“So Professor, what should I be reading to develop my leadership skills?”

This is a question I often hear from students and executives.  Most folks assume I am going to focus my recommendations on leadership books and leadership articles. Some of these sources are helpful (in fact there is now a new section on my website which includes lists of recommended leadership books and articles). However, my opinion is that values-based leaders’ reading lists include a much broader scope of topics beyond “leadership.”

I often discuss the importance of being BALANCED (Principle#2) and developing a global perspective; understanding all sides of an issue and “seeking to understand before you are understood”. A key way to gain this perspective is to have a broad reading selection. Rather than focusing only on business, I believe values-based leaders need to develop a true “liberal arts perspective” which includes an understanding of history, government, literature, religion, philosophy, the arts, and the sciences.

And as you examine these areas, make sure you are examining them from multiple sides so you really do understand different perspectives.

Here’s a personal example. While on Spring break with the family last week, I wanted to take some time to understand the history and current issues in the Middle East. I must admit I often get confused with the differences among the unique countries, cultures, leaders and religious identities (Sunnis, Shites, Kurds, etc). So, having the time during Spring break last week, I had the opportunity to read Richard Engel’s book, “And Then All Hell Broke Lose“, Henry Kissinger’s latest book, “World Order“, and an article from the Atlantic Magazine entitled, “The Obama Doctrine“.

This selection of readings gave me different perspectives and opinions regarding the history of the region and how we got to where we are today. Rather than labeling “good guys” and “bad guys”, I gained a perspective of different world views, and why people believe what they believe. Some of the issues addressed included:

–Should the U.S. have invaded Iraq in 2003?

–Was taking out Hussein the right thing to do?

–Should Obama have sent troops into Syria?

–Is the nuclear deal with Iran positive or negative for “world order”?

–What should be the U.S. policy in the Middle East toward Russia and dealing with Putin?

There truly are multiple sides to each of these questions and issues, and values-based leaders take the time to study them thoroughly in the process of developing their own world views, especially when it comes to such weighty matters.

The less people say “I don’t understand where you’re coming from”, and the more they focus on “understanding why people believe what they believe”, the world will be much better off.

So, good luck in your journey to developing your own global perspective — it really will help you develop your leadership skills!!!

I always enjoy hearing from you!