Friday, 28 January 2011

What book on leadership would you recommend?

I am in the middle of designing a leadership development programme for senior people working within a large Government agency. I have the idea that during the summer recess (there is a two month break in the learning modules) that we might ask them to read and write a synopsis of a book on leadership. They would bring this back to the first Autumn module.

Naturally, the participants will be able to choose which book they wish to read. But what books would you put on the list as a prompt or starter for ten, for them to consider?
What book (or books) on leadership have read that you have found particularly inspiring, useful or even just a good read? (If you have the time - a one liner as to why this book made an impact - would be peachy!)

I will kick off with one that I am reading right now:

Engaging Emergence: Turning upheaval into opportunity by Peggy Holman (I saw Peggy give a presentation about this in Berlin earlier this year and she was inspirational - it is a book which sets out the source code for how to tackle wicked problems. A must read in these austere times in my opinion)

Thanks for your ideas!

UPDATE: Had some very interesting replies from some people on Twitter and indeed elsewhere - I will be compiling a list at some point. But - the main thing I wanted to say was:
  • It doesn't have to be a book (it could be a movie, or a poem, or a picture, or a you-tube clip, or whatever has inspired you...)
  • It doesn't have to be a book about leadership - it could be any book (or...) that has helped you be a leader - a novel, a biography, a science revision text book, whatever!
UPDATE 2: The list has been compiled now. Go to this link (or above posting) for the document on Google Docs

UPDATE 3: I am now taking this idea and turning it into a whole book of stories and contributions. Please visit this link and consider whether you would like to add something yourself. Thanks!


  1. The Assignment by Mike Murdock is extremely good, almost anything by John Maxwell, Spirit Driven Success by Dani Johnson is amazing and for anyone in church leadership, I would strongly recommend Reformation In The House by Tudor Bismark. How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie will make any leader a better one too.

  2. How about some of the books by the leadership gurus? -

  3. I have been tweeting about this all morning and received some great tweets from a variety of people including:

    Stephen Fry who said: @JonSHarvey None. They're all absolute drivel.

    Alistair Campbell who recommended Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

    Ben Donelly (@brdonnelly): Xenophon's Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War

    Roxanne Persaud (@commutiny): Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind by Nancy Kline

    Graham de Montrose (@montrose77): As One: Individual Action, Collective Power by Mehrdad Baghai & James Quigley

    Thank you to all - I look forward to more!

  4. Steve Keating28/1/11 18:41

    My Favorite - The most influential book ever written - How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

  5. Anonymous29/1/11 00:12

    John - Many thanks for the vote of confidence on Engaging Emergence as a book for leaders.

  6. Anonymous29/1/11 00:14

    P.S. Jon - Apologies for misspelling your name. If you can edit and fix, please do!

  7. Here are five more books that have taught me a lot:

    1. The Leadership Code by the RBL Group
    2. The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence by Tom Peters
    3. Lynchpin by Seth Godin
    4. Drive by Daniel Pink
    5. Good to Great by Jim Collins

  8. Helen Frances10/2/11 08:31

    Twelfth Night, Shakespeare.
    Viola, alone and bereft of her identity, shows leadership comprised of integrity, humanity and good humour as she achieves her destiny and inspires those about her to be better than they are. A real star.

  9. Ruth Hyde9/6/11 19:19

    1. Leadership: limits and possibilities ( Keith Grint) "the role of the leader is not necessarily to cause things to happen but to act as "hero" when things work out advantageously and to act as "scapegoat" when things go wrong"

    2.Leadership without easy answers ( R Heifetz)"The adaptive demands of our societies require leadership that takes responsibility without waiting for revelation or request. One may lead with perhaps no more than a question in hand"

  10. Great quotes - thanks Ruth

  11. Anonymous10/6/11 09:09

    I am currently reading 'Onward' by Howard Shultz, the CEO of Starbucks. It describes how he has been steering the company through the current recession. It has lots of great tips on leadership (and about brewing and serving coffee!). I didn't expect to find this useful and enjoyable, but I have.

  12. I can smell the coffee from here! Thanks for the recommendation.