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We spend a lot of time on this blog, looking at the merits of new books and studies that come our way every week. This time, I want to talk about the books that I think are a must-read for anyone who aspires to lead in business. I welcome your thoughts, too.
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Sure, this 1936 book can come off as a little hokey. But you know what? I read it at the age of 13 and the lessons still come back to me again and again: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. Let the other person save face. And remember people’s names.
2. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Many people, at this point, know that it takes mavens, connectors and salesmen (ahem, and saleswomen) to turn an idea or behavior into a phenomenon. But that’s no substitute for reading the book.
3. The Way of the World by David Fromkin. It helps to give the subtitle here: From the Dawn of Civilizations to the Eve of the Twenty-First Century. I’m a sucker for great thinkers who can take you on a compelling ride through history. The Ascent of Man, a BBC series narrated by Jacob Bronowski, had a similar effect on me as a child. Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel is worth a read, too. But Fromkin is fast and fascinating. What’s history got to do with business? Everything, in my view. There’s no better template for leadership than learning about the lives of others.
4. American Caesar by William Manchester. George David of United Technologies Corp. gave me this book about the life of Douglas MacArthur. Having grown up outside the U.S., I have to confess I didn’t care or know much about the American commander before picking up this book. At the end, I did. And I felt I had some valuable insights into how a leader manages through crisis—again and again.
5. Getting Things Done by David Allen. I lost this book a few years ago, and I still remember why I love it. Allen has now built a business around his productivity-enhancing tips. Don’t fret if you can’t have an audience with the man. Just buy the book.
Yes, there are other staples like Jim Collins’ Good to Great, On Becoming A Leader (by Warren Bennis) and Bryan Burrough’s tome, Barbarians at the Gate. Those books are fine, but they didn’t linger in my mind like the above five. Any other suggestions?
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