Each summer, we at Leadership Education and Development review numerous books, magazines, and websites to find the best of the best tools for a mid-year leadership tune-up.
Last summer, we suggested you find a cool tote bag, a wonderful journal and pen, and whatever other supplies you would need for an all-in-one leadership development kit, ready to grab up for reflective moments by the pool or beach. Either pull that kit back out for some serious usage this summer, or create one, and then load your leadership development bag with a few books and articles that will help you strengthen areas you want to improve as a leader.
Career development as a leader is most effective, as you know when you set a couple of key goals personally important to you. From those goals, we suggest you can take your leadership journal and work on the action ideas presented below.
For deeper work, you might choose to purchase one or two of the books overviewed below that sound most intriguing to you and add those to your leadership development bag.
Here are our top career development book picks for your mid-year tune-up, with a brief summary of each, and one good action idea from the book.
Book Selection #1: THE FOUR DISCIPLINES OF EXECUTION , by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling. Even the most significant initiatives die with either a loud crash or quiet suffocation amid the "whirlwind" of urgent activity required to keep organizations running every day. What changes can you make to your own leadership that will help you execute your most important strategic priorities? This book gets straight to the 4 Disciplines:
* Focusing on the Wildly Important
* Acting on Lead Measures
* Keeping a Compelling Scoreboard
* Creating a Cadence of Accountability
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IDEA: Create a Wildly Important Goal that is both WORTHY and WINNABLE. You want to establish a goal that challenges you and your team to rise to the highest level of performance, but not beyond it.
Book Selection #2: CORE STRATEGY FOR SUCCESS — HOW TO LEAD THE PACK IN A “DOG-EAT-DOG” WORLD. This inspiring new book by Fred A. Manske Jr. presents a powerful three-part strategy for how to succeed in the most competitive job market ever. This strategy does not guarantee success, but it does dramatically improve the odds that you reach your highest potential as a leader. In the book Manske says, “Opportunity awaits those who are willing to lead in a manner diametrically opposed to what occurs in our “dog-eat-dog” world. For more information about this book (CLICK HERE).
Book Selection #3: QBQ! (THE QUESTION BEHIND THE QUESTION). Lack of personal and organizational accountability is why we have an epidemic of blame, complaining and procrastination, asserts author John G. Miller. Leaders must learn to help themselves and others avoid questions like "why do we have to go through all this change?" and instead learn to ask questions such as "What can I do to make a difference?" and "How can I support the team?"
Miller suggests that "stress is a choice," and by asking better questions in the moment, we make better choices, which leads to better decisions...and to less stress.
"Yes, bad things happen: the economy sours, our business struggles, the stock market tumbles, jobs are lost, people around us do not follow through, deadlines are missed, projects fail, good people leave. Life is full of these. But still, stress is a choice, because whatever the 'trigger event,' we always choose our own response ... stress is a choice. Stress is also the result of our choices. When we choose to ask questions like, 'why is this happening to me?' we feel as if we have no control. This leads us to a victim mindset, which is extremely stressful. Even in cases where we actually are victims, and our feelings justified, 'why me?' thinking only adds to our stress."
An example of a dead-end question is "Who will care as much as I do?" Instead, learn to make such distinctions as asking "How can I be a better leader who engenders more engagement?" and "How can I communicate better?"
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IDEA: Think of a negative question you or your team often asks about your organization. For example, "Who is going to give us the vision?" List at least five proactive questions behind the reactive question that will help you move forward in a positive manner.
Book Selection #4: THE STRATEGIST: BE THE LEADER YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS, by Cynthia A. Montgomery of the Harvard Business School. Montgomery is also good as asking key questions, such as "Are you a strategist?" and "Does this company truly matter?" Montgomery works with business owners and senior executives from around the world in executive education courses, showing that strategy is not just a tool for outwitting the competition....it is the most powerful means a leader has for shaping a company itself. The goal is to enable an organization to do something of importance particularly well.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IDEA: In your leadership journal, do a brief SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats). Identify areas of research you will want to do on your industry when you choose to get on the Internet or go to a library. Identify key facts about your industry, and then consider researching issues like changing issues in your business, how some players are positioned better or worse than others, and how you and your company might improve your position.
Book Selection #5: BLAH, BLAH: WHAT TO DO WHEN WORDS WILL NOT WORK by Dan Roam. This is a fun book with a unique twist; you can really enjoy this one in your leadership journal work. The basic premise of Roam is that "we talk so much that we do not think very well." He offers "vivid thinking" as the solution, which is combining our verbal AND visual minds to think and learn better, teach and inspire our colleagues, and share ideas in a whole new way.
If you draw pictures that correlate to the six standard English questions of "who, what, where, when and why?" you will address the six essential pathways along which your brain processes imagery, and that will help you be able to visually explain anything.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IDEA: Think of an idea that is important to you. Use portraits, charts, maps, timelines, flowcharts and variable charts to illustrate the idea, making the illustrations vivid to clearly "see" the idea. Avoid words as much as possible.
Book Selection #6: LITTLE BOOK OF LEADERSHIP by Jeffrey Gitomer. This is one of the "it" books that belong on your essentials bookshelf. "Everyone knows that leadership takes guts and courage. What many do not understand is that leadership takes a person who can maintain calm and resilience in the middle of a business and government battlefield." This is one of hundreds of wise snippets throughout a hugely powerful little book.
Gitomer himself is a business owner, and his wisdom resonates believably from one still in the "trenches." He has an ethical, but practical, outlook on what creates a successful leader and a successful business. For example, here are a few of the key factors that a leader MUST exemplify, Gitomer says, or "your best people will run you over, or run away from you."
* Get your people to like you and believe in you. He disagrees with the mantra that you do not have to be liked, just respected.
* Let your people tell you their goals, then modify them together.
* Get people to love their work and their workplace.