2009 Book Club


Each month, I will add a new book which I believe is important for public health leaders and leaders from other sectors in the development of  your personal leadership skills and knowledge necessary to understanding leadership in today’s chaotic environment.  I hope you will comment on these books and begin a dialogue on how the information from the book helps you in your leadership activities.

Mid-December 2009 Book Selection- Warren Bennis, Daniel Goleman, and James O”Toole, TRANSPARENCY, Jossey-Bass, 2009.   For my final book club selection for 2009, I have chosen a book with three essays on the issue of transparency.   The authors look at the pros and cons of transparency and how leaders create a culture of candor.   Specifically they address the issue of transparency in government and how the lack of it often backfires.   In the past whistle blowers often suffered as a result of calling for truth in organizations and government.   The issue of truth to people in high level powerful positions is often affected by these administrators resistance to hearing anybody who disagrees with them.   the Internet has changed  how we get information.    it is hard to hid information today.   Somebody will expose this information sometimes trutfully and sometimes inaccurately.    Leaders need to be as transparent as possible. This book is a fast but worthwhile read by three well-known leadership writers.  Also see the Obama Administration Executive Order on transparency.  http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/memoranda/M10-06.pdf

December 2009 Book Selection-Edward M. Kennedy, TRUE COMPASS, 12Books, 2009.  For this holiday season,  I have given myself a wonderful gift which I now share with my blog readers.   It is the story of a life.   It is the story of a flawed man who suffered many tragedies in his life.   It is a man who made many mistakes.   Yet, it is the story of a statesman and a leader who never lost his faith in the future of our democracy.   He believed strongly in social justice.    He fought poverty in our Nation.   He spent his public life in the Senate fighting for the rights of the American People and People around the globe.  He believed in health reform and fought many years for health equity for all. On the last pages of his autobiography, he asks his readers to continue the fight for him.   It is not important if you are a Democrat or a Republican, Ted Kennedy believed that we can work through our differences and come up with solutions that will benefit us all.   This book is about leadership and it is a book about love of family and love of each other.

Mid-November 2009 Book Selection- Bruce Sterling, SHAPING THINGS, Mediaworks, 2005. Managers spend much of their time solving problems.  We expect leaders to be innovative and creative.   This book discusses the importance of design in understanding how change has impacted our lives over the centuries. Sterling is a science fiction writer who views our world relative to the way objects and things affect our lives.  This book uses design and graphics in a uniques way to make the book look different than other books.  The things in our lives make us different from previous generations.  This is the age of gizmos.  The computer and internet as well as all the other gadgets in our lives is changing the way our technosociety functions.    We are moving toward the SPIME society where our relationship to objects will be even more of a codependent form.   In the SPIME society, we will have microchips in our bodies and more things implanted to increase our lifespan.   I think this book will lead to much discussion and will give readers new perspectives on the ways we will practice our leadership and shape things for the future.

November 2009 Book Selection-Ron Bialik, GraceL. Duffy, and John W. Moran, THE PUBLIC HEALTH QUALITY IMPROVEMENT HANDBOOK, 2009, ASQ Quality Press.    This is a very important and very useful book.    A copy of this book should be on the desk of every public health administrator in the United States.   It is not that this book is always easy to read.   I set a target of one chapter a day for a month.   The 28 chapters are written by experts in the quality improvement field who recognize the importance of public health leaders supporting the improvement of our public health system.   The book is jam-packed with theory, tools and case study examples of how quality initiatives will strengthen our public health system.   Strong arguments are also made for the importance of accreditation of our state and local health departments as a movement toward more quality programs.   Several chapters in the book begin the important discussion of public health quality improvement at the community level. The important issue requires dicussion of the social determinants of health as well as the issue of personal life style behavior changes.  I strongly recommend this book to all my blog readers.

Mid-October 2009 Book Selection-Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves,EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2.0,2009, Talent Smart.    For over a decade and a half, there has been a growing interest in the importance of social skills for effective leaders.   In 1995, Daniel Goleman wrote a now classic book on emotional intelligence and its four major components of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management,   We now realize that it is often our technical skills that get us a job, but our social skills that help us to move up in the organizations for which we work.   The authors discuss the whole issue of the importance of emotional intelligence skills for leaders and present a model for developing the skills.   For the price of this book, you can take a test online to measure your skills in the four domains of emotional intelligene.   The authors strongly believe that it is possible to increase your EQ scores if you try the many strategies they present for doing this.   This is a very useful book for leaders and managers. The authors have a very good website as well as a downloadable newsletter that continues our understanding of the importance of emotional intelligence.     http://www.talentsmart.com

October 2009 Book Selection-Peter Senge, Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur, and Sara Schley, THE NECESSARY REVOLUTION, Doubleday, 2009. This book begins to answer the questions raised by Jared Diamond in his book COLLAPSE(March 2009 Book Selection).   This book is about sustainability and what we must do do to save our world. Things must change.   It is important to address environmental issues such as climate change from a systems perspective.   Usint the systems model presented by Peter Senge in his now classic book THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE, the authors apply a number of systems tools to address sustainability One of the important models presented relates to the four elements of shareholder value related to internal changes needed in organizations to become green and external issues that must be addressed leadership is needed at many levels to bring sustainability to the forefront of our actions   The good news is that there are an increasing number of examples of individuals and organizations that are making poitive changes occur.  More are clearly needed if we are to save our planet.

Mid-September2009 Book Selection- Edward L. Baker, Anne J. Menken, and Janet E. Porter, MANAGING THE PUBLIC HEALTH ENTERPRISE, Jones and Bartlett, 2010.   By now, my Blog Readers must know how much I love to read.  However,  work often bombards us with activities that cut the amount of time that we have to read.   That is why I love to find books which have either short chapters or short essays on many topics.   This is one of those books that present many ideas to help the public health professional to manage and to lead more effectively.   There are 28 short essays  on managing people, managing partnerships, managing communications, and managing business.   The articles cover such topics as coaching, diversity issues, business plans and fundraising.

September 2009 Book Selection-John B. McGuire and Gary B. Rhodes, TRANSFORMING YOUR LEADERSHIP CULTURE, Jossey-Bass, 2009.   Change is a difficult process.   According to the authors, about two-thirds of change initiatives in organizations fail because the change attempted is primarily to impact operations rather than the culture of the organization.   Outside in change must be tied to changes in the leadership culture of the organization(inside out change).  The top leadership of an organization need to show true readiness to  change for it to succeed.  The three elements necessary for leadership culture change are time sense, change in source of control, and intentionality. For the leadership culture to change, there is a need to move the organization forward from a Dependent-Conformer leadership logic(command and control approach) to  an Independent-Achiever logic to  an Interdependent-Collaborator logic.   Each stage must be passed through by the leaders of an organization.  The authors explore these leadership culture changes in terms of the outcomes of direction, alignment, and commitment(DAC approach). Long term change is not possible without a change in leadership culture. The authors explore the three frameworks for transformation which include Inside-Out(leadership culture), readiness for change, and Headroom dialogue(learning organization model plus intense discussion on leadership). The suthors also discuss the six stage  culture development cycle built on the concepts and ideas discussed above.   This is a very comprehensive approach to organizational transformation that is worth the read.

Mid-August 2009 Book Selection-Peter H. Daly and Michael Watkins, THE FIRST 90 DAYS IN GOVERNMENT, Harvard Business School Press, 2006.  over the last year, i have served as one of the faculty members of the Survive and Thrive Program for new local health officials sponsored by the National Association of County and City Health officials and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.   This book is one of the major readings for this program.   The Fellows in the program have found this book to be very useful for new government health officials.  The book explores the transition into government leadership positions through the use of a nine part transition map, tied to diagnosis of the situation of the agency, definition of goals,  designing strategies, and the delivery of results.   Another useful part of the book is  a determination of the type of organization that the new administrator has selected to run from start-up, turnaround , realignment and sustaining success organizations.       This is a very good book to guide your personal integration into a new administrative position.

August 2009 Book Selection- Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky,  THE PRACTICE OF ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP, Harvard Business Press, 2009.  An important truth known by most leaders is that there is really no such thing as  a status quo.   Life is about change.   This book presents many excellent tools and tactics for the leader who knows that organizations and communities need to be adaptable to all the changes that occur.  Adaptation requires flexibility, resilience, a strong bounce back factor, and an understanding that change requires leadership.   The authors build on the concept of the balcony where we view the big picture and the dance floor where we view the world selectively and in a more focused way.   The authors also differentiate short term technical fixes from more long term adaptation.  The book is divided into four major sections including the diagnosis of the system, mobilization of the system, the importance of leaders seeing themselves as a system, and finally methods for leaders to deploy themselves.  The authors view systems from the perspective of structure, culture, and defaults.  Leaders need to be able to define adaptive challenges and learn ways to better deal with the conflicts that will arise from  attempts to resolve these challenges.  It is also worthwhile for the reader leader to understand the unique perspective that the authors bring to the adaptation and change paradigm that they present.   Also look at the book by Heifetz entitled LEADERSHIP WITHOUT EASY ANSWERS, Belknap Press, 1994 and the book by Heifetz and Linsky, LEADERSHIP ON THE LINE, Harvard Business School Press, 2002.   You might also find their company website interesting:     www.cambridge-leadership.com

Mid-July 2009 Book Selection-Edward De Bono, SIX THINKING HATS, Back Bay Books, 1999.  This is one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors.  De Bono is an extremely creative writer who has developed unique understanding of the way we humans think.   he has talked about parallel and lateral thinking.   He has written numerous books.   This is a special book that presents a technique for resolving  challenges to organizations and communities as well as creating an agenda for future action.   The utilization of the six thinking hats approach leads to solutions in a short period of time where trasditional ways lead to impasses.  I have worked with groups utilizing this technique as well as others and found that the technique always seems to work.   The white hat explores our knowledge of what is.  The red hat examines emotions and how they hold us back.  The green hat is about new ideas.   The black hat examines why our ideas often do not work.  The yellow hat  looks at the positive and how to make our ideas work.  The blue hat organizes the way we think.   create some working teams and try the model.   You will be surprised by the results.   if you like the model, you might like to explore Edward De Bono’s SIX ACTION SHOES, Harper Business, 1991.  Also visit   http://www.edwdebono.com

July 2009 Book Selection-Richard Templar, THE RULES OF MANAGEMENT, Prentice-Hall, 2005.  I have read a number of rule books over the past several years.   Templar is a master of this genre and has written a number of these books.    This book is an excellent compilation of 100 rules for managers and I would add Managerial Leaders who do most of their work in organizations.   I usually keep one rule book or other on my desk and read a rule a day.   Templar is a British writer.  What I like about this Templar book is that his rules are based on his personal experiences in a number of organizations.  For example, he distinguishes between a  politician and a manager.  He argues that politicians are paid to engage in politics.   Politicians use people for their narrow ends.  Managers work with people for common ends.   You will enjoy this book and find a number of the rules help you to clarify what you do as a manager or a leader on a daily basis.

Mid-June 2009 Book Selection-Ken Blanchard, John britt, Judd Kockstra, and Pat Zigarmi, WHO KILLED CHANGE? William Morrow, 2009.  Ken Blanchard and his colleagues have written more than 30 books on leadership and managment using stories to demonstrate their principles.  These books are built on the major principle that the situation defines the type of leadership that needs to be demonstrated.   Although leaders have preferences for specific leadership styles, they need to demonstrate flexibility and modify their preferred styles to fit the situation.   This mystery tale invovlves the murder of  Change who is found dead on the floor of a conference room in a fictional company.  A detective  interviews key personnel of the company including Culture, Commitment, Sponsorship, Change Leadership Team, Communication, urgency, Vision, Plan, Budget, Trainer, Incentive, performance management, and Accountability.   The Detective is concerned that Change is murdered in many organizations and the ability to create change is exceedingly difficult.   The suspects listed above are all critical in making change succeed.   The detective succeeds in solving the case.   You will have to read the book to find out who the murderer is.   For further information, visit   www.howwelead.org

June 2009 Book Selection- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, THE BLACK SWAN, Random House, 2007.  BEWARE!  You may find this book upsetting if you are addicted to the status quo, planning, prediction, certainty, and the Gaussian bell-shaped curve.  The author argues that  many things impact the future and they are not the things or events that we expect.  We often let our theories define our actions when these theories do not really represent reality.  The Black Swan relates to unexpected happenings that are not predictable, have a major impact on our lives and our communities, and we often interpret incorrectly in terms of our flawed theories of reality.  Nassim talks about Mediocristan which assumes that all events fit into a bell-shaped curve with extreme events seen as less likely to occur.  This is contrasted with Extremistan where the exceptional events  are more likely to impact our lives(the Black Swans)  Mediocristan is more  academic in that our theories seem to guide all our interpretations.   Practitioners see reality and interpret events in terms of reality rather than in terms of some preconceived theoretical concern.   Despite his  concern with the uncertainties, he does recognize that there are some events that may be predictable.   The leader must be flexible and able to adjust to these regularly occurring Black Swan events.    This book is not an easy read, but it does have humor and does provide us with an interesting and important view of the world.  keep and open mind and think about the ideas that Nassem presents and how these ideas can affect your practice.

Mid-May 2009 Book Selection-Seth Godin, TRIBES, Portfolio, 2008.   If you like books that are well-organized, this is not the book for you.   If you like innovative approaches to leadership and you like stories, this is the book for you.   Leadership is always about choice and getting others to believe in the ideas and messages that you are trying to develop.  Tribes are groups of people attached to an idea and often to the person that presents that idea to you.   Tthe idea may come to you online or from someone you meet at a party.  Although we often find ourselves in structured silos with old ideas and a concern more for protecting the status quo than creating change and innovation, tribes are complex relationships oriented to change, innovation, and a general sense of ongoing excitement where the tribe defines its identity and structure.   Leaders in tribes are often heretics who risk upsetting the status quo in the pursuit of these new approaches to life and work.  Tribes have flexible boundaries and  become tighter over time. Tribal members have strong faith in the idea and the leader.  Tribal leaders help connect followers to one.  Godin is fascinating to read with new perspectives on almost every page.   If you enjoy this book, you may also enjoy Godin’s book THE DIP(Portfolio, 2007) in which he argues that many of us  create a new idea and hit a low period when we try to implement these new ideas.   The Dip or setback is often short-lived and leads to positive results on the other side.   If you like Godin, visit his website  www.SethGodin.com  and doublclick on his head which takes you to his Blog.


Since September 11, 2001, Public Health Leaders and their community preparedness partners have addressed the infrastructure needs of our communities in order to be prepared for any man-made or natural disaster.   Much money has been poured into communities to create better planning and response strategies for these events.  Amanda Ripley is an investigative reporter for Time Magazine and has written a very important book for all of us who serve the public.  Her important premise is that  most of our preparedness planning activities  have been developed to  impact the  needs and requirements of our emergency officials and not designed for the average citizen.  This book concentrates on the regular people  in our communities.   Why are some of us survivors and some of us are not.  She discusses the survival arc of denial, deliberation, and the decisive moment.  ripley interviewed the survivors of all sorts of disasters and emergencies.  The delay stage is characterized by delay and risk.  Deliberation is characterized by fear, resilience, and groupthink.  The resilience factor turns out to be very important.  I recommend looking at www.resiliencycenter.com  for some more interesting information on this important factor.  For Ripley, the decisive moment issues involve panic, paralysis, and heroism.    This book will give the reader important new perspectives on how crisis affects our lives.   The reader can also follow the continuing discussion on the topics of the book on   www.amandaripley.com

Mid-April 2009 BOOK SELECTION-Spencer Johnson, PEAKS AND VALLEYS, Atria Books, 2009.

Spencer Johnson is the author of three of the most popular business books of the past several years– THE ONE MINUTE MANAGER(1982)-With Kenneth Blanchard, WHO MOVED MY CHEESE(1998), and THE PRESENT(2003).   Johnson has the ability to take complex issues and transform them into a simple set of rules to guide behavior at the personal and professional levels.   He does it successfully as does Blanchard through the use of stories.  The important lesson is that most of us live our lives by a set of rules that guides much of our behavior.  Johnson tries to get his readers to modify their operational rules or add other rules to their actions that will add value to their lives.   In this latest book, Johnson tackles the reality issue related to the fact that we all go through good times(peaks) and through times that are not so good(valleys).   However, he argues that we can become aware that there are valuable lessons to be learned  at both our peaks and valley times.  In bad times, it is important to explore the reasons why these times occur and apply a sensible vision to help us live through these hard times.   In good times, we must not become complacent but work to maintain these peaks.  In the book, he points out that it is always worthwhile to explore the truth of a situation.   There are always positives even in the worst of times.   Johnson says that we have the responsibility to share these lessons with others.    This book was a fun read and gives  us hope that the present problems in our society can be understood and overcome.  If you enjoy this book, you may want to read one of Johnson’s less well-known books, YES OR NO: THE GUIDE TO BETTER DECISIONS(1992).

APRIL 2009 BOOK SELECTION-Rob Cross and Andrew Parker, THE HIDDEN POWER OF SOCIAL NETWORKS, Harvard Business School Press, 2004.

I remember reading the work of Moreno as a graduate student.  He presented a discussion of the importance of social networks and ways to study them.  A long research tradition has followed this work.  Cross and Parker bring together this long research tradition and show ways to apply these findings and translate them into practice.   This is an excellent book that not only reaquaintes  me with the importance of social networks but also with their applicability to understanding the organizations that we work for.  Leadership is about understanding how these informal networks work, but also how to use this information to improve the way our organizations carry out their activities.  The authors strongly argue that social network analyses help managers and leaders to address the disconnects in the organization and plan strategies to remove or ameliorate these disconnects. It is important to realize that collaboration is important, but it is also important to recognize when collaborations work and when they don’t. Networks look different when we are addressing such issues as information flow, information sharing, impact of energy  of leaders and managers as a network phenomenon, boundary spanning activities, and so on. Cross and Parker also explore how network analysis helps leaders to pinpoint problems, build bridges within the organization or outside it, change the formal structure of the organization, and encourage innovation.  The authors also discussed how social networks are impacted by strategic positioning, work management practices, human resource practices, formal structure, and leadership and culture..  The book also presents useful tools for doing social network analysis as well as ways to analyze this information.  This book will cause your leadership light bulb too glow with new ways to work and strengthen your organizations.  If you find this book selection beneficial, you may also want to read Rob Cross and Robert J. Thomas recent book DRIVING RESULTS THROUGH SOCIAL NETWORKS, Jossey-Bass, 2009. One of the issues raised in the new book relates to the issue of alignment between organizational culture and organizational network analyses.  It is important to do an organizational culture assessment to go along with the network analysis process. Second, the future of most organizations is determined by the creation of innovations and means to execute them. Innovation often comes out of collaboration.  Leaders need to utilize network analysis to address obstacles to innovation whenever they occur.  finally, leaders need to monitor adaptation to change and innovation.

MID-MARCH 2009 BOOK SELECTION- John P. Kotter,A SENSE OF URGENCY, Harvard Business Press, 2008

This is the latest book by Kotter who is  one of the major writers on change.   This book argues strongly for the need to recognize that we live in times in which change is a constant.  In the past, change was more episodic in nature.   Despite this continuous change, many organizations tend to be resistant to change.   People within these organizations tend to be happy with the status quo.  This complacency can harm the organization over the long run.  Kotter points out that it is necessary to generate a real sense of urgency within the organization if change is to occur. it is important to be wary of a false sense of urgency which is a flurry of activites that do not create the change that the organization needs.  A real sense of urgency involves not only the intellectual understanding that the organization nees to move forward, but also an emotional commitment as well.  This latter point is well illustrated in Kotter’s last two books–THE HEART OF CHANGE(2002)  and the parable book OUR ICEBERG IS MELTING(2005). Most of the new book involves the detailed discussion of the four tactics for creating this real sense of urgency–bringing the external environment into the organiztion, the need to behave with urgency evvery day, using crisis as an opportunity to create the urgency, and dealing with the internal critics to any kind of change-the “NoNos.”  This book has much relevance at this historical period in which change is the order of the day.  Government leaders will need to utilize the techniques discussed by Kotter in this book.


It is hard to believe that it is over forty years since I first read Rachel Carson’s now classic book SILENT SPRING and almost forty years since I read Paul Ehrlich  also classic book THE POPULATION BOMB.  Both these books discussed how human beings were misusing the resources of our planet.   In the intervening years, we have continued in our negative ways and we have so politicized the  process of justifying our misuse of the resources of our planet.  We now face  major crises related to our environment.  As leaders, we need to take responsibility for our actions and for protecting our planet for future generations.  An importantt book in our renewed need to understand the effects of our actions is the book by Diamond.  The environmental problems we face are not new.  Diamond traces human impact on the environment from prehistoric times to the present.  This book is not an easy read, but it is a worthwhile read.  He discusses in detail twelve important environmental problems that create challenges to our future: destruction of natural habitats, mismanagement of resources from our waterways, decline in wild plant and animal species and populations as well as genetic diversity, soil erosion due to agriculture, depletion of energy resources, depletion of freshwater sources, limits on photosynthesis capacity over time, releases of toxic chemicals into the air and soil and oceons and lakes and rivers, the transfer of alien species to new places with harmful effects, human activities that produce gases into the environment that cause global warming, population expansion itself, and finally the impact of increasing population on the overall environment.  Every leadewr needs to underastand how we do things and what they must do to change our ways.


Almost forty years ago, the Gallup Organization began the study of managers and more recently leaders.   Out of this extensive work, a number of books and many articles have been written.  The essence of the body of work is that people need to be guided more by their strengths than their weaknesses.  The body of work also led to the development of an instrument to measure an individual’s stengths—the Strengths Finder.  This recent book by Rath and Conchie is the latest book in the series which reports on leaders.  From the early work which designated 34 talent categories, this book  adds the four domains of leadership strength–executing, influencing, relationship-building, and strategic thinking..  Each domain is built upon a redistribution of the 34 talent categories from Strengths Finder 2.0.  In addition, the authors discuss the four basic needs of followers–trust, compassion, stability, and hope.  The book also offers the reader the opportunity to take the Strengths Finder 2.0 online and then receive their own personal leadership strengths profile.  For the price of the book, the leadership reader gets much. I strongly recommend this book to leaders and managers.


In recent years, there has been increasing concern about ways to balance work and our home lives.    Our family lives seem to have become more chaotic with the increasing demands on our time to do all that the modern family needs to do.   There does not seem to be enough time to do everything.  Lencioni( www. tablegroup.com) sddresses these issues in his new book.  Families are organizations that can utilize many techniques that are also used in other types of organizations.  Using a leadership fable, Lencioni demonstrates a model for families based on answering three critical questions.  The first question relates to what is special and unique about your family.  Core values and specific strategies for the family help family members define this uniqueness.  The second question involves the determination of a rallying cry which is the family’s top priority for a designated period of time. Defining objectives are developed  as goals for reaching your top priority.  Standard  objectices  are those things that are critical to the family’s functioning.  The third question involves methods such as family meetings tomonitor progress of the family in meeting its goals.  Many case eamples of how to use the model are given by Lencioni.  If you like this book, I would recommend that you read others by Lencioni as well.  I specifically enjoyed THE FIVE DYSFUNCTIONS OF A TEAM and DEATH BY MEETING.


This is a book by former Senator Tom Daschle.  It gives an excellent overview to Daschle’s perspective on health care reform.  The book gives stories of individuals who have lost their health care coverage.  Daschle also gives an historical overview of attempts at health reform over the last several decades. In the book, he offers key solutions and  a blueprint for solving the health-care crisis in America.  He argues for the development of a Federal Health-Care Board which would create a framework with a uniform set of national standards and structures for the health care system.   Thus, the purpose of the Board is to create a public framework for a  generally private health care delivery system.    Daschle does recognize that existing health insurance plans do not pay for important public health interventions(p. 160) and he does point out that prevention services, mental health , and dental care are routinely not covered in most  health care insurance plans. As a supplemental reading,  I strongly recommend  the articles “America’s Health Checkup: and  “Why Reform’s Moment Is Now” in the December 1, 2008 issue of Time Magazine(Vol. 171, No.22, pp.  41-51).


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