Leaders are readers.

This is a truth affirmed over and over again by the great leaders of the world – Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Ghandi – but the one that got me recently was John W. Gardner.

Gardner was “a legendary public intellectual and civic reformer – a celebrated Stanford professor, an architect of the Great Society under Lyndon Johnson, founder of Common Cause and Independent Sector.” Gardner passed away nearly 15 years ago. But lucky for me, the other day I stumbled upon an HBR article that discussed a speech Gardner gave back in 1990. He said:

“We have to face the fact that most men and women out there in the world of work are more stale than they know, more bored than they would care to admit…Boredom is the secret ailment of large-scale organizations. Someone said to me the other day ‘How can I be so bored when I’m so busy’ I said ‘Let me count the ways.’ Look around you. How many people whom you know well – people even younger than yourselves – are already trapped in fixed attitudes and habits?”

He goes on to provide the antidote to boredom…

“Be interested…Everyone wants to be interesting, but the vitalizing thing is to be interested…As the proverb says, ‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.'”

So much wisdom there. My summary: Curiosity is THE killer app.

It’s hard to accept that your people (or you) are bored. After all, everyone is working hard and they’ve got a good gig. We can provide for our families. We are secure. But this is precisely what feeds boredom. You wake up and it’s Groundhog Day all over again. You’re grateful, busy, and moving. But that doesn’t stop boredom from creeping in.

How can leaders keep boredom at bay?

Start with you. Fight your own boredom. Don’t be boring. Lead by example. Be curious. Remain interested in the future. In new ideas. In our people.

This curiosity, energy, passion, and excitement is what kills your own boredom. And it is really hard to stay bored around people who aren’t boring. Boom. You’re curing the boredom of everyone around you.

Where do we start? I start with books. Physical books. E-books. Audio books. Podcasts. Whatever works for you.

To try to get you started, here are 20 books. These are the last 10 books I read, plus 10 new leadership books I’m adding to my bookshelf:

My Last 10 Books

  1. Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (re-reading it now after finishing Bauer’s book)
  2. The Well Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer
  3. Superbosses by Sydney Finkelstein
  4. Good Profit by Charles Koch
  5. Unstuck! by Kenyon Blunt
  6. Egonomics by David Marcum and Steven Smith
  7. Letters from a Stoic by Seneca
  8. Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy
  9. Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
  10. The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh

10 New Leadership Books

I ran across a great article listing new leadership books – many of these I hadn’t heard of and I’ve already added most of them to my Kindle bookshelf (list courtesy of smallbiztrends.com):

  1. The Directors Manual: A Framework for Board Governance by Peter C. Browing and William L. Sparks
  2. The Leadership Capital Index: Realizing the Market Value of Leadership by Dave Ulrich
  3. Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts by Daniel Shapiro
  4. The Strategy Book: How to Think and Act Strategically to Deliver Outstanding Results by Max Mckeown
  5. The Attacker’s Advantage: Turning Uncertainty into Breakthrough Opportunities by Ram Charan
  6. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stainer
  7. The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey
  8. Discover Your True North by Bill George
  9. The Big Fish Experience: Create Memorable Presentations That Reel In Your Audience by Kenny Nguyen, Gus Murillo, Robert Killeen, and Luke Jones
  10. Life is Good: The Book by Bert Jacobs and John Jacobs

Last but certainly not least I’ve been reading (and editing) one other book quite a bit over the last few months – my new leadership book:

The Approachability Playbook: 3 Essential Habits for Thriving Leaders and Teams

I’m biased, but I think it’s pretty great 🙂

What leadership books are on your shelf? Have you read any of the ones mentioned above? What’d you think? Let us know in the comments!

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