My Favorite Reads from 2014

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Each year, I post a blog containing some of my favorite books I read from the previous year. My list from 2014 is below. These do not represent all the books I read. … but they are some of the best, most engaging reads that I felt you could benefit from as well. Hope you enjoy.

Favorite Books Pic 2014

1. The Gen Z Effect (Thomas Koulopoulos/Dan Keldsen)

I just got this book in December and was intrigued enough to put it on my list. The authors survey the emerging generation following Generation Y (the Millennials) but suggest that Generation Z is more of a mindset than a population. It is marked by six forces that any of us can leverage: hyper-connecting, sling-shotting, shifting from a push for affluence to influence, adopting the world as a classroom, life-hacking and embracing the latest technology, making the Gen Z effect cross age bands.

2. The Boys in the Boat (Daniel James Brown)

This is the incredible story of the U.S. rowing team from the 1936 Olympic games held in Berlin. I had two people recommend this book to me in a single week, and it was not disappointing. It’s a book about leadership and ultimate teamwork, as nine college students from America made an epic quest for gold that year. These boys had true grit, as sons of loggers, shipyard workers and farmers. Get ready to be inspired.

3. The Well-Played Life (Leonard Sweet)

This book takes a fresh look at how life was supposed to work—feeling more like play than work. In it, Len Sweet contrasts the Protestant “work ethic” with a “play ethic” more in line with the garden of Eden and how people were created to experience life, labor and love. It is a faith-based book, yet relevant for anyone who’s gotten lost in the drudgery of work and the grind of a routine life. Sweet argues that if we do it right, life can feel more like a “sandbox” than a “sand trap.” I loved it.

4. Think Like a Freak (Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner)

This book is from the authors of Freakonomics and was just as “out of the box” as their first book. Think Like a Freak pushed me to break out of conventional thinking, as it offered a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems and approach topics. The book covers a wide range of issues, from business to politics to philanthropy to sports. … you name it. The goal is to re-train your brain to think in new ways, to approach situations with a new set of eyes.

5. Start with Why (Simon Sinek)

The content of this book went viral when Simon did a Ted Talk on the topic a few years back. I enjoyed the topic so much, I got the book at the beginning of this year and reviewed it again. It is a fundamentally important book, as it details how great leaders inspire everyone to take action. Instead of breaking down “what” needs to get done, they begin with “why” they should get involved. Sinek believes people are moved to action more at the heart level when they see why something is important.

6. Social Intelligence (Daniel Goleman)

Because I am working on a new Habitudes book dealing with EQ, I chose to re-read this book after reading it a year ago. I really enjoy Dan Goleman and his helpful thoughts on the importance of emotions in motivating others. This book details a relatively new science of influencing behavior through understanding how people think and act, and how they can be influenced socially. Like EQ, Goleman believes that social intelligence can be developed and utilized by anyone. Good read.

7. Chief Culture Officer (Grant McCracken)

Like many leaders of learning, I believe that organizational culture trumps everything when it comes to productivity. The influence culture has on teams far exceeds vision or strategy. This book not only argues that a leader’s first job is to create culture, but that companies need someone to keep their finger on the culture in today’s society so they don’t miss trends or opportunities that emerge. The Chief Culture Officer is the leader who pays attention to (and capitalizes on) culture.

8. Good Leaders Ask Great Questions (John C. Maxwell)

As a former team member with John C. Maxwell, I had the honor to preview this book that came out just two months ago. The book is vintage Maxwell, as it lays out in simple terms how the greatest growth for a leader stems from asking well-crafted questions of mentors, outsiders, staff, customers and of yourself. He also includes 70 of the best questions he has received as a leader. The book is very practical and helpful.

I hope this list gives you some inspiration as you decide what books you want to read this year. Happy reading!

– See more at: Growing Leaders blog


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My Favorite Reads from 2014