In my mid-twenties, I came to the sad realization that I was a pathetic leader. I didn’t have a good people skills. I knew I needed to make a change. I was cutting through a discount book store near campus, when I saw the book “The Power of Followership” by Robert Kelly. I bought the book, thus began my fascination with self-development.
Another book I picked up that day was “Leonardo da Vinci: Engineer & Architect.” This is one of those huge art books. This fascinated me because I was working on a Ph.D. in engineering. What I had known up to that point about Da Vinci was him as painter/artist. I had a built in book case with 4 shelves in my campus apartment. Most of which was filled with text books. 17 years later, I have 7 large Ikea bookshelves that line my living room wall like wallpaper. I also have one large bookshelf in my bedroom. I have 2 shelves dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci. Needless to say – I love to read. I believe leaders must be lifelong learners.
If you are taking the first step in developing your leadership skills let me recommend the top 10 books in my library. These are the 10 books I find myself returning to regarding leadership skills.
1. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie – this book is a classic. It is the book that taught me that ‘eating crow’ is part of leadership. And it helped me crucify my desire to be right all the time (even though I am – joking)
2. “Becoming a Critical Thinker” by Vincent Ruggerio – I almost named Edward de Bono’s “Thinking Course “instead. Bottom line, become a good thinker. We live in a very feeling generation. Feelings are real, but feelings lie. Good thinking is a must for leaders.
3. “Please Understand Me” by David Kiersey – or any good book on personality difference and temperaments. Discovering my own temperament, helped me understand how to relate to other temperaments. Even more important, it taught me how to change behavior to connect with those I needed to connect with.
4. “Instant Rapport” by Michael Brooks – This book is a tad bit of overkill in regards to neuro-linguistic programming. In short, it describes the various mind processing methods: Audio, Visual and Kinesthetic. This helps with communicating to others.
5. “Developing the Leader Within You” by John Maxwell – 3 of his books made my top 10. I own most of John Maxwell’s books. The 3 listed here are the must reads. The titles say why.
7. “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson – Simple yet profound book on dealing with change.
8. “Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus” by John Gray – I take a lot of criticism when I conduct a women’s leadership workshop and tell them some of the best books on leading men are dating books. Understanding yourself as a woman and understanding the male ego will set you apart from other women counterparts. I’m an engineer by trade, this was a must for me to grasp. Yes, it doesn’t hurt your love life either!
10. “Black & White: Styles in Conflict” Thomas Kochman – When I first entered corporate America, most often I was the only black person on the team – WAIT, this is still true! Although Corporate America is becoming more diverse, we’ve got a long way to go. Understanding the cultural differences helped me feel less like an outsider and helped empower me to teach my white counterparts the differences between them and I.