30 Books That Can Make You a Better Leader

Reading beyond the business section is a lifelong learning skill.

A single book might not help you discover your inner leader, but 30 books can change your life. That’s the premise behind the Regional Leadership Forum’s (RLF) 2007 book list. RLF, a nine-month program of individual work and group sessions presented by the Society for Information Management (SIM), fosters leadership development in part through book discussions. (For the complete RLF reading list, see below.)

The forum focuses on individual growth, and business intelligence, not technical acumen, says Bob Rouse, director of RLF and professor of computer science at Washington University. Hence the list includes Two Old Women by Velma Wallis and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Reading beyond the business section is a lifelong learning skill that the forum stresses, notes Rouse. Case in point: Since graduating from RLF in 2002, Jim Noga, VP of IT at Massachusetts General Hospital, has given managers books from the updated list each holiday season. RLF adds six new books each cycle. New titles this year include Michael Marquardt’s Leading with Questions, Patrick Lencioni’s Death by Meeting and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

Those who find the list’s length daunting may want to follow the lead of Michael Pellegrino, CIO of Fuji Photo Film USA. He read up on speed-reading prior to the forum, which involves six two-day sessions and nearly 8,000 pages of reading.

"I started the program on the first day thinking, ’What am I doing here? I don’t know if I can keep up with this work,’" says Pellegrino. "On the last day, I thought, ’This is one of the greatest experiences that I have ever had, and I don’t really want it to end.’" So it didn’t. Pellegrino and his peers created an extension program, which included several, albeit fewer, books.

2007 RLF Reading List

1) Adler: How to Read a Book

2) Boyatzis & McKee: Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others through Mindfulness, Hope and Compassion

3) Kotter: Heart of Change

4) Bridges: Managing Transitions

5) Buckingham: First Break all the Rules

6) Dotlich, Noel and Walker: Leadership Passages

7) Conger: Winning 'Em Over

8) DePree: Leadership is an Art

9) Frankl: Man's Search for Meaning

10) Friedman: The World is Flat

11) George: Authentic Leadership

12) Ghandi: the video

13) Goleman: Working with Emotional Intelligence

14) Hammerschlag: The Theft of the Spirit

15) Jamison: Nibble Theory

16) Katzenbach: The Wisdom of Teams

17) Lencioni: Death by Meeting: A Leadership Problem about Solving the most Painful Problem in Business

18) Machiavelli: The Prince

19) Mackenzie: Orbiting the Giant Hairball

20) Marquardt: Leading with Questions: How Leaders Find the Right Solutions by Knowing What to Ask

21) O'Toole: Creating the Good Life

22) Patterson: Crucial Conversations

23) Rousseau & Cranston: The Social Contract

24) Shafir: The Zen of Listening

25) Jaworski: Synchronicity

26) Useem: Leadership Moment

27) Wallis: Two Old Women

28) Whyte: The Heart Aroused

29) Ishiguro: Never Let Me Go

30) Michalko: Thinkertoys

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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