For this edition of Reading Minds, four reflective contributors have submitted astute words about their favorite books on managing themselves or others. Covering leadership, time management and critical thinking, these titles are worth adding to your reading list.
R. David Donoghue Recommends: Boy Scout Patrol Leader’s Handbook
Leadership is the key component of management, so in selecting a favorite management title I naturally turned to books about leadership. I initially considered several biographies of great American presidents and leaders who have inspired me, but I kept returning to the first leadership book I ever read: the Boy Scout Patrol Leader’s Handbook, which has been produced by the Boy Scouts of America since 1929. It may not be flying off of bookshelves, but it distills important lessons on every aspect of group leadership into a concise and easily understandable text. You cannot ask for much more than that in a leadership or management book.
In the many years since I relied on the Handbook to run Boy Scout patrols, I have found the lessons in this volume to be equally applicable to leading and managing teams of lawyers or businesspeople. The Handbook is a powerful guide for developing successful organizations, maintaining group morale and achieving group success. As an example, it lists these 10 tips for being a good leader: (1) keep your word; (2) be fair; (3) communicate well and often; (4) be flexible; (5) be organized; (6) delegate; (7) set an example; (8) be consistent; (9) give praise; and (10) ask for help. These are words to live by for patrol leaders, lawyers and C-level executives alike.
Jennifer Loud Ungar Recommends: No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs
When you are a lawyer, time really is money, so you want real-life solutions to the challenge of managing your time. Therefore, I recommend Dan Kennedy’s No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs (Entrepreneur Press, 2004). Although most lawyers are relatively good at the suggestion of keeping your door closed to plow through a busy day (also known as “if they can’t find you, they can’t interrupt you”), one could learn from the other unique time management strategies offered in this excellent book.
I personally love the strategy for finding a system to “judge others.” How liberating to have permission to judge others and a good reason to do it. Kennedy explains that by setting up rules for yourself on whom you will trust and whom you will do business with, you are actually saving yourself time and trouble. There are also great strategies for handling the “time vampires” in your life—those who always have a quick question right when you are getting ready for an important phone call or the like. If you are having issues with your staff not being as productive as you think they should be or if you find yourself always running against the clock, you have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t take action to stop it. Read the book and take the “no B.S.” approach to managing your own time and that of your staff. And in the spirit of time management, it is a quick and easy read that takes no time at all.
Jennifer Loud Ungar, a former practicing attorney, is the creator of “Unlock the Golden Handcuffs,” a six-step system to help lawyers find the career of their dreams inside or outside the practice of law.
Andrew Flusche Recommends: The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential … in Business and in Life
Information, responsibilities, clutter and tasks fill our lives. How can we manage everything? How can we be productive and have time left for relaxation? Simplify everything! That’s what Leo Babauta advocates in The Power of Less (Hyperion, 2009), in which he encourages his readers to focus on the essential and eliminate the rest. By simplifying our lives, we can then make time for the truly important (and gratifying) tasks. It makes perfect sense, when you think about it. We cannot add hours to the day, so we take tasks off the plate instead.
But don’t think that The Power of Less is just pie-in-the-sky principles. The pages are chock-full of practical ways to simplify different parts of your life, including your task list, your Internet use, your workspace, your filing cabinets and more. Babauta’s suggestions are useful for improving our lives at home and at the office, and everyone can implement some of the suggestions right away.
The Power of Less , which is Babauta’s first published book, is a natural addition to his popular blog, ZenHabits.net. Every busy professional should grab a copy of this book. It’s a quick and easy read, and you’ll be simplifying your life in no time.
Andrew Flusche is a solo attorney practicing in Fredericksburg, VA. He loves to find ways to simplify life to better serve his clients and spend more time with his wife.
Todd Kashdan Recommends: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Is it possible to manage the way we think so that we are more purposeful in analyzing ideas? A book that changed my life was The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan (Ballantine, 1997). This is the bible on critical thinking.
All sources of knowledge are fallible, and if we merely observe, we can be fooled or swayed by anecdotal evidence. Each of us is bombarded by the opinions of so-called experts. We need to ask where they get their knowledge and whether it is relevant to the evidence they present at any given moment. As for intuition and common sense, we are often privy to a number of errors, including giving undue weight to certain details and ignoring others. Sagan presents an airtight case for how we should be open-minded but at the same time be skeptics, scrutinize information, and bend over backwards to disconfirm ideas.
Going a step further, he also elaborates on how psychological conflicts of interest are far more damaging than financial conflicts of interest. This book reminds me not to get overly attached to ideas or theories and instead to remain focused on the continual pursuit of knowledge and understanding how things truly operate. Rewarding curiosity and allowing people to ask questions is the foundation of a good relationship, organization or society. Anything less ensures stagnation—or worse. Far too many atrocities in this world are the result of people mindlessly defending the status quo. The Demon-Haunted World should be mandatory reading and re-reading for everyone.
Todd Kashdan, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at George Mason University and the author of Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life (William Morrow). He blogs at blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/curious.
Reading Minds invites sage professionals to recommend favorite books on a chosen topic. If you have a book you’d like to share, contact Stephanie West Allen.