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Top 10 books for federal leaders in 2011

It's that time of year when many publications produce their lists of the best books from 2010. I'm going to embrace the concept of a list and share with you my favorite five leadership books from 2010 as well as five classics. Each book is an easy read and includes actionable ideas for federal leaders looking to navigate the ambiguity and challenges that lie ahead.

Number one on my list of great 2010 reads is Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Fans of the Heath brothers will know that you can fly through their books during a Metro commute and finish with a set of concrete ideas for initiating change, whether you're leading from the top, middle or front lines of your agency.

Of course, if you're going to effectively lead change, you'll need to effectively build and use a broad internal and external network of folks. Leading Outside the Lines: How to Mobilize the Informal Organization, Energize Your Team, and Get Better Results, by Jon R. Katzenbach and Zia Khan, offers federal leaders working on interagency efforts a way of getting ahead of the curve.

If you're looking to motivate your team--and perhaps yourself--you should check out Daniel Pink's Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I spoke with Dan earlier this year, and while we shared some of his research in his Federal Coach interview, it is definitely worth your time to take a deeper dive into his book.

Another source of inspiration is If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government by William D. Eggers and John O'Leary. The authors use examples of our government's successes and failures to offer a road map for federal leaders.

Finally, don't forget about yourself as a leader. Marshall Goldsmith (who's also a panelist with On Leadership) is an outstanding executive coach and a wonderful author. His book Mojo: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back if You Lose It offers a helpful guide for leaders looking to stay on top of their game.

Now, here are classic leadership books that I highly recommend for the year ahead.

The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All by Michael Useem

Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great by Jim Collins

The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman

The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations by John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen

Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading by Martin Linsky and Ronald A. Heifetz

What are your favorite leadership books from 2010? What classics would you recommend for federal leaders? Please share them by posting your comments online or sending an email to fedcoach@ourpublicservice.org. And please check back on Wednesday, when I speak with Felícita Solá-Carter, a Center for Government Leadership development coach. You can also receive a reminder by following us on Twitter @RPublicService.


By Tom Fox

 |  December 20, 2010; 10:14 AM ET |  Category:  Getting Ahead Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Finding time as a fed worker for long-term planning | Next: Federal coaching lessons: A Q&A with Felícita Solá-Carter

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Thanks for the great list Tom! I just started reading Switch based on this recommendation and its very good. Just like the authors' previous book "Made to Stick" it is insightful and very easy to read. I'm finding lessons in it for work and home, like how to make better (more specific!) New Year's resolutions!

Posted by: jhinva | January 1, 2011 9:16 AM

The People are "the federal manager" you commie basturds.

soon to view silk.

central.gold

Posted by: John_Chas_Webb | December 29, 2010 12:26 PM

The only books my Federal managers read have to do with maximizing their TSP earning potential.

Posted by: rpcv84 | December 28, 2010 9:28 PM

Top 10 Books for the rising government bureaucrat:
1. Empire Building for Dummies
2. Motion Giving the Illusion of Accomplishment
3. Perfecting: In A Meeting, Away From My Desk, and, Not Available
4. Falling In Love With Chickenchit
5. Mission Creep in 3 Easy Steps
6. Best Tropical Locales for Seminars During the Winter
7. Being the Perfect PC Manager
8. Detecting Threats, i.e., Competence In Underlings
9. Sucking Up At The Speed of Light
10.DC's 100 Hottest Interns

Posted by: 1911a1 | December 21, 2010 10:20 PM

Which section of the book store did you find these in?

21st Century Conservative Fantasies

The Death of Critical Thought

I'm a Republican, So I Hate Government

Glenn Beck Says It's True, So It Must Be

or, my favorite section:

21st Century Republicans - We Have No Idea What We Want, But We Know What We Don't Want

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | December 28, 2010 11:43 AM

I would recommend a couple of movies instead. From the Classics drawer:

"Mr. Robert." What it means to stand up for your men without looking for glory. Quality shows through.

"The Caine Mutiny." Loyalty, and the courage to act may have prevented this sordid tale. We see leadership in its best, worst, and most human forms.

"Mutiny on the Bounty." (Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, of course." Similar to the Caine Mutiny, the bounds of loyalty and doing the right thing. (Notice a Navy theme here?)

"Twelve O'Clock High." Gregory Peck demanding to know "What is a maximum effort?" How hard can you drive people until they crack?

I might add in "Saving Private Ryan" and "Band of Brothers."

In addition to being riveting film, they tell the stories of real people and how they rise or fall as leaders.

Posted by: mandog | December 27, 2010 8:07 PM

No books on investing? After all, government employees are the only ones who can afford to, anymore.

Posted by: JAH3 | December 27, 2010 3:52 PM

When do I have time to read these top 10 books when I'm expected to be chained to my desk or at least be confined to the 4 walls of the office for 10 hours a day, never deviating from the meeting and networking culture, and always answering my blackberry when I am on what is supposed to be my own time?

My agency doesn't even let me telework because the Big Cheese prefers to have us on site and within site.

Besides, if anyone thinks I'm going to actually do more work-related activities like reading non-fiction that has to do with work on my own time... they're insane.

Leisure time is for leisure, not for reading "Who Moved My Cheese."


Posted by: trambusto | December 26, 2010 8:11 AM

An interesting read. Thank you.

I do not work for government and never have. In reading article, reviewing the book list and topics offered, one thing really stood out. Authors are from government backgrounds. A growing gap, soon to be a gorge, between government work force and those in private sector is that of job security and sustainability. Also a basic view of ones jobs worth. In private sector, one has to hustle, innovate, continue education, compete, etc in order to keep and grow a profession. Within government, this does not exist. Sure, government attempts to give its best to us in non-govt roles, but at the end of the day? Those in government can win, lose, slack, waste, and talk all they want about doing us "non- govt" workers great service and delivering product. Govt workers go home with total job security and benefits, practically immune from the effects of regional, national and world economics. What has evolved is a a "New Government Order" operating at the expense of the general population.

How will this "New Government Order" sustain itself? By completely dominating those they claim to serve.

Posted by: acanonsv | December 25, 2010 7:28 PM

Top 10 Books for the rising government bureaucrat:

1. Empire Building for Dummies
2. Motion Giving the Illusion of Accomplishment
3. Perfecting: In A Meeting, Away From My Desk, and, Not Available
4. Falling In Love With Chickenchit
5. Mission Creep in 3 Easy Steps
6. Best Tropical Locales for Seminars During the Winter
7. Being the Perfect PC Manager
8. Detecting Threats, i.e., Competence In Underlings
9. Sucking Up At The Speed of Light
10.DC's 100 Hottest Interns

Posted by: 1911a1 | December 21, 2010 10:20 PM

Great post, Tom. I think Drive and Switch were two watershed books in the broader movement to understand how much we, as humans, make decisions non-rationally. I think they hold a lot of potential for how leaders approach building support for change and for dispelling some long-held beliefs about motivation (e.g., pay-for-performance).

Posted by: drhonker | December 21, 2010 4:25 PM

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