The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Stephen R. Covey

If you only read one book on how to lead your own life, this is the one. The writing is comprehensive, inspirational, and immensely practical. Use the ideas to get a handle on your temper, to use your time better, or to build high-trust relationships. I had the privilege of working with Stephen for many years, and he inspired me with his vision and generosity.

Brain Rules

12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School

John Medina

Medina may have heavy-duty credentials (a developmental molecular biologist), but his writing is light and engaging. If you want to learn faster, and help your team or children learn faster as well, you can put these ideas to work tomorrow. Use exercise to boost brainpower and repetition to help you remember. Beware of bad stress and late nights, because both will mess with your mind.

THE DISCIPLINE OF BUILDING CHARACTER

Havard Business Review, March 1998

LEADERSHIP IN LITERATURE

Havard Business Review, March 2006

Joseph L. Badaracco

Badaracco’s writing is profound and nuanced. He doesn’t concern himself with the “easy” decisions, like the ones between right an wrong. Instead, Badaracco explores the territory of how to choose wisely when you value both options greatly. The first article gives a framework for how to think through such dilemmas; and the second uses stories to bring this process to life.

How Will You Measure Your Life

Harvard Business Review, July/August 2010

Clayton M. Christensen

Christensen, known for his research on disruptive technologies, shares his last lecture to the Harvard Business School graduating class of 2010. He asks the students to figure out how they will be happy in their careers, how they will make their closest relationships a source of enduring happiness, and how they will stay out of jail (he’s not kidding, because 2 of the 32 people in his Rhodes scholar class spent time in jail).

Willpower

Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Roy F. Baumeister & John Tierney

Baumeister, a social psychologist and prolific researcher, and Tierney, a science writer for the New York Times, have written an exciting book about the dreary topic of willpower. They show how self-discipline cuts down on temptations and frees up mental energy. They explain why rest and regular meals will help you act decisively, instead of defaulting to the safe choices.

Talent is Overrated

What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else

Geoff Colvin

Being in the top 10% in your industry, requires intense and deliberate workouts. Begin by designing a program that stretches you in a specific area, then do the drills over and over again, and seek real-time feedback. Such practice isn’t much fun, still, being on top of your game is immensely rewarding.

Driven

How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices

Paul R. Lawrence & Nitin Nohira

When I first learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs I loved it, but frankly, the drives described in this book are even more compelling. Lawrence and Norhia present four innate and independent motivations: the drive to acquire, the drive to bond, the drive to learn, and the drive to defend. Free will is then expressed in the relative importance we give to each.

Predictably Irrational

The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions

Dan Ariely

Ariely is a behavioral economist with an intriguing and irreverent bent. His findings will mess with some of your most cherished assumptions about human nature. For example, “given the opportunity to cheat, most people will; but just a little bit.” Fortunately, the book also shows you how to counter such inclinations.

What Got You Here, Won't Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith

Goldsmith is a master coach with a “tough love” message for successful executives. His point is that to get better, you often don’t need to start a new and better behavior, you simply need to stop doing the stupid things that annoy others. Good point!

The Executive Compass

Business and the Good Society

James O’Toole

Every leader deals with values-based conflicts regarding issues such as the environment, diversity, outsourcing, and executive pay. These tensions have deep historical and philosophical roots, which can be understood through the executive compass. The north-south axis represents the tension between liberty and equality, while the east-west axis illustrates the one between community and corporatism (efficiency). The good leader is the one who negotiates these tensions respectfully.

Lead Like the Great Conductors

TED Talk

Itay Talgam

If you enjoy classical music and need a 20 min break, here is an interesting talk about leadership styles and performance. As you watch the six different styles of conducting, think about the way you engage your “orchestra.” Enjoy!

Made to Stick

Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Chip Heath & Dan Heath

This is my absolute favorite book on communication. These guys know their stuff! Read it and you will remember the formula for s-u-c-c-e-s(s): simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and stories.

Great by Choice

Jim Collins & Moten T. Hansen

This is the third and last book in Collins’ trilogy on greatness, and it has a refreshing, entrepreneurial twist. For my clients, the most useful concept is “The 20 Mile March”, which shows you how to set a cadence that is both ambitious and sustainable. Likewise, “The SMaC Recipe” helps you transform your “big hairy audacious goal” into specific operating practices.

The Future of Management

Gary Hamel

To succeed in the global bazaar requires innovative leadership practices. Hamel invites leaders to seek inspiration from five highly adaptable and accountable systems: nature, democracy, faith, free markets, and cities. I applied this with one executive team where we studied natural systems and democracy in South Africa, faith in Southeast Asia, and free markets and cities in New York.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

Daniel Kahneman

Kahneman takes us on a personal journey of the history of behavioral economics. The ideas flow easily and it almost feels like he is sitting next to you talking about his curiosities, questions, experiments, and answers. I particularly appreciated the findings on when we can trust our intuitive mind and tacit knowledge, and when we must have the discipline for rigorous analysis.

Riding the Waves of Culture

Understanding Diversity in Global Business

Fons Trompenaars & Charles Hampden-Turner

Before rolling out another multinational initiative (e.g., a performance-based reward system) be sure to read this book, as it will save you a lot of time, frustration, and money. The authors’ research takes Geert Hofstede’s work to a deeper and more practical level. They help us frame the different ways we think about relationships, time, and achievement. More importantly, their illustrations are up to date and the advice is actionable.

A Simpler Way

Margaret J. Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers

Among the many excellent texts on how to lead organizational change, my personal favorite is this beautiful book about human nature and the nature of change. It speaks to possibilities instead of problems, and shows us how human beings naturally connect, organize, experiment, and create. Meg is a dear friend and a wise soul.

Switch

How to Change Things When Change is Hard

Chip Heath & Dan Heath

The Heath brothers have written a superb primer on how to lead people and change. The concepts are simple—the rider, the elephant, and the path—but not simplistic. They respect the complexity of "the beast," while giving us useful advice on how to ride it. Even experienced leaders should read it and get smarter about change.