I intended for my last two posts to cover the main points of my STAR West keynote, but I neglected to mention a few of the books I referenced in my talk (which not coincidentally, are some of my most recommended books for those studying leadership.
I first read Leadership on the Line as part of a class I took several years ago, and many of the concepts have stuck with me. My favorite quote (slightly paraphrased) is, “Leadership is disappointing people at a level they can tolerate [absorb]”. Too many people try to lead by pleasing everyone. Good leaders are comfortable making decisions that not everyone agrees with, and know that teams are more productive when there is a slight level of discomfort or apprehension (as opposed to the extremes of complacent or overwhelmed).
I am a huge Patrick Lencioni fan. Lencioni writes business novels – stories about business that explain some of the principles and ideas he believes in. His Getting Naked is a peek into how he runs his consulting business, and mirrors the way I approach leadership and influence. Humility and learning in context are great approaches for anyone diving in to a new project, and I have found every one of Lencioni’s novels to be a page turner. Lencioni (in his one non-business novel publication) is the first person to clue me in on the fact that product quality is directly related to team health – something I’ve been reading more about over the past few years, and something I believe in whole-heartedly.
I could write a whole post on how this book relates to leadership. And, in fact, I did (and if you’ve read this far in this post, go read that post now for more info).
Several years ago, I had an opportunity to hear Peter Spiro speak, and to also have dinner with Peter and his daughter while on a business trip (we were both speaking at the same internal conference). In his talk, and at dinner, he recommended The Feiner Points of Leadership. I read the book (and have re-read it several times), and I always seem to find ideas I can use (and ideas that are weirdly relevant to whatever I’m going through). The writing is conversational, and the advice is practical (opposed to the theoretical hand-waving in most leadership books).
There are at least a dozen other leadership books on my bookshelf that I like, but if you were to see my beat-up ragged copies of these books, you would know they’re the most used (and most loaned) books in my personal library.