10 Must-Read Books For Anyone Interested in Leadership (and Good Gift Ideas!)
There are two fundamental pillars of leadership that should be considered by any individual wishing to become a better leader. The first one, self-knowledge, leads us to determine what we want to accomplish: the goal, its meaning and its specific objectives, and how to accomplish it (values, actions and efforts). The second pillar is experience, which leads us to develop resilience, to discover new leadership skills and to determine the way we choose our collaborators.
Some books can serve as guides in shaping the way we understand ourselves and in understanding how to have more influence on others. Furthermore, giving a book to a relative, a colleague or a close friend is a simple way to thank them for their support during the year.
Here are 10 books from my personal selection that I recommend to any individual interested in leadership.
1. On Leadership, by John W. Gardner. I really like this book because it explains the essence of leadership. The author develops themes that are still valid today such as the nature of leadership, its roles, its challenges, its obligations and how to develop it from one’s childhood and continuously throughout one’s lifetime. In my opinion, if there was only one book to read and reread on the subject, it would be this one.
2. On Becoming a Leader, by Warren Bennis. This book is a tool for self-discovery. Readers are guided through the description of 10 leadership challenges to determine what abilities will permit them to become better leaders. Some challenges include: mastering the context, self-knowledge, operating during a crisis and visualizing a situation in the future.
3. The Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. This book is less about leadership than it is about an individual’s personal and collective meaning. It is useful for any leader whose duties comprise of creating and giving meaning to his workers.
The author-psychiatrist is a Holocaust survivor. His observations in this context led him to conclude that, for an individual to be mobilized and resilient, his life needs to have meaning. Reading Frankl’s work permits reader’s to see the challenges, difficulties and complexities that mark the 21st century in a different light.
4. Head, Heart and Guts, by Dotlich, Cairo et Rhinesmith. An accomplished leader is someone who knows how to mobilize by making use of an individual’s three fundamental constituents : his head, heart and guts. This book guides readers not only to develop their own leadership potential, but also to develop the leadership of others by appealing to the three dimensions mentioned above.
5. The Leadership Challenge, by Kouzes & Posner. The authors of this book act as personal coaches for the reader by putting forward 5 practices of exemplary leadership. These are : model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart.
6. Drive : The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink. Although this book isn’t directly related to leadership, it deals with one of its main functions: mobilization. The author looks at the things that motivates individuals, both professionally and personally.
According to Pink, the possibility of managing ourselves (autonomy), of learning, of creating new things (self-development and creativity), and of having an impact drive us more than the possibility of being rewarded with money or gifts.
7. Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, by Gail Evans. This book is straightforward and is not always politically correct (which is a good thing!). I recommend it because it’s filled with honest and blunt opinions on what a businesswoman should and shouldn’t do if she wants to succeed. The author compares male and female reactions to different situations. This book teaches readers about human nature and the behavior of women in business.
8. Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In et Getting Past No: Negotiating With Difficult People, by William Ury and others.
These are two classic books on the art of negotiation. Having influence requires negotiating, presenting your point of view, arguing, and especially creating a collaborative environment.
Ever manager and entrepreneur will benefit from reading these books, which can also help to improve partnerships within and outside the organisation, with colleagues as well as suppliers.
9. Senior Leadership Teams : What it Takes to Make Them Great, by Wageman, Nunes, Burruss et Hackman. This book is based on studies of different management teams. I recommend it to anybody wishing to develop their team’s leadership potential. The reader is shown what elements he/she should consider in the creation of his team (such as how to determine a common goal and how to structure it). Coaching instructions are also provided for those wishing to develop the leadership potential of their team.
10. Managing, by Mintzberg. In this work, Mintzberg deals more with management than leadership (I’ll develop the subject in more detail in a following post). Based on observations he made of a typical work day of 29 managers, the author brings up the current challenges faced by managers from different organizations and at any hierarchical level.
There are many other books I would recommend if it wasn’t for keeping a short blog post. There are also interesting biographies of leaders which I plan on putting forward soon.
To end, I wish you all happy holidays!
Edith Luc, Ph.D.
© 2011. Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.