Every once in a while I come across a "must read" book list - books that can make a significant impact in the success of your professional life. What follows is one of my own takes on this.
Believe me, out of the 4,000 books published each year, hundreds could make this list, so please do not consider this be an exhaustive compilation in any sense. (Anyone who has seen my bookshelves knows that I could easily recommend a library of books.)
Also, know that these books are not necessarily "current" (that is, published in 2005). In fact, none of them are. They're just good books that, over the years, I've found helpful for a wide range of people looking to improve their management and leadership skills.
So, if you're looking for a good read over the holidays or if you want to start 2006 with a fresh perspective, you might consider one or more of these to be useful reads:
1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (ISBN: 0787960756) by Patrick Lencioni. This is the first book on the list for a reason. If you're only going to read one management / leadership book this season, this is the one I recommend most. The book opens with a profound truth: "Teamwork remains the ultimate competitive advantage, because it is so powerful and so rare." So true.
Written in story form, Five Dysfunctions is as simple to understand as it is profound. For a bigger impact, have everyone on your team read this book and talk about what your team can change to make things more effective.
2. Why Don't You Want What I Want? How to Win Support for Your Ideas without Hard Sell, Manipulation, or Power Plays (ISBN: 1885167563) by Rick Maurer. This book does a great job of explaining how to do what so many of us do so poorly: Listen. Then, building on this essential activity, Maurer shows us how to work with others to create genuine buy-in for effective action.
Those accustomed to meeting resistance and half-hearted efforts when implementing ideas will find this book insightful, practical, and truly helpful. It's not fluff theory—it's genuine nuts and bolts.
3. Success! The Glenn Bland Method: How to Set Goals and Make Plans That Really Work (ISBN: 084236689X) by Glenn Bland. This inexpensive book has been around a long time. It changed my life in my early 20's, and I still refer to it today.
Bland's ingredients for success include spiritual, financial, educational, and recreational balances. It's a spiritually-based book on the subjects of self-starting and goal setting.
Even a person who does not share the same Christian beliefs as Mr. Bland can learn volumes from his insight and wisdom in all the areas he covers. I especially like the importance Bland places on planning and organizing your day. In all these years it remains among the most practical advice I've ever read.
4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (ISBN: 0743269519) by Stephen R. Covey. This long-time staple is on the list because I continue to meet people who haven't read it yet. Although this isn't as practical as other books on this list, the concepts presented create a firm foundation for understanding how and why things work.
You'll want to study this book, not skim it. It will put your finger on some things you may have sensed for a long time but could never define.
I especially like how Covey differentiates between leadership and management, between effectiveness and efficiency, and between "personality" and "character." The book covers a lot of territory, but it is a foundational—and sometimes transformational—book that I'd recommend for anyone.
5. True Leaders: How Exceptional CEOs and Presidents Make a Difference by Building People and Profits (ISBN 079314826X) by Bette Price and George Ritcheske. In this book (which is based on a nice piece of research), Price and Ritcheske identify principles for leading that are used by America's most successful leaders. Essentially, these principles become a foundational "to do" list that other, less-successful leaders seem to miss.
As the title suggests, people are what make or break a company, so key principles for building and equipping others form the core of the text.
Even though the book is a tad heavy with snippets of truth and illustrations from many different leaders, this is also one of its greatest strengths. In other words, when we see that such a large pool of thriving leaders are all saying the same thing, we begin to realize that what they're saying holds a lot of water.
There you have it; Five ideas for good reading to build steam for the new year. But whether it's any of these five or another book you've been wanting to read, if you invest some time in improving yourself you are practically guaranteed to get a return.