As part of our research process, we ask CEOs and other executives what they are reading. This practice has led to an informal observation that “Leaders are readers.” Despite leading exceptionally busy schedules, we find these top executives are also some of the most avid readers we know. They continually seek out the best leadership books to guide their thinking, expand their perspectives, and refresh their spirits.
Our 2016 Reading List: Best Books for Women in Leadership, Senior Executives, Emerging Leaders
This year, we asked the faculty of the Center for Values-Driven Leadership, along with our executive doctoral students and graduates for their recommendations. While not all these books were published recently, they do provide contemporary insights into the art of leadership.
Below is our first post in our Best Leadership Books of 2016 series. The topics range between traditional business leadership material to broader topics of historical and civic leadership and personal improvement. Some have characterized these as the best books for women in leadership, the best books for emerging leaders, or the best books for senior executives.
Regardless of who you are, we’re certain these books will inspire you.
Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, second edition
“This book considers the resources that each of us have at our disposal to influence others. Based upon research the authors offer a comprehensive yet practical model to understand change any influencer can benefit from. A quick read, with high potential to redirect your personal change efforts.”
– Recommended by Mike Manning, Ph.D., Professor of Leadership & Change, The Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University
Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership
by Harry M. Kraemer
Harry’s first book, Values to Action, is a powerful exploration what it takes to be a great values-based leader, and Becoming the Best takes it to the next level. It shows how to build a world-class company by developing your best self, creating a best team, forging best partnerships, returning a best investment, and becoming a best citizen. It shows how to scale-up values-based leadership to have a transformative impact on business and society. Even better, the book presents these thoughtful and practical concepts in a format that is immensely readable and entertaining, because of Harry’s insider knowledge as CEO of a $12 billion company and the wit and humor he brings to the topic.
– Recommended by James D. Ludema, Ph.D., CVDL Co-founder and Director; Professor, Global Leadership and Core Faculty, The Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University
Practicing Positive Leadership: Tools and Techniques That Create Extraordinary Results
by Kim Cameron
– Recommended by Rémi Vespa, Ph.D., Executive Vice-President, Customer Engagement, BlueTrail Software Holding (Cohort 2 Graduate)
Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, second edition
by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler
This book is based upon solid research that suggests people become influential and move into leadership positions largely because of their ability to have “crucial conversations.” In other words, they are able to successfully speak honestly yet respectfully about topics or to people in situations deemed difficult or potentially dangerous (i.e., disagreeing with the CEO, going against the “majority,” etc.) It offers practical strategies to improve your communication skills both at home and at work, and it does so with the goal of understanding, rather than influencing, which I believe is different from many other approaches.
– Recommended by Shannon Brown, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of St. Francis (Cohort 1 Graduate)
The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance
by Tony Schwartz
As part of his Energy Project work, Tony Schwartz provides strategic ideas for helping employees stay engaged in the workplace amidst increasing demands. He expands on the four categories of energy (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) to engage high performance.
– Recommended by Kimberly Sebastian, Director, U.S. Cellular (Cohort 1 Student)
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
by Jonathan Haidt
This well-researched presentation of human values (and political and religious leanings) from a moral psychologist takes a long-term view at how differing moral matrices may have evolved over time. Further, Haidt engagingly lays out connections between evolutionary and hereditary theories of human moral development, while providing research examples in support his theory of social intuition-ism. In a nutshell, he and his research team propose there are underlying moral foundational differences between people (and groups of people), which strongly correlate to the differences (and difficulties in understanding the other side) between liberal-leaning and conservative-leaning persons. Currently, his team is now taking what they have learned from surveying tens of thousands of people on their Moral Foundations Questionnaire and applying it in the world of business and specifically, to business ethics.
– Recommended by Anna Amato, Ph.D., CEO, edtec Central (Cohort 1 Graduate)
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
by Doris Kearns Goodwin
– Recommended by Deirdre Barrett, Visiting Marketing Faculty, Robinson College of Business Georgia State University (Cohort 3 Student)
by Walter Isaacson
I listened to the unabridged recording of this book in August, and I still find myself thinking about the impact Steve Jobs had on the worlds of technology, advertising, product design, animation and several other fields. What struck me most was his ability to stand by his design vision despite numerous challenges and set-backs, thus inspiring his employees to embrace their work with passion and commitment.
– Recommended by Teresa Oliszewicz, Director, Organizational Development, University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System (Cohort 3 Student)
- Continue to Part 2 of our Recommended Reading List.
- Jump to Part 3 of our Recommended Reading List.
- Explore our Ph.D./D.B.A. Program in Values-Driven Leadership, for senior executives who love to read!
- Learn more about our M.S. in values-driven leadership program – designed for executives.