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. Thank you, Trina, for getting back at me!
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? Counting down, here are my 10th through sixth choices – the top five will be highlighted in my next post.
10. The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge. This book really changed how I looked at organizations and why all leaders should try to build “learning organizations.” Senge teaches us about how organizational leaders can develop the first four disciplines in their organizations – mastery of personal skills, understanding mental models of people, building shared vision, and team learning. The fifth discipline we learn about is “systems thinking” and it is this point that had a huge impact on my understanding of organizational leadership. As a visual learner myself, I found using his conceptual flow charts or “archetypes” helpful in leading problem-solving discussions.
9. Defining Moments by Joseph Badaracco, Jr. Leaders today are faced with many decisions that challenge us ethically. Badaracco calls these “defining moments” because these decisions define who we are as leaders. In this short book (131 pages), he uses three cases to help us think through the elements of different ethical decisions. I found the book helpful because he teaches how intuition, emotion, and personal judgment impact our ethical decisions.
8. Outliers (Also, Tipping Point and Blink) by Malcolm Gladwell. I first became a Gladwell fan when I read Blink. He is a great story-teller and very effectively connects the dots to help us understand why only a few people emerge at the top of their professions – he calls these people “Outliers.” A few examples include Bill Gates and the Beatles. While many outliers become leaders by their very position on top, he makes the case that outliers (1) are smart, (2) work hard and spend at least 10,000 hours in their profession or area of success, and (3) luckily collide with an opportunity that is unique to when they were born and other demographics.
7. First Among Equals by Patrick McKenna and David Maister. If you want one book that can teach you what you should do as a leader of professionals, read this one. I find myself referring back to this book all the time for tips on what to do in certain circumstances. The sections are easy to follow and well organized. The most helpful sections to me were the ones on “Coaching the Individual” and “Coaching the Team.”
6. Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy. I believe every American and especially every current U.S. Senator should read this book. It is short and easy to read and you will learn important lessons about U.S. history. Published by then Senator Kennedy in 1955, this Pulitzer Prize winning book describes how eight U.S. Senators had the courage to do what they thought was right for our country knowing they might not get re-elected. This is one of the few books I’ve read multiple times. Why? Because it teaches me that sometimes leaders need to have the courage to paddle upstream against the popular current to do what is right.
In my next post, I’ll present to you the top five leadership books that changed my thinking, so stay-tuned!