Here are 3 Books I Believe Every Leader Should Read

How to Boost Your 21st Century Leadership Skills

What is leadership?

This is the most universal question everyone asks. Unfortunately for modern leaders the best answers have all come from the brightest 19th century minds. There is nothing wrong with what those intellectuals and academics wrote or said, but seriously?

Sometimes ideas have an expiration date.

The world used to believe the world was flat. And if anyone reads Thomas Friedman, I think you already know where we all stand on that old, obsolete theory.

So what should leaders be focused on in the 21st Century?

I ran a leadership course in my Principal’s Academy, while I was still the Superintendent of a K12 program in New Jersey. Since then, I have been able to expand leadership into 6 Objectives.

The 6 Objectives of Leadership:

  1. Vision
  2. Smart Goals
  3. Responsibility
  4. Management
  5. Support
  6. Reflection

These six objectives may not make complete sense to you right now, but that’s why school administrators, school board members, and elected officials would come to me to find out how leaders can affect positive change? How can they make a difference? What can leaders do to empower others?

The purpose of this article is to provide you with three key books, I think every leader should own in their library and by extension read numerous times.

That’s the one thing about being an effective leader, you need to re-read key books over and over again, when they are “this” good.

Book #1: The One Minute Manager

The One Minute Manager written by Ken Blanchard might be the shortest book you will ever read. It is only 106 pages and the font is bigger and most of the page margins are shorter as well.

The main point of this book is to promote the importance of delegation. Delegation fits into Objective #4 of the 6 Objectives of Leadership: Management.

What is your role as the leader? Leaders do not “DO” anything. The TV show Abbott Elementary likes to poke fun at the Principal of the school because the students don’t see what the principal does all day.

Here’s the harsh truth. If the school is meeting the desired outcomes and it looks like the Principal isn’t doing anything — they actually did everything and their job.

That’s the funny thing about leadership. The most skilled leaders make it look too easy. Let’s use recently retired and future Hall Of Fame Quarterback Tom Brady as an example. He made it look easy to play quarterback at the age of 40. It only looks “EASY” because his level of skill is so far above everyone else’s and his ability to understand his role and what needs to happen is so in-tune with the organization’s goals — that everything just works around him.

A lot of my staff thought I didn’t do anything all day. A few of them were confused when I would present workshops and lectures and hand out fully written, designed and developed workbooks that I wrote, along with all of my regular duties and ask me, “How do you get all of this work done, you must work 15 hour days?”

And the answer is, I only do the work that I am the expert, and I allow other people to do the work they have the most expertise in. How this translates into the business world is the leader needs to talk to all of their employees and instead of assigning them to different teams and tasks, work with their employees to find what they do best and stick them on teams to utilize those talents.

Most companies do not run this way, which is why workers tend to quit with zero notice or worse companies lose their top talent to other companies or firms. People want to feel valuable, so if you want to be an effective leader, delegate work to people who know how to do it.

Book #2: Change: How to Make Big Things Happen

This is a relatively new book, published in 2021 and written by Damon Centola. Can leaders affect positive change? The answer is yes, but with a caveat.

Just because you are in a leadership position does not mean you automatically can get things done or make any changes, let alone positive ones.

We see this happening in Congress for the last 20 years. These are the people who have the power to enact laws and change people’s lives — yet those same people feel disenfranchised.

Can you imagine a more alternate universe, where the most powerful people in the world — our elected leaders — feel less empowered than the people that voted for them?

I have mentored and coached thousands of teachers, hundreds of administrators and talked to tens of thousands of hard working American citizens over the last decade.

One common misbelief and misunderstanding is that people in leadership positions, who hold power titles can do something to affect change, just because they hold that position.

This is simply untrue.

That’s why I conducted extensive research and studied data to develop the 6 Objectives of Leadership. Too many principals, superintendents and school board members would come to me and say, “I don’t know how to fix what is happening in my district or school? Where do I begin?”

For me personally, this is my biggest frustration with our obsolete 19th Century school system. We do not teach kids “Vision Skills,” which is #1 on the list of 6 Leadership Objectives.

  • Can you see the future?
  • Do you know where the path to success is?
  • What is the NEXT step on that path?

There are three fundamental questions that I ask anyone that takes my Vision Course. These three questions are rooted in psychological theory and research. In fact, anyone that has spent time in therapy always says, “that’s something my therapist asks me.”

Of course it is, because one of the reasons people go to therapy is to overcome confusion about what they are doing in their life and get help with finding a healthier path to take.

That logic holds true in life and in business and as a leader. Leaders can only develop a Vision for their organization if they answer these 3 questions and know the answers to the 3 questions I provided above.

Book #3 : The Leader’s Bookshelf

I’m not sure how many people have heard of this last book, but if you haven’t you should consider putting it into your own leadership library.

It is written by retired four-star naval officer Admiral James Stavridis, who used to lead the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as 16th Supreme Allied Commander with responsibility for Afghanistan, Libya, the Balkans, Syria, counter piracy, and cyber security.

As you can imagine, he knows a thing or two about leadership and commanding huge divisions of people, supplies, logistics and intelligence.

But this book is interesting. It’s a compilation of essays he has written about books about leadership. But it’s worth every penny.

If I could make a 21st century analogy, it’s like YouTube for academics and intellectuals. Instead of watching “REACT” videos from a 4-star Admiral, you read his thoughts, opinions and reactions to some of the most compelling books related to leadership and management.

Summary

If you are a first-time leader or someone who is trying to get a better “EDGE” on becoming a 21st century leader, start with these three books. After you read them and re-read them, it will take your current understanding of what a leader does and exponentially advance your skills and knowledge forward.

I hope you enjoyed this article post. If you want to see more articles like this one, please follow and write a comment with a suggestion or opinion about this article. I collect all the data to inform me about what else you want to read about.

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