I have been asked a few times recently about the leadership books that have most shaped my own thinking. Below is my top 10 list, though not in any particular order. It is a very eclectic list - not all of these books are 'leadership books', but all of them speak directly to leadership, the challenges of change, or to who you are (or perhaps could be) as a leader.
I have checked their availability and they can all be found on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (though looking for them might also give you a good excuse to ‘waste’ a few hours in second-hand bookstores!).
Here they are:
1. First Things First (Stephen R. Covey and A. Roger Merrill, 1999)
When I first started becoming serious about living my own purpose as a leader I struggled with moving from my big picture to 'what I am I going to do on Monday morning'. I didn't have a bridge. This book helped me to start creating it. In First Things First the authors argue that the activities that become most important in our lives should not be guided by ‘to do’ lists and urgency but by our internal compass of purpose and values. In other words, this book is a principle-centered leadership approach focused on personal leadership. It is a fantastic resource for helping you to organise your life as a leader in order to drive impact and legacy and balance your work and personal life.
What Is Leadership?
A typical leadership definition looks something like this: “Leadership is the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how it can be done effectively, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish the shared objectives.” Yukl, G. (2001)
We prefer: Leadership means being the best person you can be in the service of the goals and aspirations of the organisation or community that matters to you.
How do I discover what I stand for as a leader?
Basically, this is the ‘Who am I?’ question for leaders. That is, your values, principles and purpose as the leader. Consider these questions:
- What is important to you about leadership?
- Why do you want to lead?
The more clearly you can articulate these answers to yourself, the more likely you are to behave consistently and communicate what you stand for to others.
There is a lot of mystique surrounding what it takes to be a great leader. There have been tens of thousands of books written on leadership and there are a multitude of ‘gurus’ pushing their pet theories. The result, for many, is a sense of confusion about exactly what good leadership is.
In short, great leadership involves being the best leader you can be in the service of the important goals or vision of your organisation or community. This means:
- Co-creating a compelling vision of the future;
- Exciting others about that vision so that they want to play an active part;
- Helping others believe that they and ‘we’ can succeed; and
- Being flexible in response to the changes and challenges you face as you move forward towards your better future
So What Are The Questions?
If you a going to succeed on your leadership journey there are a few basic questions that you need to find the answers to:
- What do you stand for as a leader?
- Where are you heading?
- What kind of leadership is most needed in your world?
- How do you bring others with you?
- How do you know if you are ready to take on a stronger leadership role?
- What are the leadership fundamentals that you need to master?
- What makes people ‘tick’
- How do you manage your strengths and weaknesses as a leader?
- How do you lead successfully under pressure?
- How do you improve and develop as a leader?