A while ago, the company I work for asked me to become a supervisor. I excitedly agreed to take on the challenge and immediately took on a subordinate to lead. Part of the arrangement for becoming a supervisor required that I take several company-sponsored supervisor training events, one or more of which included leadership development training.
As a member of the armed services, leadership training began on day one, and my time in the military also included formal leadership development classes, so I knew a little bit about the subject already. Since it had been some time since my military days, and the company-sponsored leadership training program was brief, I decided on my own to further explore what it meant (and took) to become a better leader before making any sweeping changes in how I might lead others.
To learn more about leadership, I decided to read as many leadership books as I could for one year and then form my own ideas on how best to proceed. The idea was that I’d at least know what the latest leadership best practices were and that I’d hopefully become a more effective leader at the end of it all, or at least be set up to become a better leader as time progressed.
I decided to utilize a digital library featuring an e-book subscription service that I could listen to on my tablet any time I had a chance. There are several notable subscription services that fit my monthly budget. I determined that I could get through several leadership books each month before my allotted amount of time ran out, and I’d have to wait for more titles to open up that I could listen to starting at the beginning of the following month.
Depending on how fast the books were read by the author or their designee, I determined that I could set the playback speed at either 2.0x or the more desirable 2.5x speed. For most books, I found that I could easily comprehend the speaker at 2.5x playback speed. This allowed me to cover a lot of leadership territory each month.
I would usually listen to leadership books after work each day and on weekends. I multi-tasked a lot, too, listening to leadership books while I ironed my clothes, brushed my teeth, took out the trash, performed other household chores, etc.
I still managed to keep up on my technical reading as well. My routine during this timeframe was to spend at least an hour each morning before work catching up on any technical books I wanted to read and then listen to leadership books in the evenings.
This methodology is what worked best for me. It may not work for you. The best routine that works for you is something you have to figure out on your own.
Summary of What I Learned
At the time of this writing, I have listened to over 90 leadership books over a one-year period. This is roughly 7.5 leadership books per month. A list of the first 70 books I read is found below under the heading “Leadership Books Read May 2021 to April 2022”.
Below is a shortlist of what I learned after going through all of these books, just off the top of my head, unrefined, as I recall different aspects of my leadership reading experience:
- Leadership is not about command and control but about influencing others to do more for themselves, you as the leader, and the organization everyone works for.
- You have to care for people to be their leader. If you don’t care for people, how can you lead them?
- You have to be willing to serve others. It’s not all about you.
- No matter how old or how experienced someone is, they still need words of encouragement frequently.
- Before the workweek ends, take the time to thank everyone that reports to you for their time and efforts for that week.
- You don’t need a title to be a leader. Anyone, at any level within the organization, can be a leader. You don’t even have to be anointed as a leader to take action and become one.
- Failure isn’t a negative thing. Learn from your mistakes, admit them, and do better next time.
- Spend most of your time further developing your top performers and less time working with those who have no desire to ever improve.
- Learn to say “no” to activities that bring no value.
- Be an optimist and always maintain a positive attitude.
- Continually read, learn and grow as a leader.
I found some books and authors listed below very easy to follow, understand, and get into. Most notably, those from John C. Maxwell, Ken Blanchard, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, Stephen R. Covey, and Stan Toler. If I had to choose one author, I would recommend anything written by John C. Maxwell. He has a very down-to-earth approach to communicating leadership best practices that I find very easy to follow and understand.
Reading a few of the other leadership books was probably a waste of my time as their message did not resonate well with me or their thinking and communication styles were hard to follow. As with a lot of things in life, the 80/20 principle applies, and most of the value gained from going through all of these leadership books was probably obtained from about 20 percent of them. I hope you find this information helpful should you choose to read any of the leadership books listed.
Best wishes and happy reading,
References and Further Reading
- Let’s Talk About Leadership In Compliance Engineering, In Compliance Magazine, May 2019.
- Let’s Talk About…The Importance of Reading, In Compliance Magazine, May 2020.
Leadership Books Read May 2021 to April 2022
“Developing the Leader Within You 2.0” by John C. Maxwell.
“The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
“Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results” by Ken Blanchard.
“Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know” by John C. Maxwell.
“Clarity First: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance” by Karen Martin.
“The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Follow You” by John C. Maxwell.
“Leading the Unleadable: How to Manage Mavericks, Cynics, Divas, and Other Difficult People” by Alan Willett.
“Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life” by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller.
“Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.
“The Winning Attitude: Your Key to Personal Success” by John C. Maxwell.
“Principle-Centered Leadership” by Stephen R. Covey.
“Entreleadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches” by Dave Ramsey.
“The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do” by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller.
“The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All” by Michael Useem.
“Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace” by John C. Maxwell.
“100 Ways to Motivate Others, Third Edition: How Great Leaders Can Produce Insane Results Without Driving People Crazy” by Steve Chandler and Scott Richardson.
“How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age” by Dale Carnegie & Associates and Brent Cole.
“Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t” by Jim Collins.
“Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know” by John C. Maxwell.
“Self-Leadership and the One Minute Manager Revised Edition: Gain the Mindset and Skillset for Getting What You Need to Succeed” by Ken Blanchard, Susan Fowler and Laurence Hawkins.
“How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers” by David M. Rubenstein.
“Communicate Like a Leader: Connecting Strategically to Coach, Inspire, and Get Things Done” by Dianna Booher.
“The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World” by Jon Gordon.
“Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More” by Morten Hansen.
“Win Every Day: Proven Practices for Extraordinary Results” by Mark Miller.
“Follow the Leader: A Collection of the Best Lectures on Leadership” by John Maxwell, Simon Sinek and General James Mattis.
“Influencer: The Power to Change Anything” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny and Al Switzler.
“How To Be A Great Boss” by Gino Wickman and Rene Boer.
“Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work” by David Rock.
“Crucial Conversations in Business: Recognize, Prioritize, Implement” by Deaver Brown.
“The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line” by David Horsager.
“Primary Greatness: The 12 Levers of Success” by Stephen R. Covey.
“The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization” by John C. Maxwell.
“Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently” by John C. Maxwell.
“The Difference Maker: Making Your Attitude Your Greatest Asset” by John C. Maxwell.
“The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork: Embrace Them and Empower Your Team” by John C. Maxwell.
“Fearless Leadership: How to Embody the Strength and Confidence of Great Leaders” by Kim Martin.
“Leading with Coaching” by Saba Imru-Mathieu.
“Leadership In Turbulent Times” by Doris Kearns Goodwin
“Power: Why Some People Have It–and Others Don’t” by Jeffrey Pfeffer.
“The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do” by Mark Miller and Ken Blanchard.
“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: 30th Anniversary Edition” by Stephen R. Covey and Sean Covey.
“The Emotionally Intelligent Leader” by Daniel Goleman.
“It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership” by Colin Powell.
“The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership” by James C. Hunter.
“The Authentic Leader: Five Essential Traits of Effective, Inspiring Leaders” by Merinda Smith.
“Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust” by Edgar H. Schein and Peter A. Schein.
“Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture” by Mark Miller.
“The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals” by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, Beverly Walker, Jim Huling and Scott Thele.
“Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Follow” by Scott Jeffrey Miller.
“The Wisdom and Teachings of Stephen R. Covey” by Stephen R. Covey.
“The 7 Habits On the Go: Timeless Wisdom for a Rapidly Changing World” by Sean Covey and Stephen R. Covey.
“The Leader in You” by Dale Carnegie.
“The Three Happy Habits: Techniques Leaders Use to Fight Burnout, Build Resilience and Create Thriving Workplace Cultures” by Beth Ridley.
“Design Leadership Handbook” by Aarron Walter and Eli Woolery.
“Business Thinking for Designers” by Ryan Rumsey.
“Design Thinking Handbook” by Eli Woolery.
“Design Systems Handbook” by Marco Suarez, Jina Anne, Diana Mounter, Katie Sylor-Miller and Roy Stanfield.
“Your Goal Guide: A Roadmap for Setting, Planning and Achieving Your Goals” by Debra Eckerling.
“12 Months of Work in 12 Weeks: How to Work Smarter and Explosively Grow Your Productivity” by Mark Dhamma.
“Outstanding Leadership” by Stan Toler.
“The Power of Your Attitude: 7 Choices for a Happy and Successful Life” by Stan Toler.
“The Power of Positive Words: What You Say Makes a Difference” by Stan Toler.
“The Complete Guide to Career Success: Intentional Career Planning to Live Your Best Life at Work” by Mark Crossfield.
“Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success” by John C. Maxwell.
“The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player: Becoming the Kind of Person Every Team Wants” by John C. Maxwell.
“Mentoring 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know” by John C. Maxwell.
“Success Is a Choice: Make the Choices That Make You Successful” by John C. Maxwell.
“25 Ways to Win with People: How to Make Others Feel Like a Million Bucks” by John C. Maxwell and Les Parrott.
“REAL Leadership: What Every Leader Needs to Know” by John C. Maxwell.