If you’re a leader there are 5 books you need to be reading. Just 5? There may be others in the top 10 but this is a collection that is both timeless and timely. If you are a leader this set will provide both a source of soul-searching about your own organization and fodder for a great discussion on your executive team.
- The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner is a great place to begin. Regardless of the arena you are in, this is a terrific book that you will find yourself coming back to over and over. Since its first printing in 1987, The Leadership Challenge has sold well over a million copies. Recommended by many of the business world’s best-selling authors, it is also recognized by leader’s like Andy Stanley, founding pastor of North Point Community Church, who has said it has been "his primary leadership text since 1988" and is "required reading for anyone who aspires to be a next-generation leader." Why should you read it? The contents are organized around what Kouzes and Posner have identified as the 5 practices of exemplary leadership. From those five practices they have carefully developed ten commitments, behaviors really, that if implemented "can serve as the basis for learning to lead." Looking for a way to really begin the journey? This book is a great place to start.
- Good to Great by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras is another very important choice. A careful reading will produce a collection of insights about your organization and if you are a leader a series of next steps that could set an exciting new direction. Whether you’ve already begun getting the right people on the bus or you’re not sure what a bus has to do with anything…If you will do the hard work of determining your hedgehog, this book will continue to serve you long after you’ve worn it out. Why should you read it? Good to Great provides a set of concepts that are very actionable for today’s organizations, both large and small. In addition, the language is clear and descriptive at the same time, skillfully presenting a very helpful set of ideas that can easily form the basis of an ongoing discussion that leads to action.
- The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive may be Patrick Lencioni’s least known work. I’ve found it to be a perfect follow-up to Good to Great. Written in Lencioni’s trademark fable style The Four Obsessions will provide a vivid example of identifying the keys to clarifying your mission and then keeping everyone in your organization moving in the same direction. Why should you read it? One of the real advantages to Lencioni is that he writes in fable or parable form. This presents a wonderful opportunity to talk with your executive team about the ideas it contains. You will find yourself referring to the main characters as real people and thinking about their actions long after finishing the book.
- The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done, Peter Drucker’s classic primer on increasing your executive effectiveness is a must read. You will find yourself coming back for further review. It’s just that kind of book. Why should you read it? No one has had more influence on American business leadership than Peter Drucker. Getting the right things done is at the heart of the matter. Drucker’s Effective Executive should be required reading for anyone who aspires to lead a team.
- The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership by Steven B. Sample may be the best leadership title you’ve never read. The 10th president of the University of Southern California, Sample is a brilliant thinker who sets out in principle form some of the very best work on decision making, leadership, and team-building. Chapter One, Thinking Gray, Thinking Free is worth the price of the book by itself. This is one of those books that will require determination on your part…determination that it isn’t helpful to underline every sentence. Why should you read it? This is a book you will come back to over and over. The greatest challenge for any leader is to learn to think. This resource will be one you’ll be talking about with your team for a long time.