Executive Leadership Literature
These books are a great resource for leaders. They help teach you how to develop the skills necessary to manage and lead more effectively and help make your company more successful and productive. These are some of the greatest leadership books out there.
Why CEO’s Fail: The 11 Behaviors That Can Derail Your Climb to the Top and How to Manage Them. By David L. Dotlich and Peter Cairo. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. 2003.
This book takes a unique approach by looking at the dark side of executive leadership and illuminates which character traits most commonly sink CEOs. The authors are two executive coaches who use examples from their own coaching careers as well as high profile cases to illustrate derailing character flaws. They cover flaws like arrogance, mischievousness, eccentricity in each chapter and each and every chapter is a worthwhile read in its own right. This book is brilliant and the novelty of the analysis makes this the most worthwhile read I’ve come across in a long time. It also offers a strong cautionary message–executives must engage in deep and contemplatory self-reflection that will allow them to connect connect the dots between stress, their derailing flaws, and their failures. Furthermore, the authors encourage CEOs to throttle back on the excesses of personality indulgences that get them into trouble and focus more on team-building in the hopes of cultivating a loyal and honest staff.
Leadership from the Inside out: Become a Leader for Life. By Kevin Cashman. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. 2008.
I strongly recommend this book for everyone, though it’s geared towards leaders in the workplace. The premise of this book is that to achieve personal and interpersonal success as a leader, every person needs to embark on a process of self-discovery. The book carries you through a step-by-step process of self-discovery by posing questions that lead to deep contemplation. To be a great leader, it’s not enough to have expertise in your line of work, you also need to develop excellent interpersonal skills as well as personal skills like resilience. This book does an excellent job of teaching you those skills. The book is also grounded in a lot of scientific research, so it makes for an interesting and illuminating read.
Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard. By Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Broadway Books, 2010.
This book provides a really interesting look at change and why in some situations it’s extremely easy to go through a big change–like getting married or having a child–and in other situations, it’s extremely difficult to change–like getting rid of an old habit or sticking to a new diet. The authors analyze how change is easy to bring about when your rational and irrational minds are in line with each other. Similarly, change is extremely difficult when your rational mind and your emotional, irrational mind are at odds with each other. This book is very clever and provides ingenious information on how to modify our behaviors and businesses, making it a must-read for executives.
The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company. By Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel. Jossey-Bass Inc., 2001.
Written by three experts in management development (one of them helped design GE’s deservedly famous succession-development process), this book illustrates in painstaking detail how to cultivate their managers to successfully transition through the “pipeline” and up the rungs. The book outlines the six transition phases of the pipeline that exist in every large organization. To succesfully move through the “pipeline” and not clog it up, leaders must learn new skills and values at each transition phase before moving to the next. This book offers great models and practical advice how to best cultivate these requisite skills and values–whether you want to cultivate these in yourself, or whether a higher-level manager is considering cultivating these in his underlings. I believe this book is very promising and has the potential to help organizations successfully move a whole generation of managers through the leadership pipeline, rather than just a chance one or two.
Winning `Em Over: A New Model for Management in the Age of Persuasion. Jay A. Conger. Simon & Schuster, 1998.
Winning ‘Em Over does an excellent job of addressing the art of persuasion and its role in the workplace. We can all recognize how important it is to both motivate your employees and communicate effectively and persuasively, but we don’t necessarily understand how to actually put these ideas into action. This book does a great job teaching the skills necessary for turning these ideas into action. The examples are very relevant and up-to-date, the exercises are excellent, and the book is witty and fun to read.
Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power & Greatness. Robert K. Greenleaf. Paulist Press, 2002.
Robert Greenleaf has long been respected in the business world, serving as an AT&T executive for several years and lecturing on the importance of service among leaders. This book looks at “servant leadership” across the board—from leadership in the worlds of education, foundations, churches, businesses, bureaucracies, and nations. This tome on leadership is very inspiring to me and will hopefully encourage the current generation of leaders to transform global capitalism from a self-serving system to one that better serves humanity and the planet as a whole.
Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. By Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, & Sheila Heen. Penguin Books, 2000.
I found this book to be a very insightful analysis of the difficult conversations we have in our life. This book is also the result of research by the Harvard Negotiation Project and, like the other books that have come out of this group, provides very constructive advice on how to have the toughest conversations in life more successfully. We all experience stress and other strong emotions in the course of a difficult conversation and this book offers practical skills on how to manage our emotions and not become defensive. Most importantly, this book teaches us how to keep conversations constructive, no matter how the other person responds. This books deals with everyday life examples and is a helpful resource to anyone and everyone.
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. By Roger Fisher & William Ury. Penquin Books, 1991.
This book is both brilliant and very concise. It offers step-by-step, clearly laid out strategies to achieve conflict resolution in any situation, be it a conflict between tenant and landlord or a conflict between bosses and employees. The strategies are based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, which has done really interesting work looking at all levels of negotiation and conflict resolution. I highly recommend it to anyone who deals with conflict on a frequent basis, especially those who are having difficulty resolving conflict with people who refuse to play by the rules and play dirty.
Getting Past No: Negotiating Your Way From Confrontation to Cooperation. William Ury. Bantam Books, 1993.
Written by the same author as Getting To Yes, William Ury, this book serves as a helpful companion to that book and is geared towards dealing with especially difficult negotiations. It provides strategies for defusing anger in a conflict, turning an antagonist into a cooperative partner, and reaching compromises that satisfy both parties. A good resource to have at your side.
If Aristotle Ran General Motors. By Tom Morris. Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 1997.
I love this book because it is all about reinvigorating the corporate spirit with wisdom from antiquity–such a beautiful and elegant concept. The author is a professor of philosophy and in his book brings to life the four transcendent verities of Greek philosophy: truth, beauty, goodness, and unity. He shows us how these four verities can be applied toward the corporate life, breathing new soul into our everyday work. If you want an open, nurturing, and ethical workplace, you should strongly consider reading this book.
The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Accelerate Performance. By Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.
This book revolutionizes the workplace by encouraging leaders to re-examine the way they provide feedback to their employees. By reading this book, leaders will learn the wisom of leading with the carrot, not the stick. Based on one of the most in-depth management studies ever done, the book contends that frequent and effective recognition is a powerful way to motivate your employees. In turn, a company with meaningful recognition of its employees will reap the benefits of greater customer satisfaction, productivity, and retention of employees. The book covers case histories of big companies like Disney and Pepsi and the information in the book is relevant to leaders and managers in both big corporations as well as smaller companies. I personally believe deeply in leading with the carrot and am fond of this book for doing a fantastic job of making a scientific case for its importance in the workplace.
Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing. By Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. Harvard Business School Publishing, 2002.
This book shows us how the true heroes of today are the unsung heroes in the workplace who keep the world humming–from factory workers, to traders, to health care workers. The quiet heroes are the ones who have learned how to successfully negotiate difficult dilemmas inconspicuously and with grace and integrity. The book provides us with eight counterintuitive guidelines to understand the success of these quiet heroes and apply it to difficult decisions we need to make in the workplace. Leading Quietly lays out the design for a new model of leadership that is based on careful thought, pragmatism, and an honest confrontation with the true complexity of seemingly simple dilemmas.
What Happy Companies Know: How the New Science of Happiness Can Change Your Company for the Better. Dan Baker and Cathy Greenberg, Collins Hemingway. Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006.
The premise of this book is simple—happiness is the cause of a business’ success, not the result of it. This book brings the relatively new science of applied positive psychology to the workplace and discusses how to create an organization that is both happy and successful. From my work with many different organizations, I have gotten a sense of how true this tenet is—a successful workplace is one that is also happy and owes its success in large part to its healthy and positive environment. I think the new science of positive psychology is very powerful and transformative and is a great tool to learn about and apply to your everyday life, as well as your to organization. I highly recommend this book.
The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels. By Michael Watkins. Perseus Distribution, 2003.
This book is a very useful “road map” for new managers who want to succeed in their first few months of the job, thereby paving the way for continued and ensured success. Written by Michael Watkins, a professor at Harvard Business School, this book offers very practical tools for new managers, including comprehensive self-assessment checklists and very detailed guidelines on how to have conversations with employees and bosses. I definitely recommend this book for anyone who is transitioning to a leadership role for the first time.
Six Thinking Hats. Edward De Bono. Back Bay Books/Little Brown & Co., rev. 1999.
This book reminds us that thinking is a skill that we can all learn to improve upon. A major obstacle that we run into is jumbling together the many thoughts we have on an issue. This unfortunately leads us to mix together a confusing jumble of emotions, information, logic, hope, and creativity. This book’s approach is to teach us how to unscramble our thoughts by role-playing with six different hats. You can become a better thinker no matter your age, and learn how to make better decisions as a result. I think this book is very applicable to anyone in the management world.
Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. By Daniel Goleman, , et al. HBS Press, 2002.
This book is ground-breaking. One of the authors, Daniel Goleman, is a renowned psychologist who has written extensively on emotional intelligence, arguing its importance to our success in life. In this book, we learn how crucial emotional intelligence is to leaders in the workplace. The book talks about one of my favorite concepts—resonance—which basically describes how the emotional style of a leader in the workplace has the strength to bring co-workers into emotional alignment with him or her. If the leader has high emotional intelligence and cultivates positive communication with his/her employees, this positivity will resonant throughout the workplace and impact how effectively business is done. On the flip side, if a leader has low emotional intelligence and interacts with coworkers negatively, this negativity will have reverberating ramifications through the workplace. This book is a must-read for anyone who is a leader in their workplace.
Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results. By Stephen C.Ludin et al. Hyperion, 2000.
Drawing from the example of the world-famous Pike Place Fish market in Seattle, this parable unearths the wisdom necessary to invigorate employees and transform a workplace. Everyone wants to work in an environment that is filled with energy and passion and vitality, and this book offers extremely simple lessons on how to actually make that work environment a reality. Because the lessons come from the real-life fishmongers of Pike Place Fish market–a highly successful business–this book is grounded in reality and offers extremely valuable wisom, not just the empty platitudes that other self-help books resort to.
The 5 Patterns of Extraordinary Careers. By James M. Citrin and Richard A. Smith. Three Rivers Press, 2003.
This book from 2003 includes a Spencer Stuart (Global Executive Recruiters) “job survival guide.” It is an inspired book written by seasoned executive recruiters, surprising in its broad and thoughtful view of career success factors. It uncovers patterns of achievement that distinguish the merely succesful from the extraordinary executive. The book does a good job of distilling what the authors have uncovered into five differentiating principles, the first of which, for example, is “understanding the value of you.”
Innovation Management: Strategies, Concepts and Tools for Growth and Profit. By Shlomo Maital and D.V.R. Seshadri. Response Books, 2007.
This book looks at innovation from all angles: why innovate? how to innovate? who innovates? The authors posit that successful management of the innovation process is the key to competitive growth and profit in the marketplace. This book will be most helpful to those business that seek expert advice in how to move an innovative idea to the marketplace.
The Business of Changing the World: Twenty Great Leaders on Strategic Corporate Philanthropy. By Marc Benioff and Carlyle Adler. McGraw-Hill books, 1997.
Breakthrough Management for Not-for-Profit Organizations: Beyond Survival in the 21st Century. By Howard H. Brown and Donald L. Ruhl. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2003.
What Got You There Won’t Get You Here: How Successful People Become Even More Successful. By Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. Hyperion, 2007.
Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of Imagination. By Jane Magruder Watkins and Bernard J. Mohr. Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 2001.
ABC’s of Successful Leadership. By Raymond L. Wenderlich. Success Builders, 1997.
Leadership and the New Science. By Margaret J. Wheatley. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1999.
Co-Active Coaching: New Skills for Coaching People Toward Success in Work and Life. By Laura Whitworth, Henry Kimsey-House, and Phil Sandahl. Davies-Black Publishing, 1998.
The Servant Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve Bottom-Line Performance. By James A. Autry. Crown Publishing Group, 2004.
Secrets of a CEO Coach: Your Personal Training Guide to Thinking Like a Leader and Acting Like a CEO. By D. A. Benton. McGraw-Hill, 1999.
Just Promoted! How to Survive and Thrive in Your First 12 Months as a Manager. By Edward Betof and Frederic Harwood. McGraw-Hill, 1992.
Coaching Corporate MVPs: Challenging and Developing High-Potential Employees. By Margaret Butteriss. Wiley, John & Sons, 2008
The Leader’s Voice: How your communication can inspire action and get results! By Boyd Clarke and Ron Crossland. The Tom Peters Press, 2002.
Zen Lesson: The Art of Leadership. (Cleary, Thomas, translator). Shambhala Publications, 1993.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. By Jim Collins. Harper, Collins, 2001.
Executive EQ – Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organizations. By Robert K. Cooper and Ayman Sawaf. Penguin Group, 1997.
Bringing Out the Best in People: How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement. By Aubrey C. Daniels. McGraw-Hill, 2000.
And Dignity for All: Unlocking Greatness with Values-Based Leaders. By Jim Despain, Jane Bodman Converse, and Ken Blanchard. Financial Times Prentice Hall (Pearson Education), 2003.
Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate. By Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro. Viking, 2005.
True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. By Bill George and Peter Sims. Wiley, Johnson & Sons, 2007.
Last Word on Power: Reinvention for Executives Who Want to Change the World. By Tracy Goss and Betty Sue Flowers, eds. Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1995.
Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading. By Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky. Harvard Business School Press, 2002.
The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. By James C. Hunter. Crown Publishing Group, 1998.
Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership. By Laurie Beth Jones. Hyperion Press, 1996.
The Wisdom of Team: Creating the High-Performance Organization. By Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith. Harvard Business School Press, 1993.
Type Talk at Work. By Otto Kroeger, et al. Delacorte Press, 1992.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You. By John C. Maxwell and Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1998.
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High. By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler. McGraw-Hill, 2002.
Leadership that Matters: The Critical Factors for Making a Difference in People’s Lives and Organizations’ Success. By Marshall Sashkin and Molly Sashkin.Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2003.
Focus on Leadership: Servant-Leadership for the 21st Century. By Larry C. Spears and Michele Lawrence, Eds. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2001.
It’s Okay to Be the Boss: The Step-By-Step Guide to Becoming the Manager Your Employees Need. By Bruce Tulgan. HarperCollins, 2007.