Let me help you plan your reading for 2011.
The issue is… Leadership Development.
Look at those words. Think about them. They say a lot. Mainly they say this – leaders have to be developed, and leaders have to focus on, and work on, continual development. This does not happen by accident. Some leaders may be “born,” but most leaders are “developed.”
And one practice of ever-developing leaders is that they read. They read books for the purpose of personal development.
I thought about all of this after a great conversation over breakfast with my blogging colleague, Bob Morris. We talked about a lot. We share a love of reading, we share a deep appreciation of good authors and good books, so we are probably a little “biased” in our view of leadership development. But I think the evidence is on our side – leadership development does not happen by accident, and reading good books is a critical and time-tested path to leadership development.
So – assume that you are leader, and that you want to work on leadership development. What should you read? I’ve got a suggested list. If Bob, or my First Friday Book Synopsis colleague Karl Krayer were to suggest a list, it would be a different list. These are mostly books that I have read. It is my list of “areas of focus.” Some of these books are not new. But they are all worth reading, and if you want to get serious about leadership development, I think this is a pretty good list to start with.
Of course, there are other areas of focus that need/deserve/beg for attention — and other truly deserving book titles. This list is only a beginning…
So – here it is – my suggested reading list for leadership development. It includes seven areas of focus, with a total of eleven books. That is one book a month for 2011 (giving you either July or December “off”). Whether you choose these titles or not; whether you choose these areas of focus, or not; this I recommend: follow a leadership development plan. It is worth the investment of time!
|As you focus on:
|A good book to read is:
|The Right Values
|True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership (J-B Warren Bennis Series) by Bill George and Peter Sims
|The Right Strategy
|The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking by Roger L. Martin
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm by Verne Harnish
|(note: this was a tough “focus” for which to choose the “best” book(s). I absolutely would include this Kouzes and Posner book: it is practical, and extraordinarily valuable).
Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today by Susan Scott
|Words that Work by Frank Luntz
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
|Functional, Effective Teamwork
|The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
|Cultivating Creativity and Innovation
|The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
|Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
I hope you succeed at your attempts at leadership development in 2011.
Note: this is not my first attempt to suggest a reading list. Earlier, I posted this: Build Your Own Strategic Reading Plan — or, How Should You Pick Which Business Book(s) to Read? It has other suggestions, for other areas of focus.
So many books…so little time!
Here are three ways we can help with your leadership development efforts:
#1: You can bring me, or my colleague Karl Krayer, into your organization to present synopses of these, and many other books. These synopses provide the key content, and facilitated discussion of the implications. Contact me at .
#2: You can purchase our 15 minute version of these synopses, with audio + handout, from our companion web site at 15minutebusinessbooks.com. (Most of these were presented live at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. Be sure to read the faqs).
#3: Our blogging colleague Bob Morris is an accomplished business consultant, and can help your organization tackle these (and other) issues in an extended way. Contact Bob directly at .
Update: My blogging colleague Bob Morris, added some worthy volumes to this list. Check out his expanded list by clicking here.
Here’s his expanded list:
The Right Values
True North by Bill George and Peter Sims
The Executive’s Compass by James O’Toole
The Highest Goal by Michael Ray
The Heart Aroused by David Whyte
The Right Strategy
The Opposable Mind by Roger L. Martin
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Unstoppable by Chris Zook
Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson
Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott
Encouraging the Heart by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Maestro by Roger Nierenberg
True North by Bill George and Peter Sims
Words that Work by Frank Luntz
Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Influence by Robert Cialdini
The Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin by Dan Roam
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
Functional & Effective Teamwork
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman
Collaboration by Morten Hansen
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Cultivating Creativity and Innovation
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
Freedom, Inc. by Brian M. Carney and Isaac Getz
The Idea of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation by Thomas Kelley
Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono
Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind by Guy Claxton
Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan
Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki
The Other Side of Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble
Open Innovation and Open Business Models by Henry Chesbrough
Plus two additional categories:
Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice co-edited by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana
The Talent Masters by Bill Conaty and Ram Charan
The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development co-edited by Ellen Van Velsor, Cynthia D. McCauley, and Marian N. Ruderman
Extraordinary Leadership co-edited by Kerry Bunker, Douglas T. Hall, and Kathy E. Kram
Employee Engagement & Talent Management
A Sense of Urgency and Buy-In by John Kotter
The Art of Engagement by Jim Haudan
Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees by Lee J. Colan
Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen
Books of the Year
Economics and business
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. By Michael Lewis. Norton; 266 pages; $27.95. Allen Lane; £25 The author of a 1989 bestseller, “Liar’s Poker”, exposes the greed and double-dealing that helped ignite the financial meltdown. One of the best books on the recent crisis.
More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of the New Elite. By Sebastian Mallaby. Penguin Press; 482 pages; $29.95. Bloomsbury; £25 A superbly researched history of hedge-fund heroes stretching back to the 1950s and a fascinating tale of the contrarian and cerebral misfits who created successful, flexible businesses in an otherwise conventional financial world, by a Washington-based British journalist who is married to our economics editor.
High Financier: The Lives and Time of Siegmund Warburg. By Niall Ferguson. Penguin Press; 548 pages; $35. Allen Lane; £30 The story of the scrappy refugee from Hitler’s Germany who changed the City and did more than most to boost London’s standing, although his own firm lost its way and fell to a foreign rival after his death. The author is a British economic historian who teaches at Harvard and the London School of Economics.
Science and technology
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. By Steven Johnson. Riverhead; 326 pages; $26.95. Allen Lane; £20 In a crowded field, Steven Johnson, an American popular-science writer, finds new and original things to say about the nature of innovation, and the different forms it can take.
What Technology Wants. By Kevin Kelly. Viking; 416 pages; $27.95 A book that provides a new understanding of innovation, proving it to be more gradual, serendipitous, inevitable and evolutionary than we have hitherto given it credit for.
Of these five, I have presented The Big Short to a private client, and Where Good Ideas Come From just this morning at the First Friday Book Synopsis for December.
(You will soon be able to purchase my synopsis of both of these books, with handout + audio, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
Where do ideas come from? – cities, and the conference table, reading books; and, oh yes, the long walk. This is the inescapable message of the terrific book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson. I think it may be the best book I’ve read this year. (I may change my mind as I look back over the entire year). Last night, I found this blog post by Seth Godin: Where do ideas come from? He doesn’t reference the book by Johnson, but there is a lot of agreement between the two.
Here’s a great quote from the book:
The ground zero of innovation is not the microscope. It was the conference table… The most productive tool for generating good ideas remains a circle of humans at a table, talking shop.
As I read the book, I realized that the normal interaction between people, with as wide and diverse a circle as possible, with constant conversation and interaction, really does lead to the kinds of “slow hunches” that lead to great new ideas.
And therein lies the problem.
First, a personal comment. Though I once worked selling clothing at a J. C. Penney store (in my college days), I have never worked in a large company. I have taught at a few colleges, mainly in the Dallas Community College District. But always as an adjunct, which means I arrive just in time to teach, and leave pretty quickly after that. Which means that I have never had the opportunity to interact in the ways described in this book, within a big company.
Thus, I work, basically alone. I have a home office, I read and think and write alone, and then go speak. That’s about it. The conference table is practically a foreign experience for me. (I did spend more than a few years attending the equivalent of church board meetings – but they frequently felt like mild levels of inquisitions, not idea generating laboratories).
I suspect that I am not the only one. The number of independent workers is growing. And though we can network with gusto, attending networking events is not the same as the daily cross-pollination that is described in this book as so very valuable.
There is much being written about the USA slipping down the innovation rankings on the world stage. “The United States is losing its distinction as an innovation leader,” was the conclusion in The Innovation Imperative in Manufacturing: How the United States Can Restore Its Edge. (read the report here).
And there is much being written about the increasing number of “independent workers.” Here is an excerpt from Why Is Washington Ignoring the Freelance Economy?, from The Atlantic. Here’s a key excerpt:
The data speak for itself: between 1995 and 2005 (i.e. before the recession), the number of independent workers in this country grew by 27 percent. In New York City alone, from 1975 to 2007 (again, pre-recession), 2/3 of job growth was due to self-employment. And let’s look at Nebraska: the state boasts among the lowest unemployment rates in the country (4.8%!) by retaining a diverse employment pool with significant numbers of independent workers.
Thus, more and more people are working alone. And though there are many associated problems (health care; benefits…), there may be a “hidden” problem that is as great as any other. Does the independent worker face an innovation deficit?
More people working alone. Fewer conference tables. A decline in innovation. I wonder — is there a connection?
Good ideas come from everywhere – from “elsewhere” – over the long haul, in “slow hunch” ways. So says Steven Johnson, in Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. But here is one place they come from, and here is our quote for the day:
Reading remains an unsurpassed vehicle for the transmission of interesting new ideas and perspectives.
(I am presenting my synopsis of this terrific book this Friday, December 3, at the First Friday Book Synopsis, in Dallas. Register here).
This morning, with nearly 90 people present, we presented our synopses of Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership by Tim Irwin and Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. It was a terrific morning! (Handouts, with audio, will be available on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com, in about two weeks).
And special thanks to Kelly Lane and The Association for Women in Communications and the Dallas Freelance Alliance for their sponsorship this morning. Because of their sponsorship, we had five copies of each of the books to give away (we normally give away only one copy of each book). So, a big thank you to Kelly and both of these organizations.
Next month, December 3, we will present synopsis of these two books:
Doing Both: How Cisco Captures Today’s Profit and Drives Tomorrow’s Growth by Inder Sidhu, with guest presenter Cathy Groos (Karl Krayer will be out of town).
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson, which I will present. I have already done a quick take of this book – it is profound!
I hope you will mark your calendar, and plan to join us on December 3.
“You need an idea.”
The first steps of a creative act are like groping in the dark: random and chaotic, feverish and fearful, a lot of busy-ness with no apparent or definable end in sight. There is nothing yet to research. For me, these moments are not pretty. I look like a desperate woman, tortured by the simple message thumping away in my head: “You need an idea.”
You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however miniscule, is what turns the verb into a noun – paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into a dance.
Even though I look desperate, I don’t feel desperate, because I have a habitual routine to keep me going.
I call it scratching. You know how you scratch away at a lottery ticket to see if you’ve won. That’s what I’m doing when I begin a piece. I’m digging through everything to find something. It’s like clawing at the side of a mountain to get a toehold, a grip, some sort of traction to keep moving upward and onward.
The unshakeable rule: you don’t have a really good idea until you combine two little ideas.
(Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit)
As I have often said, I believe this: “the more you know, the more you know.” The more you read, the more you hear, the more you experience, the deeper the reservoir of “stuff” that you have to draw from in any and every situation.
In the new book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson, the author makes the case that good ideas come from such a reservoir within. I have already chosen this book as my selection for the December First Friday Book Synopsis, and now I have read this article on the Daily Beast about the author and his book: The Origin of Good Ideas by Joshua Robinson. Here are some excerpts:
Sparks of brilliance, Johnson argues, are actually more like slow burns that develop in places, such as universities, that are teeming with ideas. Even wrong ideas help. An expectant genius waiting for the muse to deliver a fully formed, humanity-advancing idea into his lap can be kept waiting for a long time. Things like evolutionary theory, the internet, and the printing press did not appear miraculously in a dream. Or on a piece of burnt toast.
“I didn’t want it to be a straight sort of business, self-help, management-type book—which I have no interest in writing,” he says. “I did want it to have a feeling where you read it and think, ‘Oh yeah, I could use that.’ When you succeed in writing an idea-book, it becomes this platform that other people get to build on, or take and put to new uses.”
On the final page of the book, he summarizes how the abstract patterns can be applied practically in everyday life to foster more creative, open environments. “Go for a walk,” he writes, “cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, reinvent.”
All innovation comes from good ideas. So learning how to find good ideas is a pretty good challenge to tackle. And since innovation is one of the great needs in business, and society, I suspect this will be a fun and valuable book.
You can watch Steven Johnson’s Ted Talk, Where Good Ideas Come From, here.
Update: I’ve now watched the video, and can”t wait to read the book. He talks about the value of a “slow hunch,” he begins and ends with a great coffee house story, and his last line is: “Chance favors the connected mind.” The video is worth watching!