Federal Coach

By Tom Fox, VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service

Blog archive

Federal Coach: Great leadership books in 2012

(Fox's Federal Coach column was originally published on The Washington Post On Leadership site.)

For the federal leaders on your holiday shopping list, here are some of my favorite leadership books from 2012. Each book offers keen insights into management, human nature, and the thinking and actions of those who have been on the frontlines and succeeded.

In the biography category, two recent additions to the bookshelves are perfect for federal leaders.

William Silber’s Volcker: The Triumph of Persistence examines Paul Volcker’s work battling inflation in the 1970s and his role in helping the nation recover from the most recent financial collapse. The book offers behind-the-scenes accounts of Volcker’s time at the Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve. It also chronicles his resolve and independent thinking during times of crisis. Few individuals have had as profound an impact on our federal government over the last 50 years as Volcker.

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham (NA - NA) For those who appreciate history —particularly Revolutionary-era leaders — Jon Meacham’s book on President Thomas Jefferson is a great read. In Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power , Meacham provides what many critics consider one of the most comprehensive and balanced portraits of a very complicated man with many strengths and weaknesses. It offers leaders who want to learn from history an invaluable resource by providing insights into a man who understood humanity, could marshal ideas, learned from his mistakes and prevailed.

Another good choice is Robert Pozen’s book, Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours . Pozen offers advice on how to achieve workplace productivity and high performance, and provides solace to those feeling overwhelmed by a heavy workload and competing demands. He also offers suggestions on how to determine the highest priorities and manage time wisely.

Maybe it’s not time management that’s the major challenge, but information overload. If that’s the case, check out the new book by data rock star Nate Silver — The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don’t . This book can help any leader struggling with the best way of handling everyone’s latest, greatest buzz term: big data. If you are a federal leader overwhelmed by numbers, Silver’s book will help you distinguish between useful versus merely interesting data analysis.

And finally, for the leader who is looking to engage employees, check out Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business .

A quick and easy read, The Advantage distills many of Lencioni’s best lessons from previous works (The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Four Obsessions of an Effective Executive) into a single, short volume. Whether you’re an executive, front-line supervisor or team leader, there’s great advice on creating a healthy, productive working environment. He also advocates attacking the root causes of dysfunction and confusion to help you improve organizational performance.

What great leadership and management books have you come across this year? Are there any books on your shopping list that others should consider? You can  email me at fedcoach@ourpublicservice.org.

Posted by Tom Fox, VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service on Dec 12, 2012 at 4:02 PM


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