Crack a Book

Need a little inspiration? The BB&T Leadership Institute’s consultants say these titles will provide the pick-me-up you need to lead like a champ.

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

The New York Times columnist and political commentator takes on an uncommonly weighty topic—the soul. What a shame, he writes, that we devote so much time to scaling that first mountain built of possessions, promotions and power circles. What if we instead focused on forming deeper commitments to our families, our philosophies, maybe even our corporate responsibilities? Brooks makes a strong case that we’ll find joy only by shifting from the material to the spiritual. A lofty goal, indeed.

The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth

Healthy workplaces share a common attribute: Their employees aren’t afraid, according to Edmondson, who is a Harvard University professor of leadership and development and a guru of all things team-oriented. Employees in healthy workplaces speak openly and confidently in group settings. They challenge superiors’ decisions without fear of ridicule or reprisal. They readily brainstorm alternative ideas that may or may not work. Fearless organizations, Edmondson argues, are run by leaders tough enough to withstand the scrutiny.

The End of Loyalty: The Rise and Fall of Good Jobs in America

Who knew a book about the eroding social contract between corporations and workers could be so readable? Credit this veteran business journalist, also a director at the Drucker Institute, with seamlessly unpacking 75 years of American labor history. Wartzman calls for the return of employee-centered companies, urging executives to reward both workers and shareholders. Loyalty, he writes, begets loyalty.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Leave it to a neurobiologist-turned-psychologist to wax poetic about a concept as simple as grit. The 2013 MacArthur Fellow and professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania takes a look in this book at a variety of high achievers—from national spelling bee finalists to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. She investigates how their passion and perseverance combine to produce awe-inspiring results. Duckworth shows us that a dogged determination to succeed transcends race, gender and social class. Grit, in other words, is a great equalizer. 

The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything

In the workplace, trust equals productivity. We can accept that as fact thanks to this groundbreaking work by Stephen M. R. Covey (yes, son of that Stephen R. Covey). But how many of the 13 behaviors of high-trust leaders are you demonstrating today? Are you creating transparency? Clarifying expectations? Honoring commitments? Maybe it’s time to treat yourself to a refresher course in Trust 101 from the first family of leadership development.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Humans aren’t exactly rational, according to Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. In this book, he notes that people’s
decision-making processes are often stymied because they are strongly influenced by emotions, expectations and social norms. For leaders, this book offers important lessons about understanding how to motivate employees and using irrationality to promote ethical behaviors, like sharing and honesty, in your organization. 

Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently

It’s not about you. Maxwell, who is a leadership development expert and founder of the nonprofit training organization EQUIP, writes that the most successful leaders focus on (wait for it) their employees. Get to know your workers, he advises. Acknowledge their contributions. Hear out their ideas. It’s all common-sense stuff—encourage and empower your team, for example—but you’d be surprised how many leaders need help in the people-skills department. Or maybe you wouldn’t. After all, Maxwell tells us, truly connecting with people is an art.

Scaling Leadership: Building Organizational Capability and Capacity to Create Outcomes That Matter Most

What traits do great leaders share? What traits do bad leaders have in common? What type of leadership is needed to enable an organization to thrive in the marketplace and in the future? Anderson and Adams culled responses from 1 million senior executives to find these answers. Turns out High-Creatives—their term for the most nimble, thoughtful and passionate leaders—inspire their colleagues. High-Reactives, on the other hand, drive their colleagues away. Thankfully, Anderson and Adams offer a blueprint for hiring and developing effective leaders.

By Margaret Moffett

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