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  • Shane Thomas

4 Take Aways from “Railroader” by Howard Green

Updated: Sep 15, 2019

Yesterday I read “Railroader” by Howard Green, a profile on the life of the infamous Hunter Harrison. The book was exceptional, to say the least. Even as someone with zero background in railroading and minimal experience in the transportation industry, it grabbed my interest right from the first page for many reasons, but first and foremost because of the insight into a phenomenal business leader; the drivers, methods, mantras and leadership style. All of which have nuggets of insight to take away and utilize, no matter the industry.


I took pages of notes, but wanted to specifically cite 4 key take aways:


1. The importance of understanding the details within a business - It’s apparent how deeply HH understood the entirety of the railway business. Being able to “envision how inefficient scenarios would play out and how to avoid them” is the type of understanding we all should strive for.


2. Precision - The word is used a lot in the book and for good reason. It was near and dear to HH. A quote stood out to me: “if you measure in hours (vs days), everything got more precise. If you measured car inspections in seconds, they got faster too”. The take away? Measure in the smallest quantifiable unit to help progress forward.


3. “A thousand little things add up” - We are always looking for a silver bullet. That’s rarely an option. Sweating the small stuff compounds. It’s harder, but pays off in the end.


4. Constantly Identify Talent - Read people, learn what motivates them and spend time with them to cultivate their talents. Great leaders develop people first and foremost.


There was many more take aways and for good measure I’ll throw in my favourite quote:


A fitting quote for anyone in business today dealing with the constant technological shifts occurring.


Have you read “Railroader”? What were your favourite take a ways?





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