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Last Updated on October 18, 2017

15 Inspiring Books Every Leader Should Not Miss

15 Inspiring Books Every Leader Should Not Miss

The ideas and stories we read as leaders shape us. To improve your leadership, take the time to read these important books. You will learn from the giants of history and pick up new skills that will help you to grow further.

1. “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

Good To Great Book by Jim Collins

    Jim Collins has earned a reputation as one of the best business authors and researchers of his generation. I have read several of his books and recommend starting with this title. For leaders in corporate America, this book is outstanding. In their chapter on leadership, the authors demolish the claim that egocentric CEOs are required for companies to achieve greatness.

    For an introduction to the ideas, read Good To Great by Jim Collins, an article that provides an overview of the book’s key ideas.

    Buy “Good to Great” on Amazon.

    2. “Getting Things Done” by David Allen

    Getting Things Done by David Allen

      Self-management and organization are essential for leaders. While some leaders have assistants to aid them, an assistant cannot help if you do not provide direction on what you want.

      David Allen’s classic book on organization provides a comprehensive system to organize your life and stay focused on priorities. After all, if you are distracted with your email inbox, you will never have the capacity to develop your people.

      Buy “Getting Things Done” on Amazon.

      3. “Washington: A Life” by Ron Chernow

      Washington A Life by Ron Chernow

        Leaders study other leaders. Washington himself studied Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. This sweeping 800 page biography ranks as one of the best biographies I have ever read.

        As America’s first president and a central leader during the Revolutionary War, Washington holds a special place in the history of world leadership. Yet, I was most surprised to learn that Washington often avoided taking leadership roles because he was concerned that he would be labelled a dictator or would-be king.

        The book is also excellent in showing how Washington dealt with teams during the war and the presidency.

        Buy “Washington: A Life” on Amazon.

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        4. “Mastery” by Robert Greene

        Mastery by Robert Greene

          Leadership (and power) comes in many forms. In this book, Robert Greene explains how to become a master in a given field. The book covers mastery from a variety of approaches.

          For example, Green strongly encourages aspiring masters to apprentice themselves to masters who can teach them new skills and accelerate their growth. Whether you seek to achieve excellence in art, technology, business or another field, do yourself a favor and read this book.

          Buy “Mastery” on Amazon.

          5. “Developing The Leader Within You” by John C. Maxwell

          Developing The Leader Within You by John C Maxwell

            “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” – John C. Maxwell

            Maxwell has made a name for himself as one of America’s top experts on leadership. I read this book last year when a friend gave it to me. Why should you read this book?

            Maxwell makes the point that leadership ability starts with your character and abilities. One of my favorite observations from the book: that problem solving is the quickest way to gain leadership. The book is also full of thought provoking comments and workbook style sections to help you put the ideas into action.

            Buy “Developing The Leader Within You” on Amazon.

            6. “Churchill: A Life” by Sir Martin Gilbert

            Churchill A Life by Sir Martin Gilbert

              “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill

              This one volume biography of Churchill offers an outstanding introduction to one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. Written by Churchill’s official biographer, this book is a serious read that took me weeks to work through.

              Gilbert works through Churchill’s long career – in the Army, in the House of Commons and his leadership during the World Wars. For leaders seeking inspiration, I recommend studying Churchill for several reasons.

              First, Churchill was a master public speaker and writer: he won the Noble Prize in Literature in 1953. So his works are definitely worth studying.

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              Second, Churchill faced the challenge of leading his country through terrible wars: if you are working through a difficult task, Churchill can inspire you.

              Buy “Churchill: A Life” on Amazon.

              7. “The Effective Executive” by Peter F. Drucker

              The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

                Peter Drucker (1909-2005) was one of the most influential management thinkers in American history. This short book is an excellent companion to “Getting Things Done” referenced above. This book provides clear recommendations to help leaders master their time and make decisions effectively.

                These key skills separate top leaders from those who struggle to make an impact. Mark Horstman, the co-founder of the Manager Tools consulting firm, has read this classic book multiple times.

                Buy “The Effective Executive” on Amazon.

                8. “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath

                Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

                  Published in 2007, this book is a must read for leaders seeking to communicate a message to the world. Whether you are launching a new product, fundraising for a cause or simply making an impact, “Made To Stick” is well worth reading.

                  For example, memorable ideas tend to be unexpected or have some surprising aspect. To learn the other key aspects of why some ideas fail and others succeed, read the book.

                  Buy “Made To Stick” on Amazon.

                  9. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

                  Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

                    After seeing this book recommended over and over again, I finally read this book in December 2014. And it is no wonder this book comes so highly recommended.

                    Frankl shares his experience of enduring concentration camps during the Second World War and what he learned from the experience. For leaders who are struggling through a time of great suffering, Frankl’s book may be exactly what you need to gain a new perspective.

                    Buy “Man’s Search for Meaning” on Amazon.

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                    10. “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World” by Niall Ferguson

                    The Ascent of Money

                      Leaders need to know how the world of money works. For those seeking the big picture perspective, Ferguson’s book is one of the best books I have read on economic history. He explains the long relationship between risk and money.

                      In addition, he also looks at the history of bubbles – the Dot Com bubble of 2000 and the housing bubble of the 2000s are only the latest installments in a much longer story. Reading books like this gives leaders the ability to ask better questions and handle money more effectively.

                      Buy “The Ascent of Money” by Amazon.

                      11. “Tribes” by Seth Godin

                      Tribes Book Cover

                        Godin first made his name as a marketing expert and has now moved on to broader questions of leadership and personal development. “Tribes” makes the point that digital tools allow almost anyone to become a leader. Godin shows that resources and tools are no longer the main restriction on leaders.

                        Instead, leaders are only limited by their courage to stand up and organize a tribe around their shared interests. If you are looking for a book with practical ideas that you can read in a few days, “Tribes” is the book for you.

                        Getting started leading a tribe doesn’t have to be difficult because we are living in project world. You don’t need outside funding to start a project or a tribe, you simply need ideas and some digital tools.

                        Buy “Tribes” on Amazon.

                        12. “The Success Principles: How To Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” by Jack Canfield

                        The Success Principles

                          Jack Canfield’s books and training programs have changed the lives of people around the world. I started by listening to this book on audio from Audible.com a few months ago. However, I found the book so valuable that I was happy to go on and buy the 10th anniversary edition in book form.

                          The principles in the book – such as “Take 100% responsibility for your life” – are absolutely essential for leaders to absorb and practice. The book combines both foundation principles (e.g. on goal setting, visualization etc) and tactical recommendations on networking and advice to help you achieve your financial goals.

                          Buy “The Success Principles” from Amazon.

                          13. “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” by Walter Isaacson

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                          The Innovators Book Cover

                            As leaders, we regularly make use of digital technology. Yet, do you ever wonder where all our technological marvels came from? In this sweeping book of history, Isaacson introduces the reader to the many innovators that made the digital age possible.

                            For leaders, the greatest lesson from this book is how often teams and cooperation made a difference. Very few technologies of note were solely created and promoted by a single individual – that means we can all do to improve our team work skills.

                            Buy “The Innovators” on Amazon.

                            14. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni

                            The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

                              What comes to mind when you think of teams? Do you think of a group of people coming together to achieve a challenging program? Or, do you think of a group that struggles to get real work done?

                              When you lead people, especially if you are a leader of leaders, mastering the art of team work matters. Lencioni explains the factors that prevents teams from operating at a high level, such as a fear of results and a lack of trust.

                              If you struggle with most business books, you will probably enjoy Lencioni’s style. He shares his principles through stories that are engaging and entertaining to read.

                              Buy “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” from Amazon.

                              15. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

                              How To Win Friends and Influence People

                                This classic book appears on many lists of top business books for a good reason. It is an excellent introduction to the people skills leaders need. Modern readers may find some of the language and examples in the book out of date, but do not let that stop you from reading.

                                Carnegie’s book offers great tips to help you relate to other people (especially helpful if you are in sales or management). After all, making that connection with other people is a key leadership quality.

                                Buy “How To Win Friends and Influence People” on Amazon.

                                Featured photo credit: Untitled/ Joe St.Pierre via flickr.com

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                                Bruce Harpham

                                Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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                                Last Updated on September 20, 2018

                                8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

                                8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

                                You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

                                Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

                                When you train your brain, you will:

                                • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
                                • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
                                • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

                                So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

                                1. Work your memory

                                Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

                                When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

                                If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

                                The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

                                Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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                                Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

                                What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

                                For example, say you just met someone new:

                                “Hi, my name is George”

                                Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

                                Got it? Good.

                                2. Do something different repeatedly

                                By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

                                Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

                                It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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                                And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

                                But how does this apply to your life right now?

                                Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

                                Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

                                Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

                                So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

                                You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

                                That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

                                3. Learn something new

                                It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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                                For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

                                Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

                                You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

                                4. Follow a brain training program

                                The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

                                5. Work your body

                                You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

                                Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

                                Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

                                Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

                                6. Spend time with your loved ones

                                If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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                                If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

                                I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

                                7. Avoid crossword puzzles

                                Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

                                Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

                                Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

                                8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

                                Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

                                When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

                                So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

                                The bottom line

                                Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

                                Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

                                Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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