The Reading List For Leaders

Leadership is not merely earning a position; it is a process to always work for the betterment of yourself and your employees. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for becoming a strong leader; and with the diversity of technology in the workplace, you may find as a leader that there’s a lot you still need to learn. Still, one of the hallmarks of a strong leader is a constant pursuit of self-education, and in keeping with this, I’d like to discuss some notable books that all leaders, current or aspiring, should read.

Adaptive Leadership by Roselinde Torres, Martin Reeves, and Claire Love

The long-held perception of a leader is of an individual that spearheads and singlehandedly leads an organization to success. However, the idea of a single, dominant leader simply does not work in this day and age. Adaptive Leadership posits that a company must be invigorated by a free flow of ideas and information between employees, with leaders willing to take risks and listen to advice from their subordinates.

This book states that modern leaders should be able to lead with empathy and create a collaborative environment that rewards experimentation and unconventional thinking.

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Teams are never homogeneous. As a leader, you will have to reconcile a variety of personalities at all times, a practice put to the test in times of crisis. Team of Rivals describes Lincoln’s struggle to unite the country to abolish slavery, surrounding himself with a diverse team of individuals unafraid to challenge him. Kearns Goodwin depicts Lincoln as a humble leader, one that understood the value of working with others of differing opinions.

Lincoln’s understanding and compassion earned the respect of his cabinet members; and any leader can stand to learn from his willingness to listen to others.

Thinking In New Boxes by Luc De Brabandere and Alan Iny

Any company should be unafraid to experiment and work with new ideas. For instance, BIC, a pen company, took the risk of selling disposable pens and wound up carving themselves a niche with other disposable items.

Moreover, it’s not just about a one time effort—businesses should always test the limits of what’s possible and constantly reevaluate the spaces that they work in.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Any leader should be prepared to confront adversity. Endurance tells the story of Ernest Shackleton’s ill fated expedition to Antarctica. Perhaps losing a deal is not as dire as a voyage through Arctic oceans, but Shackleton’s determination and courage were responsible for keeping a disaster from being a tragedy.

The Social Animal by David Brooks

Perhaps a more unconventional choice than the other books on this list, The Social Animal follows two fictional characters throughout their lives and their relationship, peppering their experience with Brooks’ own research on human psychology and social norms. It’s a case study and deconstruction of modern culture and the notion of success; as leadership is redefined as a concept, Brooks similarly makes points about human achievement on a broader scale.

A great read for any leaders interested the primal forces that drive us as individuals and members of society.

Personal History by Katharine Graham

As the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 company, Katharine Graham fought hard to build up the Washington Post after her husband’s suicide. Graham’s constant learning and struggles against her husband’s abuse to find success is moving and an excellent story about overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. It’s a very personal biography, one that gives you firsthand insight into Graham’s strife and eventual victory. Personal History is an inspiration to me and an excellent read for anyone that feels that they cannot overcome their own circumstances.