I haven’t met a decent leader yet who says they don’t read, but leaders are busy folks. If you commit to setting aside time to read, it needs to be a worthwhile investment. To help with this, we’re launching the Read to Lead series of Hard NoCs blog posts.
But first, a bit of advice: What you read isn’t as important as how you read. Nearly any book can be a leadership book if read through a leadership lens.
That’s why books like Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, and Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, are included on the professional reading list for young Marines published by the Commandant of the Marine Corps. And that’s why I consistently recommend Watership Down, by Richard Adams, when working with clients to develop their personal leadership philosophies.
Of course there are also plenty of contemporary leadership books to choose from. Start with Why, by Simon Sinek, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, and Good Strategy, Bad Strategy, by Richard P. Rumelt are timely, easy to digest, and loaded with valuable perspective to help guide leaders of established organizations and start-ups alike.
Today’s Read to Lead recommendation is drawn from a selection of foundational works on leadership for those ready to do heavy thinking on the topic.
First published in 1978, Leadership, by James MacGregor Burns, challenges readers to think about leadership as something other than power and an exchange of work for pay. It remains highly relevant today and is a core reference used by our team to develop our Communication-Based Leadership framework. Particularly the enduring truths that leadership is about relationships and enduring leadership success requires trust.
“We must see power – and leadership – as not things but as relationships. We must analyze power in context of human motives and physical constraints. If we can come to grips with these aspects of power, we can hope to comprehend the true nature of leadership – a venture far more intellectually daunting than the study of naked power.” – James MacGregor Burns, Leadership, p. 11
This quote from Burns emphasizes our own belief that leadership isn’t merely about holding an official position or authority, it is a lifestyle grounded in building trusted relationships with those around us and helping them recognize and realize their full potential.
At nearly 500 pages and loaded with source citations, this tome by Burns will require you to clear your mind and engage in serious contemplation, but will be well worth your investment in time and energy.
If you are facing any particular leadership challenges and would like some reading recommendations, feel free to give us a call, zap us an email, or post a comment below. We’ll also be happy to hear your recommendations of books that have proven valuable to you as a developing leader.
Guest Writers Welcome!
If you are interested in writing and publishing on a topic related to CBL, drop us a line. We’ll work with you to refine your ideas and include you as a by-line contributor to the Hard NoCs blog.
Cliff holds a PhD in organization and management with a specialization in leadership. A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, he completed operational deployments to Fallujah, Iraq and Kandahar and Helmand, Afghanistan. He has led multi-national and inter-agency teams including approximately one year on loan from the Corps as Director of Policy, Planning, and Outreach for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. He also directly advised the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on public and media engagement regarding national security matters for two years as Special Assistant for Public Communication. Today he puts that experience to work helping people become the kind of leaders they would want to follow.