Learning Leadership from Books

“Our managers don’t believe in learning leadership from books”.

I met a training manager last week. He was looking for someone who could help them develop leaders. His company needs leaders who can inspire and equip people.

They need leaders who walk the talk. They need leaders who are creative and innovative.

“We once studied a book written by John Maxwell, and our managers chose not to work on exercises. They said they don’t believe in by-the-book leadership”.

I asked them how they intend to develop leaders.

leadership books

“This is why we are looking for a leadership trainer who can help us. We need to develop our managers but they don’t want ‘scripted’ leadership.”

They don’t want canned programs.

Canned programs, of course, have a place in training. Companies may buy canned training programs to comply with industry standards. When it comes to standards, we can personalize the delivery but not the content.

I do not encourage companies to buy canned programs from big training providers to train ALL their leaders. Send a few leaders to learn what these training providers sell.

Use whatever you can to customize your own program. Come up with a better program than what they offer.

Design programs that advance your mission, vision, and values. Begin from your strategic direction. No one knows the solution to your leadership challenges. These training providers are not wearing your shoes.

You can learn good leadership from this book.

I told the manager that it is okay to use leadership books.

Managers don’t have to pattern their leadership after John Maxwell or Jack Welch. But these books are resources they can use to enrich their knowledge.

What’s wrong is to use the books as your only source for leadership development.


Because your leadership development must serve your organizational intent. There is no book in the market that can serve the unique needs of your organization. There is no canned program designed for you.

Commercial canned programs are for the masses. They are delivered by leadership trainers who get paid for teaching the exact program. These trainers are akin to actors playing a role.

When designing leadership training programs, I used books too. I am not a guru like John Maxwell. But I bet that John Maxwell has used dozens of sources to write a single book.

To help organizations personalize learning experiences, I use the tools of Design Thinking and User Experience Design. Because of my teaching background, I have been using many teaching methods and tools.

However, the tools of Design Thinking allow me to think like a designer of solutions. My objective is no longer to provide instruction but to help clients find and create solutions through various learning experiences.

I also use the books Leadership Challenge, Influence, 4 Disciplines of Execution, and The Greatest Salesman in the World as frameworks and inspirations for designing programs.

In coming up with in-depth programs that target vital skills, I read at least a dozen of books and consult practitioners.

Books are a good place to start. The authors have tried their best to give form to their experiences. They help us to understand in hours what they have learned in years.

But sometimes, they missed the most essentials.

You do not learn from books by reading them. Reading a book is a good start. But to learn from them, you must begin with questions that you need to answer to help leaders become better.

Most workshops based on books are wasted opportunities, I know.

That’s because many trainers try to tell you what’s in the book, and not how a few insights or tools from the book can help you solve problems.

Leadership training must be practical, not theoretical.

This is why I am not teaching Leadership Challenge. I use the book as a framework. I created new tools and designed new practices. [mfn] many thanks to Thiagi and Gamestorming[/mfn].

Learning leadership from books is a good start.

Note: Find 3 examples of leadership training programs below.

3 thoughts on “Learning Leadership from Books”

  1. Pingback: Learning Leadership from Books : A Good Start for Leaders - Sahyadri Media

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