What comprises my library? Someone asked me recently what I like to read. I’ve always had a passion for history and reading about great historical figures. I’ve taken that passion for history and aligned it with my passion for studying leadership styles, habits, and skills. While not a complete list, I offer my library of favorites. Some just for fun. It ranges across history, biographies, business, religion, and sports.
Often, the best lessons can be learned from history. All great leaders throughout history share common characteristics and attributes that made them unique and helped them lead great movements with innovative ideas. These individuals were not born leaders; they developed leadership habits and followed the inspiring example of those that came before them. And history is littered not only with great leaders who were avid readers and writers (remember, Winston Churchill won his Nobel prize in Literature, not Peace), but with business leaders who believed that deep, broad reading cultivated in them the knowledge, habits, and talents to improve their organizations.
It is helpful to take the time to reflect and assess our own perspectives, capabilities, and habits. Habits of leadership within our personal and professional lives too. As aspiring leaders, perhaps we can take a lesson from history.
Call Sign Chaos – Learning to Lead by Jim Mattis and Bing West. A clear-eyed account of learning how to lead in a chaotic world. Mattis divides his book into three parts: Direct Leadership, Executive Leader and Strategic Leadership. It is a journey about learning to lead and a story about how he developed a unique leadership philosophy.
Citizens of London – The Americans Who Stood With Britain In It’s Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson. A behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London: Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman, and John Gilbert Winant.
The Monuments Men – Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel. In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.
Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy – Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures by Nicholas Reynolds. The untold story of Ernest Hemingway’s dangerous secret life in espionage.
Henry L. Stimson – The First Wise Man by David F. Schmitz. The 20th century witnessed the rise of the U.S. on the world stage. While many are responsible for that ascension, few have left a larger legacy in the arena of foreign policy than Stimson.
The Brothers – John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World War by Stephen Kinzer. During the 1950s, when the Cold War was at its peak, two immensely powerful brothers led the United States into a series of foreign adventures whose effects are still shaking the world.
Partner to Power – The Secret World Of Presidents And Their Most Trusted Advisers by K. Ward Cummings. This revealing book examines the relationship between U.S. presidents and their closest advisers from a psychological, personal, and professional point of view.
The Gatekeepers – How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every President by Chris Whipple. Filled with shrewd analysis and new details, this book offers an essential portrait of the toughest job in Washington.