By William Lee Miller (Knopf, 2002)
This book is marvelous. Lincoln was both a superb politician and very ethical, two qualities that don't always go together. What is special is that it focused on how Lincoln had to learn how to do and work at both. This well-written book ranks as one of the best on leadership I have ever read. Publishers Weekly says the following about the book:
From Publishers Weekly:
In a narrative that positions a careful analysis of Lincoln's life against his popular legend and "ritual celebration," University of Virginia historian Miller (Arguing About Slavery) provides an incisive and shrewd discussion of Lincoln's development as a person and a politician. If it is assumed from the outset that Lincoln was "a spectacularly wonderful man," Miller argues, it "may diminish our appreciation of the ways in which he may actually have become one." Thus Miller's project to chronicle man rather than myth is explicitly concerned with the evolution of Lincoln's character, motivations and ideals. Chronicling his rise from an Appalachian boyhood to the corridors of power, the author makes a host of wise observations about this "ungainly westerner" that are informed as much by Miller's considerable knowledge of human nature as by his study of Lincoln's utterances over the years. According to Miller, Lincoln's life was motivated by the desire to distance himself from his humble origins; though he may have begun as a young man of the people, he quickly sought a place among the intellectual and cultural elite that Thomas Jefferson had dubbed the "natural aristocracy." He never introduced his sons to his father and stepmother. He harbored an intense dislike for all forms of menial labor, and was displeased when campaign posters positioned him as a rail-splitter. In this same spirit, he despised the simple, petty bigotries common among the working classes of his day and eschewed the Know-Nothingism popular in the United States of the 1850s as being beneath him. It is this Lincoln's studied and cultivated aloofness from the banal Miller argues, that positioned him for greatness. (Jan. 22) [Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.]
Recommended by John Bryson
McKnight Presidential Professor of Planning and Public Affairs, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
By Linda Carli in the Journal of Social Issues (57):4:725-741. 2001.
By Joyce Fletcher in The Leadership Quarterly. 15:647-661. 2004.
I'm recommending two articles because of their interrelationship. Although leadership isn't only about influence, influence is an important component of leadership activity, and Carli's work demonstrates clearly the serious barriers women face in trying to influence others (especially men). Carli's research is consistent with the idea that women often exhibit more democratic, less authoritarian styles of leadership in part because these styles are the ones that work for women. Those who believe that participatory leadership is in fact more effective than authoritarian leadership sometimes argue that women have an advantage because of their skill in or inclination toward this style. But Fletcher observes that participatory styles are often devalued because of their association with disempowered groups - particularly when these behaviors are employed by members of those groups (e.g., women, people of color). These readings don't necessarily help us with the practice of leadership but they do provoke thinking about its challenges.
Recommended by Carol Chetkovich
Director, Mills College Public Policy Program, and author, Real Heat: Gender and Race in the Urban Fire Service, and coauthor, From the Ground Up: Grassroots Organizations Making Change
Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts
This gem of a book answers the question that work on power begs: If there are dimensions of power that shape our consciousness, why do people resist? The hegemony that some analyses of power suggest a degree of domination that would seem to preclude the ability of marginalized groups to resist it contrary to what we see and know. Scott explains that people with less power maintain hidden transcripts about the power dimensions, causes, and injustice of their condition. They bring them on-stage and make them visible when they calculate that change efforts may be successful. Thus Scott gives "subordinate" groups the agency to change their conditions and to decide when to do so. His work is a wonderful companion to Evans and Boyte, Free Spaces, Morris's concept of "movement halfway houses," and the political ecology of social movements about which Doug McAdam writes.Recommended by Richard A. Couto
By Nazir Walji (2009)
Nazir Walji offers a succinct overview of the shift occurring in leadership studies, viewing it more and more as a social process of reciprocal influence and practical accomplishment. Parallel to this shift in paradigm has been a shift in the approach to studying leadership, which Walji reviews here as well covering useful research tools and emphasizing participatory action research. The article makes the argument, building on Goranzon, that in today's challenging environment leadership is more and more about "the orchestration of reflection", making sense of context, and co-generating new knowledge - all features that warrant the use of research approaches which privilege reflection and co-production of knowledge between researchers and practitioners.
Recommended by Waad El Hadidy
Research Associate, Research Center for Leadership in Action and co-author of "Cooperative Inquiry for Learning and Connectedness" in Action Learning
By Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (2001)
This book is about leadership in organizational contexts. It argues that leadership is particularly important when attempting to create organizational change. But organizational change can't happen without individuals changing their behavior. And individuals can't change their behavior without changing the particular perceptions or beliefs that drive their actions. Therefore, the authors explore what is required for leaders to encourage employees to surface and explore their basic assumptions. Most importantly, it wisely notes that leaders can't encourage others to go through this process without undergoing it themselves. The book offers seven practical "technologies" for individual and organizational transformation.
Recommended by Erica Gabrielle Foldy
Management faculty at NYU Wagner and co-author of Off-line Collaborative Reflection: A Way to Develop Skill in Action Science and Action Inquiry and of Sensegiving and the Role of Cognitive Shifts in the Work of Leadership.
The best ideas will have no impact without the skill of ‘woo' to influence others to take them up. Leaders are influencing and being influenced almost continuously. This book combines vivid stories with research-based frameworks of the six major channels: authority, rationality, vision, relationships, and politics and one's persuasion styles: driver, commander, chess player, promoter, and advocate. Their examples range from building support for the global war against AIDS to historical cases from corporate and community organizing. They offer specific steps for preparing for influence moments, but most importantly will change the way you experience influencing and being influenced.
Recommended by Tom Gilmore
Vice President, Center for Applied Research (CFAR)
Sayles is a management and leadership theorist of longstanding. One of the reasons why this book is important and useful is because Sayles is able to communicate a strong sense of the "flow" of work and what it means for working leaders to be part of that workflow. A number of challenges inherent in on-the-hoof leading are dealt with-teaming, co-ordination, tensions in decision-making, interdependence, innovation-although not in ways that are preachy, but instead that are informed by extensive research and experience. There are lots of useful insights injected into the discussion by Sayles that give his book a strong note of realism. These concern the ways in which working leaders are simultaneously constrained and also enabled in achieving collective purposes, in the face of increasing complexity.
Recommended by Peter Gronn
Professor of Education, Cambridge University and author of "The Future of Distributed Leadership" in the Journal of Education Administration
By Stephen Preskill and Stephen Brookfield (2009)
Stephen Preskill and Stephen Brookfield -- well-respected adult educators -- challenge readers to consider an often unacknowledged aspect of the work of leadership: the capacity to consistently listen and learn, support other people's learning, and develop the abilities and capacities of those with whom they work. Their readable book highlights nine "leadership learning tasks" and profiles nine social change leaders who exemplify these capacities. While the focus is on social change leadership, the learning tasks highlighted are relevant to leaders in a wide range of organizational types and contexts.
Recommended by Margo Hittleman
Coordinator, Natural Leaders Initiative
Author, Counting Caring: Attending to the Human in an Age of Public Management
The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization
By Peter M. Senge
This is a must-read classic on system theory and learning organizations. Harvard Business Review called this book "one of the seminal management books of the previous 75 years." In it, Peter Senge develops the notion of learning organization as dynamic systems in a continuous state of adaptation and improvement and with the capacity to create structures that are conducive to reflection and learning. For Senge, an organization's capacity for transformational learning is connected to the ability to cultivate the following disciplines or component technologies: system thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building a shared vision, and team learning. These disciplines nurture three core organizational learning capabilities: fostering aspiration, developing reflective conversations, and understanding complexity. Senge's concept of learning organizations also call for a new view of leaders as designers, stewards and teachers, as agents responsible for building organizations where people can continually expand their capabilities to understand complexity, clarify vision, and improve mental models.
Recommended by Amparo Hofmann-Pinilla
Deputy Director, Research Center for Leadership in Action and co-author of co-author of "Taking the Action Turn: Lessons from Bringing Participation to Qualitative Research," in Reason and Bradbury (Eds), Handbook of Action Research, Sage Publications, 2006.
By Pawan Dhingra (Stanford University Press, 2007)
While this is not a book on "leadership," Dhingra convincingly demonstrates the complexity of multiple identities and its impact on the lives of potential leaders or Asian American professionals already enacting formal and informal leadership roles in their organizations. The impact of social identity on leadership is just beginning to be explored and this book provides a unique perspective on how the multiplicity of identities is enacted in the lives of professionals of color, specifically Asian Americans, a seldom addressed "minority" group in the discourse on race, ethnicity and leadership.
Recommended by Evangelina Holvino
President, Chaos Management, Ltd. and Research Faculty Affiliate, Center for Gender in Organizations, Simmons School of Management
Recommended by Joe Raelin
The Knowles Chair, Northeastern University, and author of Work-Based Learning: Bridging Knowledge and Action in the Workplace (Jossey-Bass, 2008) and "Emancipatory Discourse and Liberation," Management Learning, 39 (5): 519-540, 2008.
By Lao Tzu
Translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English (Vintage Books, 1989)
The best translation to the eternal book of leadership and ways of being. If you have only book in your leadership library, this should be it.
Recommended by Georgia Sorenson, PhD
Research Professor at the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
By Norman K. Denzin
Book Review from an Amazon.com:
This collection of recent works by Norman K. Denzin provides a history of the field of qualitative inquiry over the past two decades. As perhaps the leading proponents of this style of research, Denzin has led the way toward more performative writing, toward conceptualizing research in terms of social justice, toward inclusion of indigenous voices, and toward new models of interpretation and representation. In these 13 essays-which originally appeared in a wide variety of sources and are edited and updated here-the author traces how these changes have transformed qualitative practice in recent years. In an era when qualitative inquiry is under fire from conservative governmental and academic bodies, he points the way toward the future, including a renewed dialogue on paradigmatic pluralism.
Recommended by Carol Stack
Professor Emeritus of Education and Women's Studies, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley
In this playful discussion, Tim Brown discusses and demonstrates the connections between creating a playful environment and mindset and the creativity that can be unleashed as a result. In his discussion, he follows the thread from childhood play to adult play and reveals how adults can and do use play to problem-solve - from brainstorming new design ideas to role playing for new service delivery solutions. Although not explicitly defined as a talk on leadership, the implications for leaders is clear. Leaders can help their teams discover new solutions to difficult problems by creating the space for creativity to unfold.
Recommended by Heather Weston
RCLA Senior Fellow and Independent Consultant