Leadership Development: Starting Your Personal Reading Program

Subscribe to the Three Star Leadership Blog
The Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training.
Follow me on Twitter
For weekly tips and resources pointers, check Wally's Three Star Leadership Letter
Find out more about having Wally speak to your company or convention.
Find out more about Wally's coaching services.
View Wally Bock's profile on LinkedIn

When I started to put together this post on creating a reading program as part of your leadership development, I thought to myself, "Who knows more about this than anyone I know?" The answer was Todd Sattersten, co-author of The 100 Best Business Books and of All Time and Change This Manifesto called "How To Read A Business Book."

I asked Todd for some thoughts on creating a business reading program. His reply was so lucid and complete, I give it to you essentially as he gave it to me. Here's Todd.

Leaders should strive to read one book a month. It breaks down to about 15 minutes a day, time well spent. If you can't read, get audiobooks.  The trouble there is a smaller selection of choices.

The best place to start reading is focusing on improving yourself. You are normally the biggest roadblock that prevents you from reaching your goals. It's the reason we put the You chapter in the front of The 100 Best Business Books of All Time.

Start by read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How To Win Friends and Influence People back to back. Covey promotes character while Carnegie promotes personality. See what those look like side by side and see if Covey makes a valid argument that personality is a secondary trait to character.

Man's Search for Meaning would be a worthwhile choice for the first year of your structured reading plan. I would also throw in Questions of Character by Joe Badaracco if you are considering the greater view of ethics and how to live.

The next books you need will help you decide how you are going to work. What I am going to do today? How I am going to decide what comes first?

Getting Things Done is a great example of this. The First 90 Days shows you very specifically how to start a job. The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffery Gitomer or The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki show the salesperson or entrepreneur what skills to develop and where to concentrate their time. The best nuts and bolts management book of 2009 was The Four Conversations by Jeff and Laurie Ford.

After that you need to be reading a book every quarter on your function. Find a classic like Positioning for marketers or The Goal for operations or Why We Buy for retail. Then find the latest thing. William Poundstone has a great new book called Priceless that would work for anyone in the commercial side of business.

A leader needs to read two or three books a year that broaden their view of the world. Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class or Kevin Kelly's Out of Control fit the bill. Malcolm Gladwell's books normally fit into this slot as well.  The goal is to turn your world just a little and see something different. Drive by Daniel Pink is going to be a popular choice in 2010.

Keep a copy of The Essential Drucker and The Essential Bennis close by. When you are struggling with something, go see what those two would say about it.

So, start with you the person, then you the worker, you the knowledge worker, then you looking at the greater world.

From Wally:

Boss's Bottom Line

There's no one reading plan that's right for everyone. Use Todd's recommendations as a starting point. Then modify to suit.

Additional Resources

Leadership Development: Finding Good Business Books to Read

Leadership Development: Crafting Your Personal Development Plan

 Tips for Getting the Most from Reading Business Books

The Perfect Leadership Book for You

Wally's Working Supervisor's Support Kit is a collection of information and tools to help working supervisors do a better job. It's based on what Wally's learned in over twenty years of supervisory skills training. Click here to check it out.



What did you think of this article?

  • No trackbacks exist for this post.

  • 3/30/2010 10:04 PM Bret Simmons wrote:
    Oh my goodness, Wally. My only comment is at least The Goal is on this list. Start with Covey and leave Drucker and Bennis as time permits? If I were not on a diet, I'd down a double scotch.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/31/2010 7:22 AM Wally Bock wrote:

      I just knew this was going to be fun, Bret. I think that this is an area where there are lots of right answers.

      Reply to this
  • 3/30/2010 10:59 PM Phil Gerbyshak wrote:
    Solid advice. Make a plan of attack, add reading to your daily schedule, and get it done!

    Thanks for sharing Todd's advice Wally. He's a smart cookie...as are you!
    Reply to this
    1. 3/31/2010 7:25 AM Wally Bock wrote:

      Thanks for those kind words, Phil. The best reading program is the one that works for you.

      Reply to this
  • 3/31/2010 2:51 PM davidburkus wrote:
    I love Gladwell's books. They are entertaining and enlightening, but I'm not too sure they're applicable enough to be on a leadership development list.

    I do love the addition of Pink's book. I did an interview with him on my podcast, LeaderLab. He's a class act.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/31/2010 3:51 PM Wally Bock wrote:

      I love Gladwell's books, too, even though there are some writing devices he uses that I really don't like being used on me. But I've been fascinated by everything I've read of his from The Tipping Point onward.


      I admire Pink for what he does, but I wish he'd leave his speechwriter self behind. When I reviewed Drive, I called it a "biased and selective presentation of important ideas." But you and Todd are right, those "important ideas" are part of the landscape for any boss working today.

      Reply to this
  • 3/31/2010 3:53 PM davidburkus wrote:
    Pink certainly isn't concerned with present multiple sides of the argument. He's a speechwriter and law student. He knows how to make a case and he makes a compelling one. If anything, his book will be remembered because of caused a explosion of much-needed debate on the issue.
    Reply to this
    1. 3/31/2010 4:25 PM Wally Bock wrote:

      I hope you're right about that. The book has certainly raised the level of conversation about human motivation significantly. Ultimately, I think good will bubble out of that. Thanks for adding your voice to the discussion here.

      Reply to this
Leave a comment

Submitted comments are subject to moderation before being displayed.


 Email (will not be published)


Your comment is 0 characters limited to 3000 characters.