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Best Leadership Books of 2009

Best Leadership Books of 2009
As we reflect on the year 2009 – the financial crisis and the accompanying recession – we know that out of the chaos, we must relearn some basics and not return to business as usual. Shortcuts are out.

The Harvard Center for Public Leadership's 2009 National Leadership Index reveals that 69% of Americans think we have a leadership crisis in the country. Another 67% believe that "unless we get better leaders, the United States will decline as a nation." Over half (52%), believe that business leaders generally work to benefit themselves. Only 25% of Americans agree or strongly agree that business leaders or news media leaders share their values. And this isn’t just an American phenomenon.

As Pogo Possum observed, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The tendency is to catch our breath and just work harder. But we have to hit reset and work differently—to incorporate the larger picture; to not be so insular in our behavior. The Financial Times management columnist Stefan Stern remarked, “The reason why so many people want to get back to ‘business as usual’ is that that is what they do best. In fact, it may be all that they can do.” Overcoming inertia is going to be the challenge.

Back to basics. This doesn’t mean safe and boring or watered-down. These are bedrock principles that work. It’s when we try to take shortcuts that we get derailed. Consultant icon Tom Peters who has a reputation for being cutting-edge, has been relentlessly preaching the simple basics that work. And work globally. Basics are the new cutting-edge.

The present environment reminds us that leadership must exist at all levels. Everyone has a part to play. Sound principles take you through good times and bad. Business (and individuals) will have to focus more on training both on the job and off so that sound values and principles become everyday practice.

The books selected for the best leadership books published in 2009 help us to think differently; to incorporate lasting values; to answer the question, “How do we best lead?”

Managing by Henry Mintzberg

Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up by John Baldoni

Walk the Walk: The #1 Rule for Real Leaders by Alan Deutschman

The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life by Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan

The Upside of the Downturn: Ten Management Strategies to Prevail in the Recession and Thrive in the Aftermath by Geoff Colvin

Know What You Don't Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen by Michael A. Roberto

How Did That Happen? Holding People Accountable for Results the Positive, Principled Way by Roger Connors and Tom Smith

Greater Than Yourself: The Ultmate Lesson of True Leadership by Steve Farber

Lift: Becoming a Positive Force in Any Situation by Ryan W Quinn and Robert E Quinn

Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst "Best" Practices of Business Today by Susan Scott

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek


The biographies selected here more than just life stories; they are great histories as well. Vanderbilt was a man of enormous accomplishments. At the time of his death he owned five percent of America's wealth. And while there are lessons to be learned from the life of Vanderbilt, he is in many respects, not a model to follow. Still, The First Tycoon is a page-turner that captures well the people he worked with and the culture he operated within, making it a worthwhile history of the rise of American corporate capitalism.   Cooper’s biography of one of the nation's most controversial leaders, Woodrow Wilson, is an authoritative, in-depth look at a complicated and fascinating man. It also serves as a great political history that is still relevant today.   The bicentennial year of Lincoln’s birth saw the release of many books about the 16th president. A. Lincoln is an engaging narrative and one of the best. Lincoln, says White, continues to fascinate us "because he eludes simple definitions and final judgments."

The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt by T. J. Stiles

Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper Jr.

A. Lincoln: A Biography by Ronald C. White Jr.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
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