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Thursday, January 31, 2013

If you are interested in leadership development but you do not currently have the budget for an expensive training course, look no further than your local library. Leaders have been telling their stories and giving away their secrets for thousands of years, so your perfect recipe for leadership success may well be hidden in some ancient text you have never heard of. You can turn to the classics or embrace a more modern, scientific approach; either way, you will be in good company. 

Successful leaders, including statesmen, generals, and presidents, have clung to the inspiring advice of their predecessors throughout history. When picking a book to get started, we recommend going with something in your comfort zone and that fits your line of work. Machiavelli’s cut-throat tactics in The Prince may not suit your purposes if you are trying to lead your daughter’s local PTA chapter. We also recommend reading more than one book on the topic. You may be surprised to find that a work by a famous military leader helps you out at coaching a sports team.

The Prince

This infamous work by Machiavelli has gone down in history as a guide to immoral politics. The book is responsible for creating the term “Machiavellian” as a descriptor for particularly ruthless behavior. The Prince has perhaps gotten a bad rap, in part because its ambiguous moral assumptions were in disagreement with the religious values of Renaissance Italy. Even if you are not ready to be feared rather than loved, you can probably glean some good advice from the short, enjoyable volume. Beyond its rather scandalous reputation, the book has interesting philosophical insights about human behavior and the history of leadership.

The Art of War

This is yet another book that may not suit those who wish to become Sunday school leaders, but it applies phenomenally well to modern business and sports scenarios. Attributed to Sun Tzu, a popular Chinese military leader, the book originates from the time of Plato and Aristotle. Much like texts by those authors, it has remained highly influential throughout history. The Art of War lays out various steps to be followed in order to gain military victory, and in doing so, it gives insight into effective methods to deal with any opponent. It played a role in the leadership strategies of figures such as Mao Zedong and General Douglas MacArthur and can be found on the reading list for many contemporary business courses. If time is the truest test of relevance, a copy of the book was found on a bamboo scroll dating back over two thousand years.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This leadership classic by author Stephen Covey has become one of the most influential business books of all time. It profiles the habits of effective leaders and coined the phrase “abundance mentality” to describe scenarios in which everyone can win, thus avoiding negative, selfish competition. Bill Clinton actually asked Covey to advise him on his presidency, which is a pretty good seal of approval.

What It Takes to Be #1: Vince Lombardi on Leadership

Who better to give advice on leadership than one of the greatest NFL coaches in the history of the sport? This leadership classic is fun, inspiring, and easy to read. Lombardi was not only a historic team leader; he was a successful motivational speaker. This book boils down his coaching strategies and mottos to a leadership manual that is perfect for business and community leaders.

Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us

If dangling a carrot on a stick is not working for your team, you should perhaps look into Daniel Pink’s 2009 New York Times bestseller. Pink claims that money and accolades are not as motivating as the business world believes them to be, and uses scientific support to back his claims. For Pink, the important ingredients in motivation are all part of our internal drive for autonomy.

Author Bio:
Kate Simmons is a freelance journalist on everything related to business, leadership development training and management skills.

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