Great leadership reads
Resources that can lead to transformational growth and development
I am often asked to name the best leadership books. There are so many titles on leadership, one wonders where to begin. While I obviously have not read them all, these books challenged me to see things from a new perspective and take my leadership to a higher level.
“Learning Leadership” by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner is a great overview based on research showing that how a leader — more than any other variable — that the most effective leaders bring out two to three times more staff talent than the least effective leaders, and that organizations with the best leaders are the highest-performing. This same duo also wrote “The Leadership Challenge,” now in its sixth edition.
“Mastering Leadership” by Bob Anderson and Bill Adams makes the case that the most effective leadership is driven by “inner-game” qualities “connected to the deepest parts of ourselves,” and have more to do with character, courage and conviction than with skills or competencies. Their research shows that leading with purpose, vision and a commitment to team building has a strong correlation with effective leadership. The pair’s newest book, “Scaling Leadership,” expands on these concepts to show that leaders lacking key personal qualities are less effective in developing new leaders.
“Dare to Lead” is the latest book by Brené Brown, a leading voice for our times. She describes the deep connection between courage and vulnerability, advocates for clarifying core values as key to effective leadership, and details methods to meaningfully engage others in difficult conversations.
“Master Your Motivation” is the newest book by Susan Fowler, who has been collaborating with Ken Blanchard and others at the cutting edge of creating work environments that promote self-leadership and employee engagement. Fowler draws on research to show how choice, connection and competence sustain motivation. She argues businesses should focus more on what people are learning, and leadership that aligns goals and actions to meaningful values outperforms traditional models focused on external rewards.
“What You Don’t Know About Listening Could Fill a Book” by Jon White and Alexandra Taketa is a little-known gem on effective listening skills with practical “how to” chapters applying these skills to key leadership competencies (including hiring, onboarding, delegating, coaching, conducting performance reviews, leading change and overcoming conflict).
“The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey, first published 30 years ago, stands the test of time. If I would recommend just one book, this would be it! Covey’s practical advice on creating a personal mission statement, prioritizing use of time in the not-urgent-but-important Quadrant II, and listening-to-understand is both practical and transformative. The work I do as a leadership consultant and speaker is built on Covey’s seventh habit of continuous professional and personal improvement and self-renewal.
Becoming a better leader requires more than just reading books, of course. I advocate for a comprehensive approach that includes self-assessment, personal goal-setting, seeking feedback, training, coaching and ongoing experience and reflection. The journey is long, but the payoff is big! As Walter Bennis observes, “The process of becoming a great leader is the same as that of becoming a great person.”
Online resources can also be helpful. One of my favorite TED talks is “Everyday Leadership” by Drew Dudley, who tells a moving story of a simple act that had a profound influence. This six-minute discourse is a powerful reminder that our daily actions can deeply impact others.
I also recommend “Weaving Influence” by Becky Robinson, who hosts many thought leaders in free hour-long webinars that are almost always engaging and thought-provoking. This is a great way to stay up-to-date on new ideas and books coming on to the market.
Pick one of these books (or another you may have heard of) and, as you read, develop three new activities that would make a difference in your life. Explore and implement ways to integrate this learning into your everyday work in conjunction with training, coaching and other activities. Then select another book and repeat the process!
We each have an extraordinary opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. Don’t underestimate your impact!
Douglass P. Teschner, founder of Growing Leadership LLC, can be contacted at dteschner@GrowingLeadershipLLC.com.