My Five Favorite Books on Leadership

So Hard to Pick Just Five!

Boy, this was hard.  I thought about writing several blogs–My First Five Favorite Books on Leadership, My Next Five Favorite Books on Leadership . . .   Then I thought about writing a blog titled My 25 Favorite Books on Leadership.    You’ll notice I didn’t call this “Best Books on Leadership,” mostly because that would be even harder, and I might have to re-read them all before I could come up with the list.  There are SO many books on leadership.  Why is that?  It is because leadership is in the eye of the beholder.  We all believe that we know what leadership is, and that our version is the correct one.  Leadership is not so simple though.  Leadership is as varied as leaders themselves are.  It is a combination of the person who is a leader, the people who are followers, the situation, skills, traits, results and process.  For more on this, see my post Become a Great Leader.  Lots of authors have tried to explain, teach, and communicate about leadership.  Here are my favorites.

This book is more than a book about leadership.  This is actually a textbook on organizational behavior.  It opened the door on the study of organizational behavior, leadership theory and organizational change for me.  The most important (among many) idea in the book for me is Situational Leadership(R).  The theory of Situational Leadership discusses leadership styles in terms of different combinations of task  and relationship focus.  The theory lays out four leadership styles and suggests that different styles are more appropriate for different follower behaviors.  The book is a wealth of powerful ideas on how individuals and organizations work.

I like this book because Cashman really explores the ‘internal’ mental workings of leaders.  He explores the things that give leaders control over their own destiny:  values, presence, purpose, personal mastery, and resilience.  Cashman integrates what is going on in the leader’s mind with effective leader behaviors.  He provides tools and exercises that help you build your ‘inside’ leadership muscles.

This book has been updated recently.  It is a practical ‘how to’ book based on research and comes with an app. (Yep, an app for leadership.)  The authors break leadership into five practices:  Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart.  They are able to describe why these are the elements of leadership and provide examples and exercises to build these ‘muscles.’

This one is also a textbook.  It lays out the main theories of leadership:  trait, skills, style, situational, contingency, path-goal, leader-member exchange, transformational, servant and authentic leadership.  It also provides assessments that the reader can take to evaluate his/her own placement for each theory.  I have used this book to teach leadership.  I’ve changed books a couple of times, but I always come back to this one, because I think it is thorough, clear, and, at times, even fun.

I recommend all of Quinn’s books, but this one is my favorite.  This book is directed to leaders and encourages them to evaluate their own thinking with clear eyes.  It argues that leaders need to shift their thinking from ‘victim thinking’ to powerful, change leader thinking.  Quinn argues that leaders can transform their organizations by changing themselves.

Ok, I’ve done it.  I’ve picked (only) five.  These are my favorites today–and some of them have been my favorite for years.  I reserve the right, however, to have new favorites tomorrow or soon thereafter.  I will continue to read books on leadership because, like most other business people, I’m fascinated about what makes great leaders and I’ll keep trying to crack the code.

What are your favorites?


Filed under Books, Career Development, Executive Development, Leadership

4 responses to “My Five Favorite Books on Leadership

  1. Bob Willard

    Lincoln on Leadership by Don Phillips – what did you expect?!?!?

  2. Thanks for sharing! I need to re-read The Leadership Challenge. Here’s my list:

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