The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey – Besides the fact that my name is in the acknowledgments (blush, blush), this seminal book legitimized inside-out learning and personal, interpersonal, and team development as necessary elements of effective leadership. Principles and paradigms become the building blocks instead of style and technique.
Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader – This almost forgotten, but still incredible, book is about changing the car industry’s and the world’s notion of corporate accountability and the value of human life. Studying the motivations and strategies of this very successful Influencer can help inspire us all to understand how doing our work not only changes minds, but improves and saves lives as well.
The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge – Peter’s book pushes past simple answers and insufficient techniques to explain five disciplines used to lead and improve organizations. I especially value his explanation of “systems thinking” and “the learning organization” as both foundational concepts and tools.
Diffusion of Innovations by Everett M. Rogers – I keep thinking we’ve moved past his pioneering work, but his research is an absolute necessity for current leaders and Influencers. Who would have thought that getting innovation adopted and change in general is a social process?
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – This is not just speculation by a writer, this is experimentation by a person with keen insights. I like writers who share vital behaviors and Gretchen does a great job.
Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov – Wonderful, powerful, and very specific behaviors for improving teaching—at all levels and all kinds of situations. Written by someone who stood at the back of the room and noticed the difference between the good teachers and the great teachers.
The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha – American poet William Carlos Williams once commented that, “Poetry is the stuff for the lack of which people die miserably every day.” The Book of Awesome helps us smell the roses and find the poetry in every day.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – Sci-fi and an interesting look at leadership and organization, of team work and commitment. Card is a great writer and has great insights into people.
Inside Steve’s Brain, Expanded Edition by Leander Kahney – This book about Steve Jobs and Apple is an insightful look into the contradictory, messy, passionate job of leadership and brilliance—lest we conclude that life really is about following a career plan and checking tasks off a to-do list.
Leading Change by John P. Kotter – I find it such a powerful idea to make a distinction between “managing change” and “leading change.” His eight-stage process is a practical and useful map for organizational change.
The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder – This 1981 book won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction and deserves a read every couple of years to remind ourselves about the “real world of work” with its psychological torture tests and draconian management techniques and the real people who have dedication, passion, commitment, and pain. It reminds me why we do what we do.
Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute – This is a powerful description of how the impediments of self-deception and systemic collusions paralyze us and undermine our most important relationships. Recognizing and breaking through these barriers frees us to realize our best intentions.