Leadership Conversations: Challenging High-Potential Managers to Become Great Leaders

By Alan S. Berson and Richard G. Stieglitz

Jossey-Bass, 320 pp., $27.95

As more transitions occur in organizations, new leaders are needed to fill the seats of those moving onto bigger and better roles. However, those selected internally to take on new leadership roles may not have the skills set required to operate at this new level. The transition from individual contributor to manager and from manager to leader necessitates a drastic change in how one approaches work and what needs to happen to be successful.

Leadership Conversations is a timely book, with its focus on helping leaders manage this transition. Berson and Stieglitz introduce new managers to the essential conversations that must take place in a leadership role.

The authors draw on their rich experience coaching and working with leaders at a wide range of organizations—including NASA, the U.S. Navy, Boeing, Gillette, Bausch & Lomb, and Georgetown University—to develop tools that leaders at different maturity levels can apply in their work with peers and employees. They present the concepts, practical tools, and case studies that prepare high-potential employees for conversations that will help enhance their effectiveness as new leaders.

The book identifies four groups of conversations that managers must master to become effective leaders: conversations to build relationships, conversations to develop others, conversations to make decisions, and conversations to take action. Why conversations? Because they engage, connect, align, motivate, and make the difference in your results as a leader, the authors explain.

Although readers may think that the journey ends at the last section of the book, it is only the beginning. Leadership Conversations has a companion website that hosts a leadership assessment, which readers can use to develop an individual learning profile, as well as implementation resources. Indeed, the authors challenge you to continue on the journey.

In my view, the book gives you practical general tools, while the assessment can help you shape a development plan, bypass midcareer derailment, and reach your full potential if you're willing to see your flaws and put in the work.

This book is labeled for those new to leadership, but individuals already in leadership positions also should consider this a must-read if they seek to improve their performance and expand their scope of influence to be considered for promotions.

Berson and Stieglitz's practical and direct writing style kept the pages turning. I would definitely recommend it for those looking to add to their leadership development library.

Leaders Open Doors: A Radically Simple Approach to Lift People, Profits, and Performance

By Bill Treasurer

iUniverse.com, 114 pp., $14.95

This poignant tome shatters the complicated theories constructed by many leadership titles and poses one simple, yet compelling, solution for opportunity-creating leadership: A leader's sole purpose is to open doors for others. Inspired by his five-year-old son, whose proudest duty as a class leader was to open doors for his peers, Treasurer describes how leaders can create growth opportunities for individuals and organizations. Through straightforward and authentic prose, Leaders Open Doors introduces readers to six different doors of opportunity: the proving-ground door, the thought-shifting door, the door to a second chance, opening doors for others, the door to personal transformation, and the door to an open heart. Each chapter concludes with action steps and reflection questions to encourage immediate application.

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Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work

By Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Crown Business, 336 pp., $26

Every day, business and government leaders make decisions that affect huge groups of people. From budget cuts to changes in gay marriage and immigration, decisions are made that we have to abide. Decisive explores what is wrong with how leaders and individuals make choices, and how everyone can improve their own decision-making process. The Heaths have uncovered new psychological research, culminating in a four-step process that will reduce biases and enable more clear and accurate decisions. The book offers renewed strategies and hands-on tools that will aid anyone in making better choices—because everyone is looking to make the right decision, at the right time.

Doing More with Teams: The New Way to Winning

By Bruce Piasecki

Wiley, 174 pp., $25

Everyone works in teams; it's a necessary part of life. But what have we really learned from all this teamwork? Is it even possible to get more out of our teams—and do away with the selfishness and back stabbing? In Doing More with Teams, Piasecki lays out a new way to think when working on teams. He wants to "encourage a new form of competition, so that organizations complete the challenges before them to drive growth and get results." He offers guidance on how to establish clear team principals, share reasonability, and avoid individual motivators. The advice in this book will enable every organization to be more collaborative and effective.

What's on David Vance's Bookshelf?

Human Capital Analytics: How to Harness the Potential of Your Organization's Greatest Asset by Gene Pease, Boyce Byerly, and Jac Fitz-enz. This book focuses on predictive analytics—which help to optimize and prescribe future investments—and provides practical case studies and a framework for using such analytics to optimize human capital investments.

That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum. The authors analyze the four challenges the United States faces—globalization, the revolution in information technology, chronic deficits, and a pattern of excessive energy consumption—and describe what must be done to preserve American power in the world.

Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget by David Wessel. The author examines the 2011 fiscal year through the eyes of key budget players to uncover where all of the money was spent and to give readers an inside look at the making of America's unsustainable budget.