Leaders are Readers: Top 5.5 Books of 2011.

LEE-bros... Libros...Books.


Here is a quick rundown of my Top 5.5 libros (LEE-bros) from 2011. To remember libros, think The Dukes of Hazzard. And I don’t mean the Johnny Knoxville-Jessica Simpson remake… I’m talking about the glorious original seven years of episodes. Well, I owned several Dukes of Hazzard coloring books growing up and if you think of their sweet-riding 1969 Dodge Charger (aka General LEE) and the Duke BROS… well, you’ve got yourself some LEE-bros… LIBROS…. Books.


Back to the list: You’ll notice only one of the of the 5.5 books was actually released in the past year. If this offends your sensibilities about annual books lists, well…. sorry. I’m an avid reader, but I’m not on the bleeding edge of the literary world and the NY Times Bestseller List. But I read these particular books in 2011, so… they are on the 2011 list.


I’d be thrilled to hear your top picks of books that actually came out in 2011!


In alphabetic order, these are all awesome (none of these are affiliates, so I’ll get nothing but a warm feeling in my heart if you decide to buy any of these great books):


Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

No title on the cover…. 77 pages long…. this book is different. Written by the founder of CD Baby, a firm that helps independent musicians distribute their music to the world, Sivers briefly and enjoyably tells his personal business story. His point is simple: do whatever you can to help your customer first and foremost… the rest will follow. Sounds simple. Most companies don’t. In an era of “increasing shareholder value,” the customer is secondary at best. Make your Customers love you and your shareholders will too.


You can rip through this great little book in about an hour, which makes it  a perfect re-read… which I have done at least 3x since buying it.



The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky


With so many companies struggling to achieve profitability, this book ought to be a current bestseller. Slywotzky outlines 20+ specific profit models within a “mentor-mentee style” narrative. I’m not typically a big fan of these types of stories, but Slywotzky pulls it off. His basic illustrations are easy enough that you will confidently re-produce them back at the office on a whiteboard when the topic of “we can’t go a 5th straight year in the red…” comes up.


Leadership and the New Science by Margaret J. Wheatley


If you want to blow your hair back – this is the book for you. I read it twice, back-to-back, and still don’t understand the majority of it. But the reason half my text is highlighted and there are hundreds of my notes in the margins of my copy is because Wheatley’s perspective of organizational leadership – failures and opportunities – is spot on.


Wheatley examines organizations from a natural viewpoint. That is, she basically says, “Look – we’re a common group of organisms that come together to do something (business) and there are some things that we know about other parts of the universe that should be considered if you want to lead effectively.”


She introduces some Newtonian and Quantum Physics, which isn’t in my wheelhouse by any stretch, but the fact that she did so in a way that didn’t cause me to light the book on fire indicates what a great writer Wheatley is.


Her introduction is titled: Searching for a Simpler Way to Lead Organizations. Bingo. Read this book and you’ll get plenty of ideas.




Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds

This book is ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY if you:

  1. Have ever made a Power Point Presentation
  2. Have ever thought about making a Power Point Presentation
  3. Have ever sat through a Power Point Presentation


I don’t take ALL CAPS lightly. In fact, I may only do it when writing about Power Point. Making sworn enemies of the state sit through painful PPT’s may be acceptable under certain circumstances at Gitmo, but not your co-workers at company HQ. Lord help you if you show these things to your customers.


And if you have an iPad now that allows you to take your garbage PPT’s on the road, understand you are accelerating your demise. I’ll go so far as to say that Graduate schools may improve the value of their finished product by teaching 13 of the 16 courses with this book as required reading. (Finance, Marketing, and Strategy fill out the curriculum)


Buy this book before making your next PPT and you’ll instantly differentiate yourself. And for incredible royalty-free photography, go to http://www.sxc.hu/





The War of Art by Steven Pressfield 

If you dream of doing something but just can’t seem to summon the… whatever… to make it happen, get this book. Pressfield puts a name to what’s holding you back: The Resistance. Then he describes it’s face, attitude, and modus operandi as well. Then he walks you through the steps to defeating your opponent. This book is guaranteed to resonate with you. A simply amazing piece of work.




And for the 0.5… this book has become a personal reference manual whenever I realize I’m doing a ton of doing. You ever get that distinct, sinking feeling that while you are incredibly busy, you might not be getting anything done? The feeling that says, “Hey – remember there’s a difference between movement and progress.” Well, I do. Then I open the cover on this and return to basics.


Deep Dive by Rich Horwath

It’s the only book on Strategy I’ve seen that is fun to read, memorable, and easy to apply on the job. Do this today: Ask someone to define strategy and how it applies to what you do, what they do, and what the company does…. then write it down. Verbatim.


Do this for 3 people and then do it yourself. Then go buy this book.



Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry.

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