One of the things I've done in my job is run a leadership book and article club. We selected an appropriate book or article and discussed it on the phone during two or three sessions held at different times to accommodate the various time zones around the world.
Typically, while attendance was small, participation was intense. Some books hit closer to home than others. Here are some of the ones we've read that proved extremely popular.
It's Your Ship! by Michael Abrashoff has become an extremely popular book. Commander Abrashoff, of the US Navy, took command of a US destroyer, probably one of the worst ships in the US Pacific fleet. In less than two years, he turned it into the best ship in the US Navy! This book retells how he did it and it is an excellent read. Most lessons apply to civilian organizations as well as military ones.
If you prefer to listen to it, it is also available as an audiobook.
Abrashoff has gone on to write a new book based on research he has done with civilian and military leaders: Get Your Ship Together. I'm in the process of reading it at present and it is good.
Another book that became extremely popular, even with our IT staff members who rarely participated in the book club is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. This book, through the use of a fable, provides an excellent way to identify why teams do not function well together and, even more important, provides a way for team members to talk about it in a less threatening way than saying "you are not a team player!" As a matter of fact, our CIO purchased copies for his staff to read and discuss! The author, Patrick Lencioni, has developed Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team : A Field Guide for Leaders, Managers, and Facilitators to help in this process. Warning: I have not read this guide so I cannot comment on it.
For articles, we mostly used articles from the Harvard Business Review. The organization had a corporate license through our library group, so it was easy to have people obtain the articles. While it was assumed we would get more participation since the articles are much shorter than books (typically 8-9 pages), the number of participants stayed about the same.
Recently, we started using peers in our staff to conduct the discussions, rather than having me do them. This proved very popular, as employees could attend and hear their boss discuss a leadership concept presented in the book or article, hear his/her opinion on it, and be able to openly discuss it.
So, the article club was key in increasing leadership development awareness. Many other activities also took place (newsletters, classes, presentations, customized services) which I'll discuss in future blogs. I'll also talk about other books that we've found to be very relevant, in particular Thomas Friedman's
The World is Flat. Notice that this link is to the new and expanded edition. The previous edition is still available. If you haven't read this book, you must do it. Friedman's classification of workers in the developed world (read US) is worth the price.
Friedman's previous book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization is also an excellent read.
So tell me which are your favorite books? How about leadership movies? I look forward to your comments!