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Top 10 [Unconventional] Leadership Books

vonnegutSince I write and teach about leadership I’m often asked, “What are the best leadership books?”

It’s always a hard question. First, there are so many great books on the subject and second, not everyone has the same tastes. While one person might like The Art of Woo they may yawn over a reputable academic volume dedicated to 17th century organizational behavior.

However, there are a handful of books that can teach us a lot about leadership while captivating most people. They are as follows:

1. Moby Dick (Melville): Captain Ahab can teach us a thing or two everything about vision as it relates to leadership.

2. Catch-22 (Heller): If Heller didn’t invent and define the phrase “Catch-22” modern organizations would have.

3. Dead Souls (Gogol): How do you go about buying the ‘souls’ of dead peasants for a personal profit? You need good  sales skills…to say the least.

5. Walden (Thoreau): Keep it simple, stupid.

4. For Whom the Bell Tolls (Hemingway): Protagonist Robert Johnson has to get people on his side in the heat of the Spanish American War.

5. Waiting For Godot (Beckett): The sparse play leaves room for many interpretations, but those in the business world will be all to familiar with the waiting game and it’s implications.

6. Lucky Jim (Amis): Aspirations aren’t easy to have, especially when you can’t stomach your organization and the culture it espouses.

7. Cat’s Cradle (Vonnegut): Do organizations secretly practice Bokononism?

9. Lord of the Flies (Golding): A power struggle during chaotic times will put [organizational] culture on the back burner. “Have you got any matches?” (Chapter 2)

10. The Naked and the Dead (Miller): Set in Japan during World War II, Miller shows us that morals and motives can’t be perfect.



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