I am absolutely committed to this maxim: “Read to Lead.” Eminent lives that range from Abraham Lincoln to Warren Buffet, from Alfred the Great to Bono, confirm this truth. Leaders must be readers. Consuming great books helps leaders understand their times, anticipate trends, gain insight into human nature, stay inspired, master the practical skills of their profession, increase their mental capacity, and—as important as all of this—rest.
Since we are at the start of the summer, I want to recommend five good books that will help sharpen you as a leader. So, find a shady spot and settle in for some meaningful hours with some great authors.
1. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger
Junger writes in the masculine, spare style that has made bestsellers like The Perfect Storm and War such captivating reads. In Tribe, he deals with our need for belonging, the power of community in an individual’s life, and how our modern world works against meaningful community. This book is filled with valuable raw material for discerning leaders.
2. The Innovators, Walter Isaacson
This full-bodied read by the author of Steve Jobs, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin offers two priceless gifts for leaders. First, it describes the evolution of the digital technology that is transforming our world. Second, the book grants fascinating insight into both the creative process and the way creative teams work. An essential, stimulating read.
3. Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud
One of the most important of all leadership skills is the managing of endings. In this life, everything comes to an end eventually. In a leader’s life, endings come often and sometimes have to be forced. Knowing when an employee needs to go, when a company needs to close, when a partnership needs to dissolve or when a program needs to be shut down—and then framing the meaning of such endings—is at the heart of great leadership. Cloud’s brief, insightful book is an essential guide to mastering this art.
4. The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas
You may have read this book in school and you may have seen the movie, but why not visit this classic again? It is a thrilling tale of adventure, filled with maxims for life and leadership. Dumas assures us that “Misfortune is needed to bring to light the treasures of the human intellect.” He also instructs, “To learn is not to know. There are the learners and the learned. Memory makes the one, philosophy the other.” Pearls like these surface during one of the world’s greatest stories of redemption and victory over bitterness. Enjoy.
5. Code of Conduct, Brad Thor
All summer reading lists should include the “ripping good yarn” filled with intrigue and adventure that is also learned and wise. Brad Thor is a master of this genre. His recent Code of Conduct is yet another in his Scot Harvath series. What helps leaders in Thor’s work is his extensive research into modern warfare, technology, international affairs, and backroom politics. His books are also just a lot of fun, which a leader needs on a warm weekend afternoon.