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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

Leadership & Business Growth Books for September 2012

Here are our top picks for the best leadership and business growth books this month.

Indispensable: When Leaders Really Matter

Will your next leader be insignificant—or indispensable?

The importance of leadership and the impact of individual leaders has long been the subject of debate. Are they made by history, or do they make it?

In Indispensable, Harvard Business School professor Gautam Mukunda offers an enticingly fresh look at how and when individual leaders really can make a difference. By identifying and analyzing the hidden patterns of their careers, and by exploring the systems that place these leaders in positions of power, Indispensable sheds new light on how we may be able to identify the best leaders and what lessons we can learn, from both the process and the result.

Profiling a mix of historic and modern figures—from Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln to Winston Churchill and Judah Folkman—and telling the stories of how they came to power and how they made the most important decisions of their lives, Indispensable reveals how, when, and where a single individual in the right place at the right time can save or destroy the organization they lead, and even change the course of history.

Indispensable will also help you understand this new model so you can use it in your own life—whether you’re a citizen casting a ballot, an executive choosing your next CEO, or a leader trying to make your mark.

Lead yourself to success—and others are sure to follow

“For leaders looking for a plan of ‘Why, What, and How’ to become a better leader, the answer is between the covers of this book.” —Chester Elton, New York Times bestselling author of The Carrot Principle, The Orange Revolution, and All In

“Ever wish you could be more confident, more engaged, or more productive in your life? Look no further. All the concepts and tools are right here.” —Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D., Psychologist and Education Director, VIA Institute on Character

“Self-reliance, courage, confidence, emotional self-awareness, and perseverance encompassed into one leadership concept.” —Garee W. Earnest, Ph.D., Professor, The Ohio State University

“Bryant and Kazan’s groundbreaking work challenges us to take the first small steps of what will be for many a lifelong journey of self-discovery from the inside out.” —R. Dale Safrit, Ed.D., Professor, North Carolina State University

“Andrew and Ana’s . . . research, insights, and experience provide a practical tool-kit on how you can choose to live your life and your work and influence others to do the same.” —Philip Beck, Chairman, Dubeta

“It is generally accepted in the business literature that the heart of leadership is leading self. I believe that leading self is also the path to being a ‘responsible’ leader. The important contribution made by Self Leadershipis that it tells you what to do if you want to get better at leading self. Read this book if you desire to be more effective as a leader and remember, “You don’t have to be bad at leadership to get better.” —Stephen C. Lundin Ph.D., author of the bestseller, Fish!

Andrew Bryant, CSP, PCC is an international thought leader specializing in Self-leadership, the power of influence and developing leaders for the future with an emphasis on Asia specifically. He is the founder of Self Leadership International as well as an executive coach and leadership consultant.

Ana Kazan, PhD is a university professor and a researcher in Brazil and Research and Data Analysis Director of Kazan & Associates Consultants. She teaches Organizational Communication, Organizational Psychology and Leadership, Research Methods, and Self-Leadership courses in the state of Sao Paulo.

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want

Study after study confirms that career development is the single most powerful tool managers have for driving retention, engagement, productivity, and results. Nevertheless, it’s frequently back-burnered. When asked why, managers say the number one reason is that they just don’t have time—for the meetings, the forms, the administrative hoops.

But there’s a better way. And it’s surprisingly simple: frequent short conversations with employees about their career goals and options integrated seamlessly into the normal course of business. Beverly Kaye, coauthor of the bestselling Love ’Em or Lose ’Em, and Julie Winkle Giulioni identify three broad types of conversations that will increase employees’ awareness of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests; point out where their organization and their industry are headed; and help them pull all of that together to design their own up-to-the-minute, personalized career plans.

Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go is filled with practical tips, guidelines, and templates, as well as nearly a hundred suggested conversation questions.

Most attempts to change fall flat.

Around the world, countless change efforts are underway in all kinds of organizations, spearheaded by leaders with good intentions. Despite the good intentions, the majority of these programs will not succeed. Why?

In this radical new book, practitioner Rodger Dean Duncan shows that humanness, approachability, and friendliness are necessary but often overlooked elements of making change successful.

Change cannot be achieved by a press release, slogan, or announcement. Effective organizational change requires the active, mindful participation of the people affected by the change. Leaders must learn how to bring their entire team on board with changes and ensure they are invested in the process as well as in the outcome.

The Friendly Factor is not just a play on words. It’s the very foundation for effectively engaging people’s heads, hearts, and hopes. The Change-Friendly framework is based on timeless principles that are tried and true in even the toughest situations. Using this framework will enable you to create effective, lasting change in your organization.

Q&A with Rodger Dean Duncan

What’s so friendly about change?

Often not much. And that’s the point.

Change squeezes us out of our comfort zone. The resulting discomfort produces stress. Stress often manifests itself as resistance. Resistance in the face of change is like having one foot on the brake while the other foot presses the gas pedal.

We live in a moment of history where change is so fast-paced that we begin to see the present only when it’s already disappearing. Change is not just faster. It’s also exploding in quantity and magnitude. Experts say we can expect more change in our lifetimes than has occurred since the beginning of civilization more than ten millennia ago. Trying to keep up with change can feel like getting trapped on a runaway treadmill. Trying to manage it can be even harder.

Then what’s the solution?

In a nutshell, we must create an environment that’s receptive to change. This requires what I call change-friendly leadership. It’s not leadership by title and it’s certainly not leadership by command and control. It’s leadership that genuinely engages the heads, hearts, and hopes of the people whose genuine “buy in” is critical to the success of the change.

In this context, “friendly” is not intended to connote coddling or laissez faire. And it’s certainly not intended to imply a warm and fuzzy, hands-off approach to serious issues. Change-friendly leadership is a behavior protocol or framework. It produces successful change by acknowledging the sentiments and leveraging the individual gifts of people affected by the change, regardless of their organizational roles.

What does the change-friendly framework “look like” in actual practice?

The Change-Friendly Leadership Model is quite simple. At the center are four sets of very specific behaviors. I call these the Four Ts: Think-Friendly, Talk-Friendly, Trust-Friendly, and Team-Friendly.

Think-Friendly behaviors include exercising curiosity, asking smart questions, and challenging your own conclusions.

Being Talk-Friendly involves dialogue skills, listening to learn and understand rather than to rebut and overpower.

A person is Trust-Friendly by consistently earning trust and extending trust. This involves carefully avoiding common trust-busting behaviors that undermine credibility and influence.

Being Team-Friendly means working with people in ways that foster genuine collaboration. It’s much more than superficial “team work.” It’s synergy on steroids, and it requires a special openness to other people’s contributions.

Aren’t those behaviors just common sense?

As Will Rogers noted, common sense isn’t all that common. In fact, many people unwittingly sabotage their own change efforts. In their eagerness to accelerate change or performance improvement they rely on slogans, posters, high testosterone pep rallies and other “motivational” approaches.

Are you saying that “motivational” efforts don’t work?

Personal motivation is wonderful. But it comes from within, not from without. You can educate people, you can entertain them, you can provide a good business case for action. But people must decide for themselves whether they “buy in” to the change you advocate. You can use carrots and sticks to get people to comply. But real change requires more than mere compliance. It requires commitment. That’s where change-friendly leadership makes all the difference.

So where’s the roadblock?

The problem with many change tools is that they are “schizo-frantic.” They involve too many moving parts and make too much noise. They disrupt everything in sight. As weapons of mass distraction, they sometimes scare more than inspire, confuse more than comfort. They can be self-fulfilling prophecies, producing exactly the turmoil that many people associate with change.

This is not to suggest that change is easy or that change processes must be geared to the kindergartner. It’s just to say that when change is needed, most people prefer the path to be as straightforward as possible. No academic jargon. No convoluted models. No jumping through unnecessary hoops. Just something that works. Plain and simple, thank you very much.

Managing change does not mean a narrow, lock-step approach that controls all the variables. It means setting boundaries around the chaos, challenging the status quo, and providing a deliberate and proactive process for getting from point A to point B and beyond.

That’s where the Change-Friendly protocol can help?

Exactly. Rather than merely responding to change as it hits us in the face, the smartest and most sure way to reaching our desired future state is to take deliberate and mindful leadership over the dynamics associated with the change. This must include:

Assessing the organizational, personal, and cultural barriers to change, transition, and implementation.

Identifying work-life disruptions that are the consequences of strategic change.

Developing strategies and tactics to minimize anticipated barriers to change.

Developing strategies and tactics to leverage key strengths to increase readiness and capacity for change.

What’s the bottom line?

The bottom line is to accelerate the achievement of critical business goals with fewer resources and fewer human casualties along the way. In short, we must save time, save money, and help our people avoid burnout. That requires engaging their heads, hearts, and hopes.

As I suggested earlier, it’s not so much that people resist change per se. It’s that we resist the stress that change often produces.

People can learn to welcome change, but the primary emphasis must be on the human dynamics of change. Effective change is not just about spreadsheets and project charts. It’s about winning the genuine commitment of real people. You can rent a person’s back and hands, but you must earn his head and heart.

For change to succeed, the emotional and behavioral aspects must be addressed as thoroughly as the operations issues. Change is inherently and inescapably an emotional human process.

This is not touchy-feely stuff. It’s smart business. Besides, aligning people with purpose is a hallmark of great leadership.

Quick and simple leadership lessons for boosting performance, morale, and engagement

Nine Minutes on Monday helps supervisors stay focused at all times on their number-one priority, leading and managing those who report to them—and avoid being distracted by other tasks. It includes a nine-minute template for staying focused, numerous action-oriented tips, scripted questions, formulas, and simple truths that motivate leaders to stay on mission.

James Robbins founded The Robbins Group to help organizations increase their productivity and lower their employee turnover. He is also the creator of Help Me Lead TV, a weekly web-show for managers.

James Robbins is a rare mix of management consultant, adventurer and motivational speaker. He has been teaching leadership and peak performance for the last 12 years. After leading non-profit organizations across North America, James founded The Robbins Group in 2003 to help organizations increase their productivity and lower their employee turnover. James is also creator of Help Me Lead TV, a weekly web-show for managers, and has given over 1,000 presentations in the last 10 years.

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