Readers’ Choice: No Leading Without Reading

This month, we turn over Readers’ Choice to three of our favorite leadership experts for their book recommendations on leadership and change.

Warren Bennis

Who: Distinguished professor of business at the University of Southern California; author, On Becoming a Leader (Perseus, 2003)


His Pick: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

Why: “At least read Henry IV, parts one and two, for a vision of heroic leadership. Glendower says, ‘I can call spirits from the vasty deep.’ And Hotspur replies, ‘So can any man; but will they come when you do call for them?’ Courage is getting people to march behind your ideas. And read Coriolanus. He couldn’t rise to the occasion when the situation was thrust on him.”

Also Read: The March of Folly, by Barbara W. Tuchman (Random House, 1984), and Five Days in London, May 1940, by John Lukacs (Yale University Press, 2001).

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld

Who: professor and associate dean, Yale School of Management; author, The Hero’s Farewell (Oxford University Press, 1991)

His Pick: Authentic Leadership, by Bill George (Jossey-Bass, 2003)

Why: “This has brilliant ideas about the risks worth taking and the content of the character of the CEO. The author, the former CEO of Medtronic, is really candid about his own mishaps in a way that’s a model for credibility. It’s not antiseptic; there’s no theorizing, no cliches, andÊno spin. Just what you want in a leader.”


Also Read: Final Accounting, by Barbara Ley Toffler (Broadway Books, 2003), and The Knowing-Doing Gap, by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton (Harvard Business School Press, 1999).

Michael Useem

Who: Wharton professor and director of the Center for Leadership and Change; author, Upward Bound (Crown Business, 2003)

His Pick: The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara (McKay, 1974)

Why: “One of the best ways to learn about leadership is to read history or biography, and this book combines both. It’s the Gettysburg engagement, told through four or five fictional characters. You have to work to get the lessons out of it, but it’s not unlike reading about Shackleton or FDR or anyone else who faced a trying circumstance.”

Also Read: On Leadership, by John W. Gardner (Free Press, 1993), and Good to Great, by Jim Collins (HarperBusiness, 2001).