Article

Read to Lead

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence

5 minutes

"Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers."  ~Harry Truman

When was the last time you saw a positive and uplifting story on the news or the Internet? Our news media are saturated with negative stories and messages. While it's good to be informed about current events, as leaders it serves us to feed our minds with positive information and stories so we can inspire and empower our teams.

Not only is reading a way to improve our intelligence, generate ideas, and inspire innovation, it can also reduce stress. One study showed that reading for just six minutes reduced stress by 68 percent.

Many of the most successful business leaders are readers. Steve Jobs was an avid reader of William Blake; Warren Buffet spends up to 80 percent of his time reading or thinking; and Elon Musk is reported to have read two books a day as a child.

Bottom line: Reading can make you a better leader. Exceptional leaders are always looking to improve their skills and become more effective.

John Coleman, author of the Harvard Business Review article, "For Those Who Want to Lead, Read," suggests reading material in different genres, not just leadership or business books. He notes many business professionals claim reading across fields is good for creativity and innovation.

I occasionally read historical books by David McCullough and historical fiction. Mostly, I gravitate to leadership and personal development books. If you are looking to add some books to your reading list, here are my five favorite leadership and personal development books:

1)         The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni illustrates why organizational health is more important than other variables like strategy, marketing, and finance. An organization that is smart, but not healthy, will not be successful. Lencioni shares four disciplines that must be done all at once and maintained on an ongoing basis to be preserved. The four disciplines are:

  1. Build a cohesive leadership team.
  2. Create clarity.
  3. Overcommunicate clarity.
  4. Reinforce clarity.

This brilliant book illustrates how these four disciplines overcome organizational issues like dysfunction, politics and confusion. This book is a must-read for leaders, particularly executives.

2)         Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown is a book I recently read, and I couldn't put it down. Not just because of the author's compelling stories, but because I was craving more simplicity in my life. McKeown shares a systematic discipline for deciding what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter. This is not a book about time management, it is a book about life management. If you are craving more space, time, and better results in your life, this book will help you get there.

3)         The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield isn't just a book about professional success; it's a book about life success. Canfield shares 67 principles that will propel you to success. That may seem like a lot of principles, but some of them are so simple, it's a matter of making a decision and sticking to it. Whether you want to become more clear about your purpose in life, achieve greater levels of success, become a better leader, increase your confidence, or become a better parent, this book will transform your life. I felt so motivated and inspired by this book, that I signed up for Jack's training on how to teach these principles.

4)         Leadership From the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life by Kevin Cashman is my favorite leadership book of all time. If every leader read this book, we would have a world of exceptional leaders! What I like most is that every chapter has exercises and reflections to help put the concepts into practice. This book isn't about fixing weaknesses or just implementing a few strategies like many other books. Cashman guides the reader through a journey to grow as a whole person in order to grow as a whole leader. His model focuses on mastery in the following areas: personal, purpose, change, interpersonal, being, resilience and action. It's refreshing, inspirational and backed by research. If you read one leadership book this year, let this be the one!

5)         The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller provides tools for increased productivity, less stress, and better results in less time. Keller shares the lies that mislead and derail us and then provides tools for clearing the clutter and focusing. One of my favorite nuggets from this book is the focusing question, which is the simple formula to finding exceptional answers that lead to extraordinary results. The focusing question is: "What's the one thing I can do such by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?" This question can be applied to all areas of your life. This book is another inspiring read on how to cut through all the distractions and lead a high quality life.

What is one of your favorite leadership books? Please share in the comments!

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of Envision Excellence, LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or lmaddalena@envisionexcellence.net.

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