Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP


A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
April 2014   |   By Dan Gaynor

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Read To Lead

I remember well as a young leader reading an article from a newsletter an early mentor signed me up for. The author described the way good feedback skills help to uncover characteristic behaviour. Until that moment I hadn't given much thought to the importance of feedback and I'd never heard of characteristic behaviour. That article inspired me to develop the best feedback skills I could, it gave me insight into why some people do what they do, and it helped me become a more effective leader. It helped me see that there were authors who could help me develop my leadership talent. Today, many books later, I'm still reading, still learning.

While it's true that experience is a good teacher, you will learn a lot faster if you spend time learning from those who have gone before you. But the reality is, quality mentors can be hard to find. Really good leaders are just not very common. You can find them on the shelves of your bookstore. This is why the best leaders are also readers.

This said, not everything written about leadership is good. There is too much well packaged faddish and just really bad thinking. When you read, do so with a discerning mind and look for people who have established a track record as successful leaders. Experience and common sense will help you determine what is good and what is not.

Authors tend to break into two groups: the practitioners (those who have hands-on leadership experience; and the academics (those who have studied it but never really done much of it.) Both can be good, but you have to be more discerning with the second group. Too often we think research means credibility but in leadership this is often not the case.

So with this in mind, here are my top five recommendations, books that I believe offer cover to cover value:

The Leadership Secrets Of Colin Powell, by Oren Harari: While not elegantly written, the book is certainly capably written and Harari does a very good job of getting Colin Powell's rock solid observations onto the pages, presenting highly practical advice. Wooden On Leadership, by John Wooden: Written by the winningest coach in the history of the NCAA, John Wooden offers great advice from cover to cover. The book left me with the impression that Wooden was a leader who above all was passionate about leadership as a craft. He spent a lifetime refining his understanding of the subject and presents his highly valuable observations in a clear well organized fashion.

Tough Choices, by Carley Fiorna: Carley Fiorna offers a memoir in which she charts her journey from humble beginnings to CEO at Hewlett-Packard. The central theme is leadership and lessons learned through each new experience. Fiorina is a good story-teller and offers rock solid advice. It's another book I can recommend without reservation.

First, Break All The Rules, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman: This book is among the best of the researchers group. The authors draw on two large studies to determine what makes the great workplaces great. The book offers solid foundational advice that every leader should be familiar with.

Shake Hands With The Devil, by Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire with Major Brent Beardsley: I round out my top five with an offering by a Canadian hero. Dallaire's memoir chronicles his life a leader in the Canadian military with focus on his most challenging assignment - UN Force Commander for the Rwanda mission in 1993. While not specifically about leadership, he offers some of the most insightful leadership lessons to be found anywhere.

Great leadership isn't an accident, it is the product of good character and a lifetime spent refining skills. This is why great leaders read.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What was the last leadership book you read? What were the lessons that stood out most?
  2. What have been the most important leadership lessons you have learned from others who went before you?

To go deeper on leadership call or write about a half day workshop or a keynote address.

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A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
April 2014   |   By Dan Gaynor


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