Review of 2018 Through Books_3x5 Leadership

I had the great fortune of completing my 2018 reading goal of 50 books this week. To many busy professionals, myself included, that is a pretty large number. I totally get that it may seem unrealistic to many. So, upfront, I want to share my two greatest personal reading lessons from 2018:

  • Learn to leverage the power of audiobooks. As you can see in the books I read in July through December 2018, below, approximately half of them where audiobooks, annotated by the asterisk (*) at the end of the author’s name. Filling times of mindless busy work with audiobook listening drastically improved my capacity to consume additional literature. Learn more about my thoughts on the power of audiobooks here.
  • In his post on the Field Grade Leader blog, Franklin Annis offered one of my favorite thoughts about self-development: choose learning over non-learning activities. Effective self-development requires disciplined habits, which can include choices such as listening to an audiobook instead of music, reading a few pages in your book over skimming social media, or engaging in some personal reflection activity over watching TV. Choosing reading activities can add minutes to your self-development time each week. Considering the bigger picture, minutes add up to hours, and hours add to multiple additional books completed.

Below are my favorite five books I read this year, followed by the other 17 books I read in the second half of the year, July through December. Check out the books I read in the first half of 2018 here. I share this list to help inspire others to commit to reading for personal development and to equip them with some recommended titles if looking for the next book to dig into.

Next, check out 3×5 Leadership’s Bookshelf, which is a robust reading resource to help you maximize your self-development reading and your learning from reading. The Bookshelf provides the 3×5 Leadership Reading List, book reviews, and other helpful resources. Check out the site if you have not.

Finally, I encourage readers to look into the 3×5 Leadership Leaders are Readers series, which is a multi-part blog series that shares everything I’ve learned about reading for self-development and maximizing it’s impact on my leadership and leader growth.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I look forward to making 2019 an impactful year for our self- and leader-development efforts!

My Top 5 Books of 2018

7 habits

7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Power Lessons in Personal Change, by Stephen R. Covey

Amidst our culture currently obsessed with overnight success and “life hacks,” this book is the enduring guidepost to inform leaders of the value of character, discipline, organization, and care for others. This book does so much more than help you improve your leadership; it challenges you to become a better spouse, parent, neighbor, and human being. When you incorporate the learned book principles of “Quadrant II leadership” + emphatic listening + commitment to “sharpening the saw,” you cannot go wrong.

Culture Code

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, by Daniel Coyle

To be honest, I thought this book would be another simple, yet enjoyable “airport” leadership book. Nope. This book was outstanding. It offers a model of successful team building, broken into three simple messages leaders communicate through a myriad of behaviors and attitudes. Ultimately, through some post-reading reflection, I’ve come to boil Coyle’s model into communicating these messages: 1) you’re important and safe here, 2) I need you in order to be successful, and 3) what our team is doing is important. I highly encourage you to make The Culture Code one of your next books.

How to Win Friends_3x5 Leadership Graphic

How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie*

Though I wish this book’s title would change to remain attractive to current generations (I think the “win friends” part makes this sound like a self-help book for loners), I absolutely think this is an essential read for young, emerging leaders. John Maxwell claims that leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. Moreover, influence is very much an art that must be learned and practiced. I think Carnegie’s book provides leaders with crucial attitudes and behaviors on how to effectively achieve influence with those up, down, and around you at work and in life. If you have not read this book, I highly encourage you to make it a top read for 2019.

Enders Game

Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card*

Of all the recommended science fiction books for military leaders, I think this is the best for junior officers, as it tells an exciting tale of a young man growing from an individual, to a follower, to a leader, and ultimately to a leader developer. Ender showcases leader qualities necessary in today’s complex environment, often considered “soft” skills, such as humility and empathy, while still being decisive and effective. It’s a great story and case to study in developing as a leader.

Accidental Superpower_3x5 Leadership Graphic

The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder, by Peter Zeihan

In his episode on The Military Leader podcast, BG Ross Coffman claims that the most successful units (and the best leaders) at the NTC know the enemy and the terrain. I think for leaders to be fully educated about our current threats and possible operating environments, leaders to first understand this on a macro, international scale. Robert Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography, asserts that geography should be the starting point for discussions on social culture, politics, economics, demographic trends, and so on. Geography is not the answer, but is a key consideration that our generations have lost sight of. Though technology has shrunk geography, it has not erased it. Looking at geography is the first step that we have seemed to ignore when looking at why countries are doing what they are doing. Personally, I believe Zeihan’s book is a great starting point to begin a personal study in this topic.

Leader Development

It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, by Colin Powell*

Legacy: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life, by James Kerr

Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership, by Martin E. Dempsey and Ori Brafman

A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service, by Robert M. Gates*

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Human Growth & Development

Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World, by Bob Goff*

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brene Brown

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman*

Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

Science Fiction

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman*

Armada, by Ernest Cline*

Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein*


An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943, by Rick Atkinson*

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, by Alfred Lansing*

Other Non-Fiction

The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000, by Paul Kennedy*

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson*

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  1. My number one read for the year was “Educated” by Tara Westover.

    A suggestion earlier this year by a neighbor, I had no clue it was on Pres Barack Obama’s or Bill Gates’ reading list until yesterday. It was also highlighted in The NY Times by Michelle Obama a few days ago.

    The author grew up without a birth certificate as a devout Mormon to off-the-grid, prepper parents. She was home schooled in the loosest sense and spent most of her days in her father’s junkyard or in her mother’s kitchen making essential oils. After getting an inkling of wanting another life, she decided to go to college, shifting her life in such an abrupt upheaval that she loses both herself and her family.

    It’s a harrowing story of her evolution through education, not just at BYU, Harvard and Cambridge (she’s earned a PhD), but through new life experiences that were distorted, guarded and secreted while she was a kid. As I’m a first year doctoral student it has made me reflect so much on my own unorthodox story that only those closest to me know.

  2. Thank you so very much for your work! I am an avid reader and dedicated, loyal follower of your site. You are my “go to” source for all things leadership!
    Being a career Battalion Fire Chief in a mid-sized city of 287,000+ people is and has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences of my professional life. I am in constant pursuit of improving my professional edge, my knowledge, my skill set, etc. My professional development has definitely been accelerated by adding your service to my resource tool box. THANK YOU again for all that you do to help other professionals grow!

    1. Thanks for the supportive words, Mike! Thank you for your service to your community and your dedication to developing leaders around you to improve that service. Let me know if you have questions or how I can help!

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