Top 10 Books of the Decade, A Personal List

It is the end of a decade which means that Top 10 lists are an absolute must (I guess). So, in thinking of whether or not I had a top ten list in me that would have any value to the collective populous I thought I would share the 10 books that have impacted me the most during the past decade. Now, to be clear, these are not the 10 best books I have read. In fact, there are at least a couple books in here that I thought were ‘meh’ at best. BUT . . . they had one golden takeaway for me that has helped me grow as a person and/or leader and therefore they make the list. Again, not the best ten books I have read, but the ten books that have influenced or impacted me the most.

10) Above the Line – Urban Meyer

·        So, here is the rub. I really do not like Urban Meyer. In fact, I never would have chosen to read his book. That said, a teacher gave it to me to check out and discuss with him. So, I was more than compelled to give it a shot. This book is full of tweet-able one-liners and one piece of absolute gold. He goes through the behavioral and speech pattern of Blame, Complain, Defend and it has been an absolute gem for me to keep in mind in my own behavior and helping to lead others behaviors – including, but not limited to my own children.

9) Shifting the Monkey – Todd Whitaker

·        Now, I love Todd Whitaker. Todd has been a mentor to me for years and even sat on my dissertation committee. And to be honest, this was not a personal favorite in his (extensive) library for me. That said, I had my team work through it as a book study because it fit where we were at in the moment. The simple phraseology of shifting the monkey as a metaphor for allowing others to dump their stress onto you resonated more than any other singular concept of any other book study I have ever led and can still be heard quite often in my district as we work through difficult problems years after we concluded the book study.

8) Leaders – General McChrystal

·        So, as much as I stated before that a book that I was not in love with was incredibly well-received by my team the opposite is true here. I loved this book by General McChrystal, but it has proved to not be as accessible for my team. The thesis of this book is that while leaders and leadership is desperately needed that we often try to emulate leaders based on results or a checklists of traits and ignore the context of each individual situation. To be frank, the book humbled me in a way that is hard to explain and for that I will be forever grateful for having read it.

7) Toughness – Jay Bilas

·        I love my job. I am happy almost every single day. The only job in America that I think could bring me as much joy would be that of a high school basketball coach. This book speaks to life everything I believe is beautiful about the game of basketball and the lessons it can teach our young people playing the game. Parlay that with the fact that my oldest son and I bond over the sport makes this book very special to me. This is highly recommended for any leader of young men and women – regardless of sport affiliation.

6) 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey

·        I have re-read a lot of books and very few ‘hit’ so differently given your season of life. That is why I love this book. I think you can read it for the 13th time and have it mean something completely differently to you than reading it for the first time. This explains why more than 25 million copies of the book are in circulation.

5) Adaptive Leadership – Heifitz and Linsky

·        This duo wrote Leadership on the Line which is a more popular and more easily accessible version of this book in my opinion. But, the content of Adaptive Leadership helps paint a clear picture of the enormous complexities of truly effective leadership. At the time I read this book, I had vision and tactics as a leader, but totally ignored the contextual framework in which I was operating. This was the first book that helped me understand the intricacies of leadership that I had been previously ignoring.

4) Triggers – Marshall Goldsmith

·        Marshall Goldsmith is an executive coach to the stars (in the executive world) and this book explaining how he brings out the best in already incredibly successful people is fascinating. Goldsmith uses a simple framework to boil down the entire process of working toward goal attainment focusing on the phrase, “Did I do my best to . . .. “and calling for self-reflection and rating of performance on a daily basis. This simple language has changed my internal dialogue significantly and has helped me in how I coach those I work with.

3) Essentialism – Greg McKeown

·        The first time I read this book I thought it was good. The second time I read this book it shook my world. The thesis of Do Less, Better is something that I intuitively felt, believed, and attempted to put into action but could not articulate. Then comes along this book, that not only puts it into words, but puts it into ONLY three words. Game changer for me – and I believe easily accessible and relevant for almost anybody.

2) NurtureShock – PO Bronson and Ashley Merryman

·        Have you ever read a book and thought, “Why aren’t more people talking about this book? It is truly incredible?” That was my reaction reading this primarily as a parent, but also as an educator. This has been the book I have recommended (outside of my own, I am sure) the most over the past few years. The book is written with a Gladwell-ian vignette feel and dives deep on parenting practices that are common that fly in the face as to what science tells us we should be doing.

1) Discovering Your Personality Type (Enneagram) – Riso and Hudson

·        The Enneagram tool changed me as a leader, husband, human, etc. I cannot think of anything that I have read that has impacted half as much as learning and working more deeply through the Enneagram tool and the myriad of uses it provides. There are a ton of other worthy Enneagram books worth reading, but to me it starts here. Said simply, if any other personality or behavioral profile has been the least bit interesting to you – check this out. You will not regret it.