This is Part 2 of an 8-part series addressing the value of reading for leaders’ personal and professional development. You can begin the series with Part I: Introduction HERE.
As I stated in Part I, I came to find the value of reading for my personal and professional development in 2013. My dilemma then, however, was determining what to start reading; I really didn’t have an idea of where to start. I was at the Army’s Captains Career Course at the time, so I began reading what my instructor was reading (East of Chosin: Entrapment and Breakout in Korea, 1950; highly recommend!) and what was on the Engineer Commandant’s reading list, which was the first “professional leader reading list” I ever encountered (I started with The Existential Pleasures of Engineering; I don’t recommend as your first book attempt…).
In time, I’ve learned a better way to approach what topics to read about: read on what you’re passionate about and is relevant to your life. I am a student of and passionate about leadership, military-specific and in life. Thus, I enjoy reading much about that topic. I also am a recreational historian and enjoy reading military history, so I engage in that as well (reading history is also highly beneficial for leader growth). Finally, I am a follower of Christ, husband, and endurance runner – I also enjoy to read about and grow in those topics.
So, determine the subject areas that you’re passionate about and that are relevant to your life and find books in those realms. Do not stove-pipe your reading within one subject, however. Do not only read leadership books to grow as a leader, and certainly do not only read military leadership books; the horizon of great leadership books is vast. Read to develop in multiple areas of your life beyond work and leadership. Create a diverse pool of books within your reading program: diversity breeds innovation, which will ultimately make you a better leader.
For example, last year, my wife recommended I read Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown. At first glance, it didn’t seem to have anything to do with the topics that I am passionate about or are relevant to my life (let alone interesting). However, the lessons throughout that book absolutely affect my leader behavior regarding empathy and vulnerability; it was a powerful book. Again, diversity breeds innovation.
So, where to start? There are hundreds of great resources that recommend books (which I’ll be addressing in the coming weeks). For now, here are my top five leader development book recommendations to get you started now; this is a leader development blog after all.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey
Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders, by L. David Marquet
21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, by John C. Maxwell
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Patrick Lencioni
The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
Next week, in part 3 of the series, I help you create a system to manage your reading program by keeping track of what you’ve read and what you want to read, and maintaining your lessons learned.
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