Leader’s Bookshelf

It is once again approaching the end of the year. While I was going to do something different this year, the crop of books on leadership has been too rich to ignore. Rather than running a long list, I have focused on a few titles that might not be obvious as part of a leadership library. These are books that will stir your thinking and challenge your assumptions about business leadership and life – always a good thing in the month before a new year.

  • “What Got You Here Will Not Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful” (Marshall Goldsmith, Hyperion, January 2007)

Most of what Marshall Goldsmith has published is a more formal treatment of leadership. But Marshall is not at all formal, and this book represents more of his own voice. This is not just a list of bad habits. Marshall nets out the experience of his clients and those of the coaches in his network to distill insight into the changes needed for continued improvement in performance. He goes on to pull the covers off the framework for executive coaching, balancing insight into how a coach works with do-it-yourself tools. This is a practical book, written with a sense of humor and peppered with stories that will resonate with solo entrepreneurs and leaders of global giants.

  • “The Power of Story: Rewrite Your Destiny in Business and in Life” (Jim Loehr, Free Press, September 2007)

Jim Loehr co-authored “The Power of Full Engagement” with Tony Schwartz. In this book, Jim takes on the very important topic of how our stories impact our experience. This is a very accessible and practical way to engage with a concept that often seems soft or even “California woo-woo” to some executives. I previously addressed this issue in this space (“That’s My Story” Parts 1 and 2, February 2007). This is the book that will provide guidance about how to see your stories and change the ones you want to change.

  • “Supercapitalism: The Transformation of Business, Politics and Everyday Life” (Robert Reich, Knopf, September 2007)

Reich is a former Secretary of Labor and a contrarian’s contrarian. Even pundits who disagree with his conclusions characterize him as thoughtful and provocative. “Supercapitalism” argues that as capitalism becomes ever more successful, democracy suffers. Reich argues that corporate influence has diluted the power of ordinary citizens to participate in our democracy. He argues for a rigorous separation of business and government. His suggestions for accomplishing a separation of business and state are provocative and either inspiring or frightening, depending on your point of view. Either way, this is a book that asks hard questions, which makes it a coach’s choice.

  • “Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships” (Daniel Goleman, Bantam, July 2007)

Like his first book, “Emotional Intelligence,” Goleman relies on neuroscience to make his case. He reviews research in the brain that demonstrates that we are wired for social interactions and argues that we can become more skilled by increasing our understanding of what is really going on in social settings. Goleman is a Harvard psychology professor but writes for the business community. A social setting in his descriptions can be a board or project meeting as easily as a reception or party.

Goleman’s concern about social disconnection and our addiction to multi-tasking is not aimed at corporate leaders, but it certainly applies. Leaders of companies who thrive on what Citigroup’s Chuck Prince described as a “dance till we drop” culture would do well to understand what Goleman describes as the toxic impact of increasingly poor social intelligence.

Happy reading!

Originally published in Arkansas Business, December 10, 2007.