5 inspiring and thought-provoking reads

by | Mar 29, 2015 | Leadership

I love buying new books. I use my kindle for fiction, but like hard copy for non-fiction. One of my vices is buying books before I’ve read the ones already on my bookshelf! Favourite categories are personal development, leadership, coaching and career transition.

I often find that books start repeating themselves a short way through and they end up back on the bookshelf with a bookmark in them. However, there are a few that have kept my attention right to the end and left a lasting impression, even years after.

Here’s 5 of my favourite ones. I’ll save some for a later post.

1) Mastery written by George Leonard. This may be a small book, but it’s a really powerful read.

It’s all about how embracing mastery is the key to excellence and fulfilment, whether you want to be the best leader you can be, improve your tennis or have a better relationship with your spouse. Leonard is an aikido master and draws on his martial arts expertise as well as on Zen philosophy.

The concept of mastery gets up close and personal with my ego, the part of my self that wants to be seen to be right, or to know it all, or to be good at something.

Embracing the concept of “being a beginner” is incredibly hard, whilst opening up so many doors in terms of one’s learning.

2) The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, long-standing conductor of the Boston Philharmonic. I came across this on my first ever coaching course as a manager at Procter and Gamble 13 years ago.

It is all about inspiring and empowering yourself and others, about living in possibility. It’s an uplifting read for yourself and in your capacity as somebody who impacts others as a leader or parent.

One of his mantras is to “sit in the front row of your life”. I remember those of us who attended the course going to a meeting the following day and all literally sitting in the front row of the room! Of course, it isn’t about literally where you sit, but it was an interesting example of where we take a backseat or be a passenger in our own lives rather than the driver.

3) Now, discover your strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O Clifton.This is a seminal book on why playing to strengths rather than dwelling on weaknesses is so important, based on years of Gallup research.

When you buy the book, there will be a code at the back for you to access an online questionnaire which gives you your top 5 strengths “themes”. For example, my top 5 are Input, Learner, Individualisation, Responsibility, Focus and Individualisation.

There is a first book, “First break all the rules”, though “Now, discover your strengths” summarises the research, describes all the strengths themes and explores how you maximise your and others’ strengths as well as manage weaknesses.

4) Drive by Daniel Pink. A theory on the 3 keys to motivation : autonomy, mastery, purpose. The last third of the book is devoted to a toolkit to help you put them into practice whether you’re looking to motivate yourself, your team or your children.

It’s interesting food for thought. I know why self-employment was the only answer for me now!

5) The 4 hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. I haven’t read this for a while, but I remember how I felt reading it, and how it tosses the Calvinist work ethic in the air. Even if you’re happy in your work, it will challenge your paradigms.

Let me know how you get on.



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Alison Reid is an experienced executive coach who helps senior managers and directors lead with confidence and step-change their influence and impact. She works with them 1-1, empowering them to focus on what matters, communicate with impact and stay calm under pressure so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More. Download an extract or buy the book.

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