August 18, 2004

A short reading list for managers: On Management, Leadership, Life and Sci-Fi(?!)

I'm attending a course on "Managing Libraries" (it’s the 2nd day of the course as I post this), organised by the National Library Board Institute. Like all courses, if I go with an open mind, I find there are always things to learn.

The course jogged my memory of useful learning points I've learnt through the last 2 years in managing two libraries (concurrently). I was able to add another 10 additional points to my list of "Things I've learnt over the years in managing and leading a team" (this is still Work-in-progress. Who knows, I might publish a book later).

Anyway, during the discussions, it occurred to me that I should share some books that I've found really useful to me. The following books (by no means exhaustive) have helped me cope with the pressures of managing a library, and working with (and for) people in general:

(In no particular order)
  1. Becoming a manager: How new managers master the challenges of leadership/ Linda A. hill
  2. Managing at the speed of change: How resilient managers succeed and prosper where others fail/ Daryl R. Conner
  3. The age of unreason/ Charles Handy
  4. Not bosses but leaders: How to lead the way to success/ John Adair
  5. The power of losing control: Finding strength, meaning, & happiness in an out-of-control world/ Joe Caruso
  6. Don't sweat the small stuff...: Simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life/ Richard Carlson
  7. Ten ancient scrolls of success/ Og Mandino
  8. Citizen Soldiers/ Stephen E. Ambrose
  9. Panzer commander: The memoirs of Colonel Hans/ Hans Von Luck
  10. Deepness in the sky/ Vernor Vinge
I repeat--the list is by no means exhaustive, as I tried to keep to only 10 titles. It occurred to me that I read perhaps 3 or 4 main types of books where managing and leadership is concerned.

The first type has to do with what I call “Management & Leadership: Practice & Ideas” (items 1 to 4). Item 3 has lots of ideas on what it means to “manage” for the future (it’s written in the 80s and still as relevant as ever). I would consider item 4 a must-read for all managers.
The second type has to do with “Motivation and Inspiration” (items 5 to 7). I highly recommend item 5, because it really helped me reframe what “control” really meant. I also highly recommend item 6 & 7 because they helped me to reframe and were very inspiring. They don’t espouse loud or flashy concepts. I’ve found that they suggest simple and quiet truths about how I can live my life as a better person (before I can even consider being a better manager).
The third type (item 8 & 9) would be about “Life-and-death Do-Or-Die Leadership-Under-Fire” kind of books. Ok, lest you think I treat staff as mere soldiers to command in the Library Battlefield, I must explain that I recommend those books not for the War aspect but for the parts about Leadership, Unity and “Courage under fire”--war is where you really separate the "leaders" from the "managers". I find them relevant for another more subtle reason: the management and organisational theories that we find so familiar today have been directly or indirectly influenced by those survivors of WWII--the grunts and officers who went on to build Corporate America, Britain, Japan etc.
The last type (item 10)—ok, this would really be strange. A science fiction book considered as relevant reading? Ok, Sci-Fi may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But to me, Sci-Fi is about social change, ideas and human relationships. It just happens to be in a science setting. I get my creative juices flowing by reading Sci-Fi, plus it’s a good way to relax.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ivan for the inspiration.