Holiday book list for federal leaders

December 19, 2011

With the holidays rapidly approaching, are you looking for a last-minute gift for the federal leader in your life? To help make your shopping easier, here are my favorite five leadership books from 2011. Each book is an easy read and includes actionable ideas for federal leaders looking to navigate the ambiguity and challenges that lie ahead.

With federal leaders facing ongoing talk of shutdowns, budget cuts and pay freezes, Jim Collins’ latest book, Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck – Why Some Thrive Despite Them All , provides inspiration during these tough times. Written with Morten Hansen, this book focuses on why some companies thrive during chaotic and unstable times while others don’t and gives lessons learned that are helpful for leaders in the public sector.

For federal leaders who are tackling the tough challenges that lie ahead, I recommend Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. No. 1 on my list of 2011 reads, Little Betsoffers federal leaders a set of concrete ideas on how they can take their innovative ideas all the way to implementation.

The Lean Startup reinforces those same lessons learned by examining a set of case studies about entrepreneurs who create successful businesses despite initial doubts and budget constraints. For federal agencies looking to launch new efforts with little or no funding, this book is an energizing source of ideas.

Another important issue facing federal leaders in 2012 is how they can motivate and retain their young talent in the face of all this adversity. It can be hard to pinpoint the motivations of young leaders, but I’ve recently added a new book to my reading list that might help: Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders by John Coleman, Daniel Gulati and W. Oliver Segovia. Drawing on the personal stories of young leaders across the country, Passion and Purpose gives senior federal leaders insight into the values and visions of our future government leaders.

Finally, no list of 2011 leadership books is complete without Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Isaacson is a terrific storyteller, and by providing readers with a detailed account of Jobs’ roller-coaster story of successes and failures, his book gives federal leaders inspiration for how to succeed despite insurmountable obstacles.

What books from 2011 should be on federal leaders’ list of holiday reads? Please share them by posting your comments online or sending me an email.

Tom Fox is the head of leadership and innovation at the Partnership for Public Service and writes the Federal Coach blog for the Washington Post.

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The best leadership books of 2011

PHOTOS | And the leader of the year is...

2011’s worst leadership moments

Should I buy my boss a gift? And other holiday workplace dilemmas

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