The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. Many reasons to read this classic by the first modern leadership consultant, not least the intimacy of the counsel derived from years of close study of the leadership task. Not all of his counsels have stood the test of time, but all are cogently argued and elegantly written. The conclusion of the chapter on fortresses: ‘Therefore, the best fortress is to be found in the love of the people, for although you may have fortresses they will not save you if you are hated by the people.’
Leadership: A Very Short Introduction by Keith Grint. A succinct and masterful philosophical inquiry into the essence of leadership, this is a small format, 126-page consideration of eight critical questions: What is leadership? What isn’t leadership? What was leadership? Are leaders born or bred? Who are the leaders? How do leaders lead? What about the followers? Can we do without leaders? A quiet gem.
Sumantra Ghoshal on Management: a force for good. A career summary and tribute to a brilliant thinker, teacher and practitioner who died prematurely in 2004. This volume gathers thirteen of his most influential articles, and contains appreciations by his esteemed co-authors. He breaks complex ideas down in very understandable ways. See It Tolls For Thee for my summary of his ideas about management as a force for good.
Five-Star Leadership: The Art and Strategy of Creating Leaders at Every Level by Pat Townsend and Joan Gebhardt. A less academic, more practical treatment of the same domain covered by Grint in his very short introduction, The authors, a former US Marine Captain husband and his prolific writer wife, draw extensively from military training and examples as well as their experience in the Total Quality movement, and create a guidebook for the application of leadership in organizations. Where Grint is conceptual and precise, these authors are conversational and anecdotal. Grint addresses the necessity for distributed leadership; these authors discuss how it’s done.