadership. Reading about the experiences of others, having open and difficult conversations, and acknowledging our blind spots is a great step to building empathy and leadership.
At CO.LAB we support entrepreneurs and startups. The culture and dynamism of startups is one of the most powerful forces in business, one that I think large corporations can adopt. "The Startup Way" by Eric Ries is a great read for professionals and executives who want to better understand the power of incorporating entrepreneurial thinking within their organizations. I gave the entire CO.LAB staff a copy!
What books have you read for fun or out of curiosity that you recommend to others?
A class I participated in last year shared an excerpt from "The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World" by Ronald A. Heifetz. The excerpt was so powerful that I decided to read the whole book. This a great book to reference when facing challenges that require transformative leadership. Isabel Wilkerson's "The Warmth of Other Suns" is one of my favorite non-business related books. This book's vivid account of the migration of African Americans out of the Deep South was particularly moving as it reflects much of my own family's experience. Her research and storytelling is incomparable. I had a chance to meet her in Chattanooga, and regret not getting a picture or my book signed.
What books are next on your reading list?
I just started "Change Agent" by James Lowry. Mr. Lowry and I worked together in the past and he is truly one of the most fascinating people I've met. The story of his life is phenomenal and his thought leadership in the areas of community development and shared prosperity are critical to America's success. Most of my friends know I love books, so I have a good pipeline. The next book for me is "Chasing New Horizons" by Alan Stern; a gift from a former associate.