It will come as no surprise to anyone that knows me that books have played an incredibly important role in my leadership growth. The only thing that I can think of that has had as much an impact has been finding opportunities to be on both sides of mentorships, but books have been the most consistent throughline on my journey. <shameless plug> If you’re so inclined, you can listen to Dawn and I talk about leadership books, even.</shameless plug>
Even as much as I love books and learning, I freely confess that “self help” books—especially those devoted to professional development or leadership skills—are a mixed bag, and that mixture is not weighted toward quality. The field is rife with trite, repackaged ideas; facile derivations of more established works (do we need more Zen and the Art of Leadership or The Art of War for Managers?); incredibly vague pap; or dangerously misguided approaches. However, there are gems out there.
It was while sifting through some of that morass to recommend such gems to a colleague that I had an idea: putting together a “bookshelf” of sorts for the new leader. My goals are simple: a manageable number of books that would guide a leader from “I am pretty sure I want to lead” through “oh shit, I have a team now what” without being overwhelming or excessively jargon-y or attempting to be overtly clever—oh, and without breaking the bank.
This is the result. A dozen books that divided themselves naturally into three discrete phases of becoming a leader that, if you bought them all at once, would set you back roughly $200. The intention is that these books can be read in order at a comfortable pace—usually around one every month or two—and that their lessons can be put into practice by leaders and aspiring leaders alike.