Whether you're looking for a good book to give as a gift or you want something for your own reading pleasure, it's time once again for my annual "must read" list. As usual, I guarantee some valuable golden nuggets exist in each of the following titles.
I mentioned this first book about six months ago, but it's such a great tome it tops my list of best business books this year. The book is Six Disciplines for Excellence: Building Small Businesses That Learn, Lead, and Last, by Gary Harpst.
It's easy to read, well organized, and heavy on application – not theory. In fact, it's probably the best "how-to" book I've read in a long time.
Here are the six disciplines, in order: Decide what's important; Set goals that lead; Align systems; Work the plan; Innovate purposefully; and Step back. The book includes checklists, charts, and graphs, so all the prep work is done for you. Consider it a ready-made tool box for building a solid business.
By the way, as great as this book is, it still needs your action. Thinks of it this way: Your plans won't work. You have to work your plans.
Second on the list is The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.
Over the past few years it seems that every former high-profile CEO, ex-mayor, and ant farmer has put out a book on leadership. This begs the question, "How many leadership principles can there be that everyone feels obligated to write a 200 – 500 page volume on the subject?"
The answer is "Not that many."
Therefore, it seems there ought to be a field guide. A solid overview of leadership principles that apply to every business and industry, and yes - even government.
"The Leadership Challenge" is that book. It's well-rounded, well-researched, and well-written. The "Five Practices" that form the outline are at the heart of all leadership:
- Model the Way
- Inspire a Shared Vision
- Challenge the Process
- Enable Others to Act
- Encourage the Heart
Don't be fooled – at first glance this book looks like a textbook. It's not. Now in its 4th edition and with 1.5 million copies sold, this is the type of leadership book that stands the test of time.
In fact, long after the popularity of retired mayors, generals, and CEOs has waned and you see their leadership books in the bargain bin, you'll probably find The Leadership Challenge still on the shelf selling for its normal price.
So, if we have books on building and leading businesses, how about one for reigning in those overbearing managers who leave a trail of emotionally bruised and battered employees? If you have such a Machiavellian, authoritarian climber working for you, or if you work for one, Laura Crawshaw's new book is a must read.
In Taming the Abrasive Manager: How to End Unnecessary Roughness in the Workplace, Crawshaw shows us why most of these intimidating (shall I say it?) jerks don't see themselves as abrasive. They truly believe they are acting responsibly and for the well-being of their company.
Frankly, there's not another book out there that approaches this subject as well as Crawshaw's. She explains what you can do, what you shouldn't do, and why. And, the advice she provides comes from real-world experience through years of work specializing as a coach to abrasive bosses.
In fact, Crawshaw is so effective at changing the behavior of bully bosses, she's become known as "the Boss Whisperer." If you work with or for a bully, don't miss this one.
Finally, I want to recommend a few books for anyone who must write (which is just about all of us). The reason? More and more I'm seeing professionals churn out writing that wouldn't pass muster in English Comp 101.
Even if your writing is not technical, check out Clear Technical Writing by John Brogan. This book is really a self-paced workbook, and I can't recommend it enough for learning how to remove redundant and "puffy" words that make writing a burden to read.
Also look into Writing That Works by Richard Andersen. Using humor and an easy-to-follow method, Andersen teaches us to write in three stages: Prewriting, Writing, and Editing. Since most people try to do all three at once, the quality of their writing suffers. Writing That Works is a gem.
So there it is. A short list of books with something for everybody. As usual, use the list for rounding out your gift giving, or pick one to read over the holidays or at the start of the new year. Happy reading.