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Five best books on leadership and management

The ways to develop leadership skills have changed as workplace dynamics have shifted. One fact that remains, though, is that leadership is earned.

Curiosity and the unwavering pursuit of knowledge have been integral to curating talented individuals into executives. Career development extends beyond technical skills. Today's leaders need to be intuitive, collaborative and centered on emotional intelligence.

Here are five must-read books that focus on developing these qualities.

1. Give and Take by Adam Grant

Traditionally, we have learned that the individual drivers of success are passion, hard work, talent and luck. However, in today's complex world, relationships and personal interactions have been elevated to must-have behaviors for success, both personally and professionally. Adam Grant's Give and Take examines the surprising forces that shape why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others sink to the bottom. Are givers chumps? Are takers excessively self-absorbed? Give and Take opens up a thoughtful approach to work, interactions, and personal and professional success. Find out if you are a giver or a taker.

2. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

In this instant New York Times bestseller, pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth, PhD, shows anyone striving to succeed - parents, students, educators, athletes or business people - that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent or IQ, but a special blend of passion and persistence that she calls "grit." Grit is a unique combination of passion and perseverance for long-term goals. She posits that grit is a predictor of success.

For Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Dr. Duckworth and her research team studied cadets at West Point, finalists in the National Spelling Bee, teachers working in some of the toughest schools and employees of private companies, and asked "who is successful and why?" She also shares what can be learned from modern experiments in peak performance. Grit is a book about how to deal with failure and that luck or talent don't make the difference. Grit does - a blend of passion and long-term perseverance can lead to a successful life.

3. Being Clutch, Or How Not to Choke Under Pressure by Paul Sullivan

Sooner or later everyone encounters a situation in which the stakes are high and the outcome is vital. And even top performers can crumble when faced with such extreme pressure. But then there are the performers who thrive under such conditions. In Being Clutch, Or How Not To Choke Under Pressure, Mr. Sullivan suggests that clutch performance does not stem from an innate ability. It's a learned skill, the art of operating in high-stress situations as if they were everyday conditions. He shares examples of those who possess "clutch" and those who don't. Why do some people succeed and thrive under pressure when most people don't? Mr. Sullivan studied those he identifies as being "clutch" and noted that they possess the following traits:

  1. Focus
  2. Discipline
  3. Adaptability
  4. The ability to be present
  5. The push and pull of fear and desire

Mr. Sullivan notes that, while it is easier to choke than to be clutch, the good news is that anyone can be clutch if they are willing to work at it and adapt the above traits.

4. The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Crucial Difference between Success and Mastery by Sarah Lewis

Sarah Lewis's The Rise examines how the world's most revolutionary innovations and creative art are not achievements but the result of many failed attempts. She presents case studies that clearly depict the value and benefits of failure. Among others, she offers, as evidence, the legendary polar explorer, Captain Scott, the pioneering social reformer, Frederick Douglass Lewis and the inventor Thomas Edison as exemplars of people who viewed failure as a learning experience, a trial or a reinvention that lead them to success. Ms. Lewis suggests that conceptualizing the word "failure" to "near win" would allow people to view it for what it is - an event that can propel us on the road to mastery. A "near win" is an invitation to grow. She argues that the centerpiece of mastery is failure. She contrasts both mastery and success and the importance of knowing the difference. Mastery is a constant pursuit of a goal requiring endurance. While success is an event-based victory within a moment of time.

Mr. Lewis eloquently makes the case that many of the world's greatest achievements have come from understanding the central importance and value of failure.

5. The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose

Todd Rose skillfully debunks the notion of the "average" person and heralds in the concept that each and every one of us is an individual in The End of Average. While he emphasizes that average is useful perhaps when comparing two groups, he notes that it is a useless measurement when selecting someone for a specific role, such as an engineer, pilot or doctor. He presents an argument as to the enormous consequences of using the "averagerian model" versus applying principles of individuality, when selecting people for admission into schools or hiring or promoting an employee. He labels the "average person" a myth that must be debunked as there is no scientific basis for assessing achievement based on average score, average grade and average performance review. This notion of using "average" as a measurement, he claims, undermines the human potential in all of us. He makes recommendations regarding the structure, processes and organization of businesses and education to consider as there is a mutual benefit in tapping into everyone's potential.

Kathy Gallo, RN, PhD, is Northwell Health's chief learning officer and dean and professor at the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. She is responsible for leadership development throughout the organization, as well as the creation and implementation of a comprehensive learning strategy. Dr. Gallo has more than 25 years of experience in emergency nursing, having held a variety of clinical and administrative positions in tertiary care hospitals on Long Island.

"Traditionally, we have learned that the individual drivers of success are passion, hard work, talent and luck. However, in today’s complex world, relationships and personal interactions have been elevated to must-have behaviors for success, both personally and professionally."
— Kathy Gallo, RN, PhD