Reading List For Leadership Skills

Note from fm: Karen is an MBA candidate with a new MA in Public Relations and Advertising who is working with me as an intern this summer.

A guest post from Karen Chodzicki

Recently, a friend of this blog was promoted to a supervisory position and asked us for recommendations for books to read to guide in these new responsibilities. There are many books out there that focus on developing leadership skills. It’s easy to search online to find out what executives are suggesting as the top books to read. However, you will find that the lists continually overlap with the same well-known books. For a different spin on things, I‘ve gathered ideas from DePaul University MBA and Communications graduate students who bring a mix of the traditional and some very new, creative ways to develop and enhance leadership skills.

These books on management and leadership offer some good suggestions:

“The CEO: Chief Engagement Officer: Turning Hierarchy Upside Down to Drive Performance” by John Smythe

Smythe details the importance of engaging employees within the business. His book talks about the importance of internal communications and how they can be strengthened to achieve the best result from every level within the organization. I enjoy this book because it really shows how employees are often more connected to the client than executives are and provides a plan to leverage this relationship. By focusing on internal communications, a more creative, desirable and productive workplace is created.

“Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done” by Larry Bossidy, Ram Charan, Charles Burck

This book focuses on the importance of strategic execution. Bossidy notes that, “many people regard execution as detail work that’s beneath the dignity of a business leader. That’s wrong. To the contrary, it’s a business leader’s most important job.” The authors discuss the importance of execution, the leadership role in execution and integration of execution into the corporate culture. A strong emphasis is placed on the accountability of leaders for the process of execution. This book is a reminder that without placing importance on the details of a plan, the whole strategy will be unsuccessful.

“Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?” by William, Jr. Oncken, Donald L. Wass

This is a wonderful article that deals with how to best spend your time during the workday. It discusses prioritizing your time and how to decide how much time to devote to dealing with your bosses, your employees and your own personal work.

The following are books from the reading lists of some of the best and brightest DePaul University graduate students.

Mike Altier, MA Public Relations & Advertising

“Expect the Unexpected (or you won’t find it): A creativity tool based on the ancient wisdom of Heraclitus” by Roger Von Oech

Von Oech utilizes whimsical and anecdotal creative insights from Heraclitus’s 2,500-year-old teachings to demonstrate the importance and practicality of creativity. This book is ideal for managers and C-suite executives looking for ways to foster creativity and innovation in the workplace and small teams.

Ben Barash, MBA Behavioral Finance, Investment Management

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey

The book gives habits to live by, each building upon the other. In themselves, the 7 habits are simple and nothing most people haven’t already heard. To live by them is far more difficult. The 7th habit is the most important – sharpen the saw. This reminds people no matter how much you have learned, you must always work to keep your skills sharp and up to date. I have an entirely new perspective on how to look at problems and solve them after reading this book.

Hayes Framme, MBA Human Resources Management, Economics

“HR Competencies: Mastery at the intersection of people and business” by Dave Ulrich, Wayne Brockbank, et al.

This book analyzes data from the most comprehensive study of the HR profession to date. The authors of this book, who also conducted the research analyzed, have identified the competencies necessary to be a successful HR professional. This is a helpful and informative guide on how to proactively add value to a business through the work of HR. This book bypasses “fads” of the day and backs up all of the recommendations with two decades of data gathered from research about HR’s role and relationship with the business.

Katy Herbert Kotlarczyk, MBA Finance

“The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street” by Justin Fox

This book challenges the popular construct that financial markets always behave rationally. The topic is timely, and adds to the education I received in my own finance classes.

Rachel Llanas, MBA Finance/MS Accountancy

“Good To Great” by Jim Collins

This book exams the transition of several mediocre companies into those of superior performance through their management tactics. It also compares them to similar companies that were unable to make this transition in order to identify the key drivers of such change. As a new member of the business world, I plan on reading this book so that I may better understand big picture management decisions.

Adriana Maria Matus, MA Public Relations & Advertising

“A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results” by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D., Harry Paul, and John Christensen

Essentially this book is about empowerment at the work place using the fictional story of a woman who is forced to take a management position in a department that is known to be toxic and glum. Moral: Choose your attitude. “There is always a choice about the way you do your work, even if there is no choice about the work itself.”

Borrowing the workplace model of the Pike Place fish market, the wisdom in this book is as follows:

  • Have the courage to change.
  • Never fear the risk of failure. The risk of doing nothing is greater than the risk of acting.
  • Each of us is an artist. Every day we have a choice to create each day like a work of art. The reason you were born was to leave your own indelible mark on the world. Respect your creative urges. Have faith in yourself. Your choices are as authentic as you are.
  • Never stop learning and growing.
  • You have within yourself more resources of energy, talent, and strength than you think.
  • Concrete steps to take: Call a meeting and speak from the heart, find a message that communicates choosing your attitude in a way that everyone will understand and personalize.
  • Provide motivation, and persist with faith.

Beatriz Montaner, MBA Marketing Strategy and Planning

“On becoming a leader” by Warren Bennis

DePaul University professor Roger Lall recently set this book as a requirement for his class, Marketing Strategy and Planning.

Some of my conclusions after reading the book are:

  • Thinking strategically is a necessary but not sufficient condition to be a leader
  • The proper leader must possess charisma, must be authentic
  • A leader should be a reflective person, learning from his/her experience

“The Effective Executive” by Peter F. Drucker

“The measure of the executive is the ability to “get the right things done”. This usually involves doing what other people have overlooked as well as avoiding what is unproductive. Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge may all be wasted in an executive job without the acquired habits of mind that mold them into results.”

In this book, Drucker demonstrates the most efficient ways to develop the necessary executive leadership skills of time management, organizational contributions, effectively mobilizing strengths, setting priorities and effective decision making.

Jill Selman, MA Public Relations & Advertising

“What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard Nelson Bolles

This book is updated annually so you can be sure the most pertinent information is always included to reflect the true pulse of the relevant job market. It’s an encouraging and practical book. There are certain exercises that are encouraged to help you find your primary talents and the book helps you understand how best to integrate those talents in the job search. This book would be really advantageous to read anytime but particularly during this economic climate.

Jennifer Stuart, MA Public Relations & Advertising

“Saving the World at Work” by Tim Sanders

I’m reading this book right now, so I’m not finished with it, but it’s about Corporate Social Responsibility and being a leader in your industry by being innovative and socially conscious and leveraging your power to further your mission. The book talks about generating “profits through purpose, while changing the tastes of customers and employees one innovation at a time.” It gives several examples of how post-911 and Enron, consumers want to buy from, employees want to work for, and other companies want to do business with companies that are giving back. Sanders calls it a Responsibility Revolution. I assume once I get further into it, it will turn into a guide how to do this and make these changes within your own company.

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5 replies
  1. Edith Orenstein
    Edith Orenstein says:

    Karen, This is a helpful list of resources, and I’m especially glad to see the inclusion of a book on “The Myth of the Rational Market” which as you note is very timely right now – and has implications for fair value accounting as well. Hope the initiation rites FM put your through in working for Re:The Auditors weren’t too grueling. 🙂 you are lucky to work for one of the best known bloggers around!

  2. Ex Deloitte and PwC consulting
    Ex Deloitte and PwC consulting says:

    I strongly recommend “The Fairfax Experience: What The Management Texts Didn’t Teach Me” by Fred Hilmer.

    Hilmer was MD of McKinsey in Australia in the 1980s and is best known as the author of “The Hilmer Report”, the key text supplying the rationale behind the Australian government’s market de-regulation initiatives of the 1990s.

    In what was regarded as a left-field appointment he was appointed CEO of Fairfax, the publisher of most of Australia’s “quality” newspapers, which was in disarray at the time. The book is his memoir of that role (in which he was more-or-less successful) and is a fascinating read for anyone who has spent time on both sides of the consultant/industry divide.

  3. Tenacious Truman
    Tenacious Truman says:

    Anything by Tim Sanders is worth a read. Two of his other books are on the list I posted elsewhere on this blog — (1) Love is the Killer App, and (2) The Likeability Factor.

    I hear he’s a great public speaker though I’ve never heard him speak.

    — Tenacious T.

  4. Karen
    Karen says:

    Thank you for the comments and additional suggestions.

    Another book that provides some very timely insight is “Lessons From Prison” by Justin M. Paperny. Justin was recently released from Taft Prison Camp where he served a sentence for securities fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud. “Lessons From Prison” details the importance of strong ethical practices. It shows both ethical situations that arise in the business world and methods of dealing if faced with them. While I have not yet read the book (I am picking up my copy next week), I interviewed Justin in prison for another project and am really looking forward to reading the full story.

    – Karen Chodzicki

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