Who Really Matters: The Core Group Theory of Power, Privilege, and Success, by Art Kleiner. What I like about it: In every organization, Kleiner writes, there is a "Core Group" of people who count
more than the rest. Often, the Core Group includes the top executives, but not always. It differs from organization to organization, and knowing who's in it is essential for success, because every decision and every action taken at the organization is defined by the needs and wants of this group. Whether you're a manager who must handle key stakeholders or an employee seeking career growth this book will give you plenty of original insights.
Leadership Without Easy Answers, by Ronald Heifetz. What I like about it: The author takes a look at both our own expectations for our leaders, and why they often fail to meet them, and he finds the source of our current crisis of leadership in both sides. This groundbreaking book is a rich
exploration of theory and a wonderfully practical guide for leaders and their followers as well.
The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders, by John Zenger and Joseph Folkman. What I like about it: This book will liberate
you from the tyranny of 360-degree feedback by explaining why it is much more effective to concentrate on building five core leadership competencies than it is to try to correct your lowest feedback scores.
Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing,
by Joseph Badaracco. What I like about it: If you're uncomfortable with the model of leader as larger-than-life hero, take a look at how things really work - through the small yet consequential decisions that we all make every day. Yes, there is another way to make a difference.
The Trusted Leader: Bringing Out the Best in Your People and Your Company, by Robert Galford and Anne Seibold Drapeau. What I like about it: The authors draw the critical distinction between "being trustworthy" and building trust in organizations, and their focus in this book is on helping leaders master what it takes to build trust and how to rebuild it once broken.
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. What I like about it: The authors address the common gap between vision and results, and make a solid case for treating execution as a leadership discipline and a critical piece of a company's culture. I particularly like their
characterization of candid dialogue as the "live ammo" of execution.
The Responsibility Virus by Roger Martin. What I like about it: This book explores the harmful dynamic between two great organizational archetypes, the Heroic Leader and the Passive Follower, and how it infects even the best of companies. Heroic Leaders are convinced their employees can't handle responsibility so they take on the burden, while Passive Followers, seeing that responsibility is being taken away from them, retreat even further into inaction. The author proposes a sensible and straightforward way to cure the cycle of over- and under-responsibility.
The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters, by Peter Block. What I like about it: This latest work from one of my favorite organizational thinkers reframes the notion of leadership in terms of what he calls "social architecture". He writes about how our
cultural obsession with tools and techniques has distracted us from acting on our deepest values.
Awakening the Leader Within, by Kevin Cashman. What I like about it: This "story of transformation", as the author calls it, is an engaging account of a fictional CEO
who confronts a host of defining personal and leadership challenges, and in the process awakens to a new kind of inner-directed leadership. Along with each chapter, Cashman poses questions for reflection for the reader, creating a uniquely interactive reading experience.
The Strategy-Focused Organization, by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton. What I like about it: The original creators of the Balanced Scorecard approach to performance management in organizations have extended their concept and practice to include how companies can use it in
developing and executing strategy. Ties together the sometimes disconnected realms of strategy and performance very nicely.
The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World, by Peter Schwartz. What I like about it: Schwartz is an eminent futurist and the leading proponent of the scenario
planning approach to strategy development. His book explains, in straightforward fashion, how to shift thinking about the future in your organization, and how to meld the intangibles of human life with the tangibles of bottom-line management.
Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies
, by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras. What I like about it: By examining the underlying reasons for long-term success among corporations, the authors shine the light on what makes the truly exceptional companies different from their competitors. The insights they came up with provide a pretty good blueprint for sound strategy.
Managing Change and Transition
Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, by William Bridges. What I like about it: This book is an old favorite that really stands the test of time. Not only does it help you understand the
human dynamics of organizational change - which if anything has only accelerated since the book first appeared in 1991 - but it also is filled with practical tips on navigating the shoals.
Leading Change, by John Kotter. What I like about it: Another classic, this book builds on a career
of research into change in organizations, and it offers a succinct statement of what most often derails leaders of major change initiatives. Better yet, there's an eight-step action plan for leading change successfully.
The Heart of Change, by John Kotter. What I like about it: This book builds on the best-selling work
of this renowned expert on leading change and tells the stories of leaders who have been in the trenches to make it happen. An inspiring work.
Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future, by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph
Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers. What I like about it: The authors explore an entirely new meaning for the term "presence" - not just being fully attentive in the present moment, but listening on a much deeper level and being open to completely new ways of seeing the world. I'm also fascinated by the way this book was developed, using the insights gained from an ongoing conversations over time among a range of participants in SOL (Society of Organizational Learning.)
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell. What I like about it: The author, a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine and budding business guru, explores the value as
well as the danger inherent in the kind of split-second thinking that determines so much of our behavior and decision making. He argues that we can teach ourselves to make better use of what he calls "rapid cognition" - a provocative idea that can shift the way you think about thinking. If you're one of the legions of fans of his first book, The Tipping Point, you'll find this one every bit as absorbing.
Your Signature Path: Gaining New Perspectives on Life and Work, by Geoffrey Bellman. What I like about it: This is not a new book, but it's a favorite I turn to again and again in my work with
executive coaching clients who care about making a difference in the world. The author focuses on the importance of work in a fulfilling life, and provides numerous self-guided reflective exercises aimed at integrating the two.
The Inner Game of Work, by Timothy Gallwey. What I like about it: The author - the guru of "the
inner game" in tennis and golf - has trained his sights on our complex and confusing work environment, and challenges the reader to reexamine his fundamental motivations for going to work and his definitions of work. This book will change the way you look at work, and help you understand what a good coach can do for you.
The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander. What I like about it: The renowned conductor and his psychotherapist wife have written an engaging, practical and thoughtful read. Their message: when we bring compassion,
grace, and humor to our work, we tap into our creativity and native gifts, and thereby, we enhance our contribution. By acknowledging all that we are ... body, mind, and spirit ... we and the people we influence are better off for it. - Recommended by Clarice Scriber
Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity, by David Whyte. What I like about
it: I love this provocative book because I can turn to any page and find inspiration for consciously, creatively shaping our work life to be a powerful expression of our authentic selves and an opportunity to bring our best gifts forward in service of ourselves, our community, the world. - Recommended by Bette George
Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen. What I like about it: It's short, simple, and it really, really works. These are the people
who are carrying on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project and the "Getting to Yes" approach.
You Are What You Say, by Matthew Budd and Larry Rothstein. What I like about it: I turn to this
book again and again in coaching executives, because it is filled with straightforward explanations for the most vexing communication problems, and practices to overcome them.
How The Way We Talk Can Change The Way We Work, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. What I like about it: The authors, both psychologists, explain why the changes we make so seldom
seem to stick. They look at how our language creates our reality, and then guide us through a very accessible methodology for transforming the way we talk. Rich in both theory and practice.
Powerful Conversations: How High-Impact Leaders Communicate
, by Phil Harkins. What I like about it: Using the results of his research and experience, the author (a well-known and respected management consultant) provides specific guidelines to developing your own conversational style to move you towards the results you want to get.
Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together, by William Isaacs. What I like about it: A powerful alternative to the problem-solving model that sabotages any sustainable cultural change effort, dialogue offers a transformative process for people to embrace learning together, to innovate from a collective mindset and to bring communication to the deepest levels. Isaacs' case studies illustrate how dialogue unfolds hidden possibilities while revealing the assumptions and underlying beliefs and
structures that keep groups, teams and organizations from true collaboration and optimal performance. - Recommended by Alicia Rodriguez
Leadership and the Art of Conversation, by Kim Krisco. What I like about it: This book is
out-of-print and hard to find, but if you do, snatch it up, because it's the best thing you'll ever read about using conversation as a management tool.
Resilience and Life Management
A Bias for Action,
by Heike Bruch and Sumantra Ghoshal. What I like about it: Based on their research across various industries, the authors posit that managers frequently confuse activity with accomplishments, and they demonstrate that 90% of managers waste their time by procrastinating and distracting themselves with busyness. They use engaging case studies to illustrate the problem, and lay out strategies for individuals and organizations to develop a capacity for more purposeful action.
Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading, by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky. What I like about it: The authors take a very personal and practical approach to the
real challenges of leadership that people in many contexts and cultures face daily when they choose to "raise important questions, speak to higher values, and surface unresolved conflicts."
The Power of Full Engagement
, by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. What I like about it: The authors, who run a highly-acclaimed program based on the principles outlined in this book, will shift your frame of reference from time management to energy management - as in, managing your own energy for high performance and continuous renewal. This book explores what it really means to be resilient.
Retooling on the Run, by Stuart Heller and David Sheppard Surrenda. What I like about it: Subtitled "Real Change for Leaders with No Time," this book will introduce you to the mind-body connection in a totally new way. It is filled with exercises you can do to dramatically increase your effectiveness as a
leader by learning to tune in to what your body already knows.
Stopping: How to Be Still When You Have to Keep Going, by David Kuntz. What I like about it:
Stop, look, and listen - the antidote to busyness in our complex world. Here's a book by a self-confessed failed meditator that will teach you a simple and effective way to take back your life.
Inner Peace for Busy People, by Joan Borysenko. What I like about it: Well, the title alone drew me
to it.and I have been rewarded with a wonderful little collection of "simple strategies" that really do work. Each one comes with a practice that will help you put strategy into action. The author, a clinical psychologist and leading expert in mind-body studies, is a master at distilling complex material into its very essence. If you are struggling with your own "pausing" practice, check this book out.
First Things First, by Stephen Covey. What I like about it: If you haven't read this one in a while, it's worth dipping back into for a refresher on how to set meaningful priorities and make them stick. This is a classic that expanded our understanding of "time management" forever.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen. What I like about it: I have probably tried every approach out there to getting organized, and to my mind, this is the one that
really works. Using an approach that is truly coach-like, the author guides you through the steps to set up and transition to his system for keeping your priorities straight and actually, well, getting things done.
Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People's Minds, by Howard Gardner. The Harvard psychologist who formulated the theory of multiple intelligences - giving rise to the seemingly unquenchable thirst for understanding emotional intelligence wherever it shows
up (or doesn't) - now offers an original framework for understanding what happens when we change our minds, and how we can influence the process.
Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence
, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. What I like about it: I'm fascinated by the biological basis of human behavior, and the authors present new findings in brain research that show how the best leaders weave intellect and emotion together to create resonance with others.
Working With Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman. What I like about it: Although there are several books with similar titles, this is the one written by the man who first popularized the concept of emotional intelligence. Here he explains how to apply it in the workplace.
Toxic Emotions at Work: How Compassionate Managers Handle Pain And Conflict, by Peter Frost. What I like about it: While recognizing that "toxicity" is a normal byproduct of organizational life, the author offers managers and leaders concrete information about how they can alleviate it
individually, and also work to handle it or prevent it at a systemic level.