Tag Archives: Dan Heath

Here’s a Suggested Reading List for Leadership Development (for 2011) – Now, with Update

Let me help you plan your reading for 2011.

The issue is… Leadership Development.

Look at those words.  Think about them.  They say a lot.  Mainly they say this – leaders have to be developed, and leaders have to focus on, and work on, continual development.  This does not happen by accident.  Some leaders may be “born,” but most leaders are “developed.”

And one practice of ever-developing leaders is that they read.  They read books for the purpose of personal development.

I thought about all of this after a great conversation over breakfast with my blogging colleague, Bob Morris.  We talked about a lot.  We share a love of reading, we share a deep appreciation of good authors and good books, so we are probably a little “biased” in our view of leadership development.  But I think the evidence is on our side – leadership development does not happen by accident, and reading good books is a critical and time-tested path to leadership development.

So – assume that you are leader, and that you want to work on leadership development.  What should you read?  I’ve got a suggested list.  If Bob, or my First Friday Book Synopsis colleague Karl Krayer were to suggest a list, it would be a different list.  These are mostly books that I have read.  It is my list of “areas of focus.”  Some of these books are not new.  But they are all worth reading, and if you want to get serious about leadership development, I think this is a pretty good list to start with.

Of course, there are other areas of focus that need/deserve/beg for attention — and other truly deserving book titles.  This list is only a beginning…

So – here it is – my suggested reading list for leadership development.  It includes seven areas of focus, with a total of eleven books.  That is one book a month for 2011 (giving you either July or December “off”).  Whether you choose these titles or not; whether you choose these areas of focus, or not; this I recommend:  follow a leadership development plan.  It is worth the investment of time!

As you focus on: A good book to read is:
The Right Values True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership (J-B Warren Bennis Series) by Bill George and Peter Sims
The Right Strategy The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking by Roger L. Martin
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Growing Firm by Verne Harnish
Effective Leadership (note:  this was a tough “focus” for which to choose the “best” book(s).  I absolutely would include this Kouzes and Posner book:  it is practical, and extraordinarily valuable). 

Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today by Susan Scott
Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Effective Communication Words that Work by Frank Luntz
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Functional, Effective Teamwork 


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
Cultivating Creativity and Innovation The Creative Habit:  Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson
Successful Execution Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

I hope you succeed at your attempts at leadership development in 2011.

Note:  this is not my first attempt to suggest a reading list.  Earlier, I posted this:  Build Your Own Strategic Reading Plan — or, How Should You Pick Which Business Book(s) to Read? It has other suggestions, for other areas of focus.

So many books…so little time!


Here are three ways we can help with your leadership development efforts:

#1:  You can bring me, or my colleague Karl Krayer, into your organization to present synopses of these, and many other books.  These synopses provide the key content, and facilitated discussion of the implications.  Contact me at .
#2:  You can purchase our 15 minute version of these synopses, with audio + handout, from our companion web site at 15minutebusinessbooks.com.  (Most of these were presented live at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.  Be sure to read the faqs).
#3:  Our blogging colleague Bob Morris is an accomplished business consultant, and can help your organization tackle these (and other) issues in an extended way.  Contact Bob directly at .


Update:  My blogging colleague Bob Morris, added some worthy volumes to this list.  Check out his expanded list by clicking here.

Here’s his expanded list:

The Right Values
True North by Bill George and Peter Sims

The Executive’s Compass by James O’Toole
The Highest Goal by Michael Ray
The Heart Aroused by David Whyte

The Right Strategy
The Opposable Mind by Roger L. Martin
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish

The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Unstoppable by Chris Zook
Enterprise Architecture as Strategy by Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson

Effective Leadership
Fierce Leadership by Susan Scott
Encouraging the Heart by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Maestro by Roger Nierenberg
True North by Bill George and Peter Sims

Effective Communication
Words that Work by Frank Luntz
Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Influence by Robert Cialdini
The Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin by Dan Roam
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

Functional & Effective Teamwork
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Organizing Genius by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman
Collaboration by Morten Hansen
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Cultivating Creativity and Innovation
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Freedom, Inc. by Brian M. Carney and Isaac Getz
The Idea of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation by Thomas Kelley
Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono
Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind by Guy Claxton

Successful Execution
Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan

Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki
The Other Side of Innovation by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble
Open Innovation and Open Business Models by Henry Chesbrough

Plus two additional categories:

Leadership Development

Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice co-edited by Nitin Nohria and Rakesh Khurana
The Talent Masters by Bill Conaty and Ram Charan
The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Leadership Development co-edited by Ellen Van Velsor, Cynthia D. McCauley, and Marian N. Ruderman
Extraordinary Leadership co-edited by Kerry Bunker, Douglas T. Hall, and Kathy E. Kram

Employee Engagement & Talent Management

A Sense of Urgency and Buy-In by John Kotter
The Art of Engagement by Jim Haudan
Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees by Lee J. Colan
Growing Great Employees by Erika Andersen


Clear; Simple; Concrete; Unexpected; Credible; Story; To the Point – Communicating 101

Do you have any idea how much time is wasted trying to figure out just what that other person is trying to say to you?  Do you have any idea how much time is wasted by that other person trying to figure out what you are trying to say?

Unclear messages, whether verbal or written, are massive time wasters.  They create uncertainty, tentativeness, confusion…  If you have something to say, you do everyone a favor if you say it clearly:  get to the point – get it said!

This is the message behind the Heath brothers’ principles of communication, in which they suggest that all speakers/writers communicate using principles such as simplicity and concreteness.

What JFK didn't say: "Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry..."

Here is the way they put it in their book, Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

Had John F. Kennedy been a CEO, he would have said:  “Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centered innovation and strategically targeted aerospace initiatives.”
Here’s what he actually said:
“I believe this nation should commit itself, to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

Simple?  Yes.  Unexpected?  Yes.  Concrete?  Amazingly so.  Credible?  The goal seemed like science fiction, but the source was credible.  Emotional?  Yes.  Story?  In miniature.

The moon mission was a classic case of a communicator’s dodging the Curse of Knowledge.  It was a brilliant and beautiful idea – a single idea that motivated the actions of millions of people for a decade.

Remember that Your Audience is “Intelligent, but Ignorant”: ”The Curse of Knowledge” (wisdom from the Heath brothers)

In Made to Stick:  Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, the Heath brothers describe a very real problem for people who give speeches and presentations.  Here’s the problem.  Speakers believe that their listeners know more they actually know.

Speakers do not want to “speak down” to the audience.  They do not want to treat the audience in a condescending manner.  This is all good.  But, the reality is, audiences frequently do not know — or if they at one time knew, they have forgotten.  Thus every speaker has to treat every audience as “intelligent, but ignorant.”

This is a crucial distinction.  “Intelligent” means that the audience is not “less than” any speaker – audience members are competent, smart, capable.  But viewing the audience as “intelligent, but ignorant” means that on this particular issue, the speaker has information to impart that the audience does not know or does not remember, and would not learn unless the speaker delivers the information in a very clear manner.

This problem, this mistake, is called “the curse of knowledge.” And it works this way: the speaker assumes that the audience already knows, or does remember.  And so, the speaker speaks, and the audience does not “get it.”  And the audience will not speak up and say “I don’t know that,” because to do so would make them feel stupid.  So, the speaker continues his/her message, oblivious to the fact that the audience is in the dark.

Thus, to combat this problem, the speaker needs to explain everything as though to a novice.

Here’s what the Heath brothers have to say:

Our knowledge has “cursed” us.  And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.  The archvillain of sticky ideas is the Curse of Knowledge.

And in the book, they propose a simple, yet powerful experiment to demonstrate just how pervasive this problem is.  I have tried this with a number of audiences, and it always illustrates the problem very effectively.  They recommend “the song tapping experiment.”  The speaker taps out, on the table or podium, a familiar song (My current favorite is “You ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog”). To the one tapping, the song is oh-so-obvious.  To the audience, the song tapped out dimply does not register.  They just can’t make it out.  What is obvious to the tapper is gibberish to the tappee.  Again, from the book:  “tappers have been given knowledge {the song title} that makes it impossible for them to imagine what it’s like to lack that knowledge.”

Here’s the communication lesson.  Never use a phrase, or tell a story, assuming that the audience already knows it, and can fill in the blanks themselves.  Over-explain! For every time it might be a “mistake” to “over-explain,” it really is the smarter approach practically every time to take the “over-explain” route.  Because, let’s remember, there is no success in communicaiton until the audience gets what the speaker intends.

So, view your audience as intelligent, engaged – but still just a little on the “ignorant/needs-to-be-informed” side of the equation.  Do this, and you can rise above “the curse of knowledge.”

“Clarity dissolves resistance.”

Cheryl  offers: I was at DFW today catching a business flight to Nashville TN. Most people traveling this month seemed to be dressed quite casually, really comfortable for the hot summer months, with a few noticeable exceptions. The one exception that caught my eye was women in 5 inch high heels. Don’t get me wrong, I like high heels myself. In fact I wear them frequently, mostly because I’m pretty short and they make me feel more powerful.  However I do avoid them when I travel for several reasons. The first and foremost reason is safety. I can imagine how hard it would be to flee a potential plane disaster in high heels, sprinting to safety seems close to impossible. Like many travelers, my feet swell when I travel.  In high heels it can become an almost unbearable situation when walking long distances such as gate changes, terminal changes, and the inevitable walk to your parked car. I know, I’ve done all of these in high heels and that’s why I wear comfortable flats when I travel now. My desire to look professional, chic and hip are still a part of me; and a statement from the new bestseller SWITCH: HOW TO CHANGE THINGS WHEN CHANGE IS HARD by Dan Heath and his brother Chip Heath helps me deal with it better. They write “Clarity dissolves resistance.” How true! Once I was clear on the perils of running in high heels and walking long distances in shoes that feel a size too small after a long flight, my resistance to wearing low healed comfortable shoes dissolved completely.  Who knew it could be explained in just 3 words? And by the way, this is a terrific book for lots of other reasons.

Decision Paralysis vs. Preference for Variety

I have reached the point where I just need to quit reading.  It is all so confusing.  (This is not the first time I have reached this point…)

Malcolm Gladwell in Blink and the Heath brothers in Switch tell us that we are better off with fewer choices.  Give us too many choices, and we arrive at decision paralysis.

Here are the key quotes from these two books:

From Blink:

If you are given too many choices, if you are forced to consider much more than your unconscious is comfortable with, you get paralyzed.  Snap judgments can be made in a snap because they are frugal, and if we want to protect our snap judgments, we have to take steps to protect that frugality.

From Switch:

Decision paralysis.  More options, even good ones, can freeze us and make us retreat to the default plan.  This behavior is clearly not rational, but it is human.

And now this from Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational (via Andrew Sullivan):

Capuchin monkeys like change:
The implications of this simple experiment shed some light on consumer behavior, [Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University] said. Earlier work on variety-seeking has found that people eat 43 percent more M&M candies when there are 10 colors in the bowl instead of just seven. “People choose variety for variety’s sake,” Ariely said. “They often choose things they don’t even like as well just for the variety. We knew about this, so the interesting thing was to figure out how basic it is.”


Ariely is somewhat puzzled that humans can get stuck in a rut and not seek more variety. “Ask yourself: How many new things have you tried lately? Have you tried every cereal in the cereal aisle?” It may be that you’re enjoying a daily bowl of a cereal that you would rate as an 8, when just a few feet away on the shelf there is a cereal you’d rate as a 9, but you’ve never tried it.
Businesses can push variety on customers with assortment packs, Ariely suggests, and vicarious experiences like the Food Network can encourage exploration as well. “How do we get ourselves to explore? Even monkeys do it — so maybe we should also try more variety.”

So – we’re paralyzed by too many choices, and yet we like and want more variety.

I’m confused – again.  It’s the story of my life!

2 Ways to Guarantee a Failed Presentation

(note:  I live in multiple worlds. I read and present synopses of business books, and other nonfiction books;  I speak and consult; and I teach speech, and study speech pretty seriously.  This is a post from that part of my life).

Every failed presentation fails in one of two ways:  the presentation had little or nothing worthwhile to say; or, even if the content was worthwhile, then it was delivered very, very poorly.

Would you like to deliver successful presentations?  It is simple (not easy – just simple) – just have something really worthwhile and useful to say, and then say it very, very well.

That’s it.  Every other tip (and step and piece of advice) simply elaborates on these two.

Aristotle said it first

If you want the academic terms for these two elements, they go all the way back to Aristotle’s canons.  He had five (invention; arrangement; style; memory; delivery — read about all five here), but I think these two really are the whole ball game:

Invention: invention involves finding something to say.  HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY!

Delivery: Delivery concerns itself with how something is said.  SAY IT VERY WELL!

The Invention Part requires a host of elements:  good, genuine, deep preparation; checking out opposing viewpoints and deciding why your view is correct and the other views are incorrect.  Have more to say than the time allotted, thus forcing you to edit effectively; fill your time with great and useful content.  Choose the most effective order for your main points, the right illustrations, the best stories, the right words.  Follow the principles set forth in such books as Made to Stick by the Heath brothers and Words that Work by Frank Luntz.  (see this earlier blog post for a summary of the key content from these two excellent books).  And be sure to select the best possible topic – one that you care deeply about, one that really does matter to your specific audience, one that is born of this time and these circumstances, one that is manageable in the time allotted.

And don’t forget the techniques of the great speakers.  Use repetition – a lot of repetition – on purpose.  In a written essay, repetition can be your enemy.  In a presentation, repetition can be your friend.  Try your best to use parallel structure, especially with your main points.  Don’t have too many main points!

And start in a way that compels the audience to pay attention. And end in a way that sends them forth with a clear understanding of “what next? – now that I’ve heard this presentation, I know the what’s next!”

In other words, before you ever get up to speak, you’ve got your work cut out for you.  It takes a lot of serious, focused preparation to have something worthwhile to say.

The Delivery Part requires a lot of practice (rehearsal) with deliberate practice/work on specific elements.  Start with your posture.  Then your voice.  Then your eye contact.  Then your gestures.

When you actually deliver your presentation, make sure these things happen:

• come across as knowledgeable, but not arrogant
• come close to electrifying the room with your energy
• be perceived as deeply caring about this topic, and these people
• genuinely connect with this audience

Whatever else, don’t fail.  Succeed.  Have something to say, and say it very well.