Advice on reading

February 16, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — jonathanpoisner @ 11:03 am

An acquaintance recently revealed to me their voracious reading habit and, in particular, their desire to read extensively on the subjects of “leadership” and “nonprofits.”

At the time, I gave them a couple specific books I recommended.

Upon reflection, here’s what else I wish I’d shared. (Then I’ll pivot to a list of books and book reviews worth your time).

Reading without practice gets you nowhere quickly. Indeed, I often find that those who spend most of their time reading about leadership get stuck as they search for the Holy Grail that will somehow transform their leadership skills.

My advice: read half as much and spend the time saved thinking about what you’ve read. The most important thing to think about: to identify and begin to implement practical changes to your behavior or activities based on what you have read.

To make this work: block out 15-30 minutes on your calendar to do this thinking. Or put “think about book X” in your to-do list. Write down the results of this thinking, with a focus on coming up with 1-5 specific new or changed behaviors or activities.

Of course, it also helps to read books that have practical value. I’ve read a lot of books on nonprofits and leadership over the years and there are some stinkers out there. In contrast, here are some books I’ve read that are particularly useful in that they are written in a way to jump-start practical thinking.

Brandraising, by Sarah Durham

Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications (2010) is a must read for Executive Directors, development staff, communications, staff, or board leaders who want to understand the connections between strategy, fundraising, and communications.  It is equally adept at providing a unifying theory by which an organization can “brandraise” and practical tips for how to put the theory into practice.      

View my full Braindraising review

The Leadership Challenge, by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

The Leadership Challenge (4th Ed. 2007) outlines 5 “practices” and ten “commitments” that anyone can use to develop their leadership skills.   The book uses a combination of case studies, anecdotes, and more than 25 years of empirical research to lay out both theory and practice on how individuals can demonstrate leadership.  

View my Leadership Challenge review

Good to Great and the Social Sectors, by Jim Collins

Good to Great and the Social Sectors, by Jim Collins, is a 40 page document designed to read in concert with his well-known book Good to Great. Good to Great is a staple of business school syllabi for helping students identify what separates great businesses from good businesses. But having not read the related book, I can vouch for the fact that the monograph stands on its own.

View my Good to Great and the Social Sectors review

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert Cialdini

First released in 1984, and updated multiple times since then, Influence is a easy-to-read, chock-full-of-ideas guide to how people get other people to do things they wouldn’t automatically want to do.

Cialdini refers throughout to a “click-whirr” mental shortcuts that humans take when faced with certain stimuli.

View my Persuasion Review Part 1
View my Persuasion Review Part 2

The Secrets of Facilitation, by Michael Wilkinson)

Sometimes you know things, but don’t realize you know it. Or, more accurately, sometimes you recognize and engage in behaviors, without being able to articulate why. But then somebody comes along and articulates why and a light goes off.

View my Secrets of Facilitation Review

Are there books you recommend I read and review? Please share them in the comments!

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