Summer reading lists are something of an American tradition. The New York Times Book Review, for example, just released its fattened summer book edition, a habit that goes back scores of years and now includes such institutions as the Los Angeles Times, Barnes and Noble, the American Library Association, and even TED (of the famous “Talks”). The latter’s list includes such non-standard summer reading material as Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.
Renee and I have decided to give you our own summer reading list, one that covers the topics important to all of you, but at the same time meets the criteria expected this time of year: somewhat light and breezy, quickly read, and suitable for the beach (or some similar vacation spot). So here are five leadership-relevant books (presented in no particular order) that will enlighten and amuse you in various ways…
Quiet, Susan Cain—Both Renee and I are introverts, and so we rapidly embraced this book as a passionate and well-researched case for how and why society tends to undervalue the more quiet among us. Being an introvert, it turns out, is a bit like being left-handed—the world is subtly designed for others and you almost don’t realize it. Importantly though, introverts not only can become great leaders, but they actually lead in unique ways.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith—There’s a long history of “climbing the ladder” books, popularized most famously by The Peter Principle (which introduced the idea that most people will sooner or later rise to their level of incompetency). In this book Goldsmith argues that you can climb and climb the ladder, but as you climb the skills you need to keep climbing will change. The book introduces the “20 workplace habits you’ll need to break,” if you want to maximize your success. (We particularly like Habit #12, “Making Excuses.”)
The OZ Principle, Robert Connors, Tom Smith and Craig Hickman—And speaking of making excuses, this book’s authors stress that one of the biggest barriers to trust and teamwork in organizations is what they call “the blame game.” Instead, they say, draw a line between being a victim, and being empowered and accountable, then go “above the line” to “see it, own it, solve it, and do it!” Using the Wizard of OZ as an effective metaphor, the book breezes through its key concepts, and will give you new language that reinforces the book’s central ideas. (Also, I love that Glinda the Good Witch represents “above-the-line leadership!”)
The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni—Lencioni may not have pioneered the readable business book, but he’s certainly made it work. He has the five of this and the three of that, uses sexy words like “dysfunction,” and packages it all up into meaningful bites that are both tasty and nutritious. In this book he covers “organizational health” and, true to his motif, give us his “Four Disciplines” model. It may not seem complex, but underneath it all are some pretty heady principles, ones that can actually make a difference.
Archimedes’ Bathtub, David Perkins—This is without a doubt our favorite book on the list. Not strictly a business book per se, Perkins well-written and always interesting book is about breakthrough thinking, and uses as it’s jumping-off point the apocryphal story of how Archimedes figured out the principle of water displacement by soaking himself in a public bath. Filled with stories, games, puzzles—and eye-opening insights, this is a book we go back to again and again. To give you an idea of how much fun this book is, try to figure out the following puzzle, in which you are asked to add one straight line to this inaccurate equation in order to make it a true statement:
(Bonus points: The puzzle actually has THREE answers! Can you find them all? If not, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the answers…)
So there you have it: For those of us who just never get away from business books, a few “beach reads” to dive into between dives into the water!
What books are you reading? And how does your summer list compare to ours?