I've been studying leadership in one way or another for almost a decade. For the last three years it has been my primary focus as I work to complete my PhD in the field of Leadership Studies. In that time, these are the books that have really come to impact my understanding on the topic in profound ways.
  1. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom -bell hooks
    My first year in grad school I wrote a paper on how bell hooks should be considered a Leadership scholar in addition to a feminist and education scholar. This book in particular addresses the concepts of leadership that are central to a number of theories and perspectives. Use of power/authority, creating change, management of environment and resources, and much more. I still argue that her perspective, and this book in general, should be a contender for the Unifying Theory of Leadership.
  2. Humble Inquiry- Edgar Shein
    Simply put, be willing to admit that you may not know everything, and approach situations with the humility to learn. An easy lesson to take in, and one that will take a lifetime to master.
  3. Rules for Radicals- Saul Alinsky
    A hands on guide to effectiveness and development of organizers, change makers, and seekers of justice. The reflections of a long time radical, and perspectives on both what we will need for the future and what the future will need from us.
  4. The Evolving Self- Robert Kegan
    Hands down one of the hardest books to understand. When finally making progress and starting to get it, though, it seemed like a revelation. Developmental psychology across a lifetime, and insights on what gets it our way as well as how we can create an environment that fosters continual growth.
  5. Leadership Without Easy Answers- Ronald Heifetz
    In my mind, this is a (and possibly the) game changer when it comes to leadership. Viewing leadership as an adaptive process, seeing the problems in the world that will require learning and unlearning to solve, and calling forward a process of personal and collective growth toward change. Again, ideas that can be learned in a few minutes, and can take a lifetime to fully master.