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November 2015


Holiday Gift Guide for Leaders


Each year around November first, with Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, I get a bit more serious about my holiday shopping.  This inspired me to devote my November Leadership Library Review to making holiday gift recommendations for the leaders we are, and for the leaders we know.  In no particular order, here are some resources that have not yet been reviewed in the Leadership Library:


  • I predict that Robert Anderson and William Adams’s book debuting on November 23rd, Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results (Wiley, 2015), will become an instant modern classic in the leadership canon: it takes a hot leadership topic – complexity – and addresses it using the popular and trending integral approach.  It reportedly combines theory with practice (with case studies, plus a free online self-assessment), and it is inherently developmental in orientation; if they’re done well, these features alone will put this book right on the sharpest growth edge of leadership literature.   For any leader on your gift list who wants to stay on top of the latest, most-talked-about ideas, I recommend Mastering Leadership.


  • If choosing a gift certificate, consider foregoing spa treatments in favor of a beginner’s class in almost anything: wood-working, jiu jitsu, dancing, fly-tying, painting, fencing, gardening, pilot lessons, etc.  The feedback that my husband Chris Jeffrey and I received from participants in our “Leadership and Creativity Workshop” (a combination of leadership coaching and a stained glass class) last month was that it was both nerve-wracking and incredibly instructive – as a leader – to be reminded of what it feels like to enter the unknown, to let go of heavy expectations, to learn completely new skills, and to enjoy the tangible unfolding process of hand-crafting a beautiful object.


  • For the reflective leader, I recommend this collection of philosophical mini-essays by the poet David Whyte – a favorite on the corporate conference keynote circuit – about 52 simple words and their multi-faceted meanings: Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words (Many Rivers Press, 2015).  I can imagine gleaning very different wisdom from Whyte’s meditative and provocative interpretations of these words by returning to this book time and time again.  For example, on my first reading, I was surprised to be so especially touched by his compelling treatment of the word “Pilgrim.”


  • In the vein of “how to be the leader of your own life,” I recommend the earnest, amusing and insightful new book by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame).   In Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Gilbert makes the case for following your curiosity wherever it inspires you to go, and offers tips for how to play through the fear of taking your next steps.  While she doesn’t recommend you necessarily quit your day job, she argues that Big Magic wants to be channeled through each of us, and she tells exactly why we should let it.


  • Offer to your gift recipient to do some volunteer work together.  In addition to supporting the very important leadership practice of “walking the talk” on an issue or in a community you both care about, there is a lot of interesting research on the health benefits of helping others.  Check out this blog post on the connection between volunteering and wellness from the Harvard Medical School:


  • For a leader free of delicate sensibilities who would enjoy an outrageously astute and excoriating cultural commentary on hubris, heroism, egotism, sex/sexism, addiction, religion, authenticity, reputation and resilience, consider the British comedian Russell Brand’s 2013 live performance at London’s historic Hammersmith Apollo, “Messiah Complex.”  Currently available on some streaming services and on DVD.


  • I finally succumbed to all the hype about so-called adult coloring books as mindfulness tools a couple of weeks ago and bought Angie Grace’s Balance (a book of 50 abstract, intricate mandala-like designs) along with a 26-pack of ultra-fine-tipped Sharpies.  I started coloring at night during the news and sports on TV, and I find it very absorbing and relaxing.  For what it’s worth, I’ve even enjoyed some fun leadership observations: (1) little mistakes seem egregious when you make them, but you can fix many of them along the way, and even if you can’t, most don’t show up noticeably in the finished product; in fact, the less you accept the imperfections and the bigger effort you make to fix them, the worse they get; (2) when employed strategically, colors that we often think of as grim – such as black and gray – can prove elegant and eye-catching, and they often give the other contrasting colors around them an extra pop; and (3) there is a role for blank/white space; like silence, what you don’t color can convey something equally strong, deep and multi-dimensional.


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