Slideshow How to Cram for That Offbeat C-Suite Job

  • April 25 2016, 9:00pm EDT

Cutting-edge jobs — think chief innovation, strategy and data officers — are on the rise at banks and other lenders, and they are drawing free-thinking, tech-savvy candidates from inside and outside of financial services. American Banker asked several of them to recommend a book or other piece of writing that helped them tackle jobs that often were created from scratch.

"<a href="" target="_blank">Mind Gym: An Athlete's Guide to Inner Excellence</a>" by Gary Mack

"One of the main lessons is the importance of eliminating the 'noise,' focusing only on what you can control, and visualizing success. In the context of the current market environment, where the headlines are dominated by factors out of our control (geopolitical instability, questions about the health of the economy, etc.) I find that focusing on what I can control is critical to being able to do the job I need to do." — Timothy Spence, chief strategy officer, Fifth Third Bancorp

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"<a href="" target="_blank">Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief</a>" by James McPherson

"As a wartime president, Lincoln was, in essence, a manager in a time of challenge with the opportunity to personally shape the outcome. Of Lincoln's many admirable leadership characteristics, several resonate for me: he asked intelligent questions of his generals and admirals and deferred to their expertise; gave credit to his team in victory and accepted all blame when unsuccessful; and respected differing opinions while working for the nation's reconciliation." — Charles Thomas, chief data officer, Wells Fargo

"<a href="" target="_blank">Work Rules!</a>" by Laszlo Bock

"I grew into my role pretty organically so it wasn't that cut and dry. But the most recent book that I found inspiring was by Google's chief people officer, Laszlo Block, called 'Work Rules!' It was a good reminder to think big. Google has many data scientists focused on people initiatives, which is a luxury that most smaller companies can't afford to invest in." — Amy Zimmerman, head of people, Kabbage

"The Wheel" by the Grateful Dead

Steve Ellis, head of innovation at Wells Fargo, is a self-described Deadhead. He recommends lyrics from the Grateful Dead classic, "The Wheel."

Small wheel turn by the fire and rod
Big wheel turn by the grace of God
Every time that wheel turn 'round
Bound to cover just a little more ground

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"<a href="" target="_blank">The Speed of Trust</a>" by Stephen M.R. Covey

"When you're plowing new ground, trust changes everything," — Richard Gumbrecht, chief growth officer at EverBank*

*Note: Gumbrecht was scheduled to leave EverBank in April.

"<a href="" target="_blank">Think and Grow Rich</a>," by Napoleon Hill and Other Books

Fostering a strong corporate culture is a priority at many banks as they try to repair their crisis-era images and appeal to millennials. Creating a positive work environment takes time, patience and a deliberate approach, says Dennis Budinich, chief culture officer at Investors Bancorp.

Budinich recommended the following books: "Think and Grow Rich," Napoleon Hill; "The 5 Levels of Leadership," by John Maxwell; "The Happiness Advantage," by Shawn Achor; "Primal Leadership," by Daniel Goleman; and "Working with Emotional Intelligence," by Daniel Goleman.

"<a href="" target="_blank">The One Thing</a>" by Gary Keller

Multitasking may be in vogue, but concentrating on a small number of priorities is better for boosting productivity. That is according to "The One Thing," by Gary Keller — one of the books recommended by Julie Peterson Klein, chief culture officer at Bell State Bank & Trust. Klein also recommended two books on leadership: "The Advantage," by Patrick Lencioni; and "Leadership from the Inside Out," by Kevin Cashman.