Last week, I told you that at the end of a recent semester Trina, a grad student, asked me to write a Blog post about my list of top 10 leadership books. Because there are so many good books, this was a difficult assignment.
To come-up with my list I decided to re-frame Trina’s question into this one – What 10 books most changed the way I think about leadership? In my last post, counting down, I gave you my 10th through sixth choices – the top five are highlighted below
5. Leadership is an Art by Max De Pree. This book, which can easily be read in two hours, will inspire you to lead more effectively right away. De Pree was the CEO of Herman Miller when he wrote this book. Herman Miller is a high-end office furniture manufacturer that is well known for its great culture and results. Max uses real stories to teach us how to lead more effectively. I was captured by the book in the first few pages when he told us the story about the death of the company’s first millwright. I’m always amazed at how once you read this you become more aware of how many other leaders have read it and why they quote him.
4. The Defining Moment by Jonathon Alter. A great story about what Franklin Roosevelt (FDR) faced when he took office in 1933 and what he did about it. Very few leaders have faced what he faced in 1933. This gave me a real appreciation of the special leadership skills of FDR and what strategies a leader might use when facing what appear to be insurmountable challenges. We learn about the importance of positive communication, optimism, and giving followers hope.
3. Good to Great (Also, Great by Choice) by Jim Collins. This is one of those books that completely changes how you look at leaders. Collins introduces us to the Level-5 leader. This is a leader who is humble and pushes to put the long-term interests of the organization ahead of him/herself. These leaders display the professional will to select the right people, put them in the right seat on the bus, and give them credit when things go well. The book is based on factual research and looks at companies that perform better than average over an extended period of time (15 years). If you are not a charismatic leader, this book gives you hope. Collins postulates that charismatic leaders rarely build enduring teams and organizations – quiet, humble leaders do.
2. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. You must read this! Okay, this is a thick book, sorry. The slow or busy readers in my audience might want to get the audio book. This is a wonderful account of how Abraham Lincoln chose his cabinet and then led them afterwards. The leadership lesson here is how important it is for a leader to choose the most talented people for certain positions even if they disagree with you sometimes. Lincoln looked at his adversaries as candidates for his cabinet. What was really brilliant about this was that (1) by having adversaries in his cabinet he would have fewer adversaries outside to contend with and (2) he would have people close to him that could provide different points of view.
1. Leadership and Self-Deception (Also, The Anatomy of Peace) by the Arbinger Institute. This book should be read by every manager or leader. Cleverly written as a story, it held my attention throughout. It is really a book about awareness. It teaches us how easily we deceive ourselves into making certain decisions. The book also teaches what the side effects are when we do this, especially if you are a leader. Once aware of the concepts, we can quickly realize when our brains/egos are leading us down the wrong road. I think about the concepts in this book every day and know it has changed my decision-making. If you like Leadership and Self-Deception, I recommend you go deeper and read The Anatomy of Peace.
I trust you will enjoy and benefit from these books as much as I did. I have another 10 books stacked-up on my desk right now to read. Next I think I’ll read Boomerang again (I listened to the audio book). Why? Because it gives me more insight into what is happening in the world debt markets and what could happen to our cities, towns, and states in the coming years. An uncivil war may be heading in our direction; I can only hope this is not the case.