Great Summer Reads for Federal Leaders

06/08/2012 03:34 pm ET | Updated Aug 08, 2012
  • Tom Fox Vice President, Partnership for Public Service's Center for Government Leadership

With the unofficial start to summer upon us, I know many Washingtonians are in search of a good read. Even if you prefer The Hunger Games to the latest management tome, summer is the perfect time for federal leaders to check out some books that offer new leadership ideas, tools or techniques.

So whether you're headed out to the beach, mountains or just your neighborhood park this summer, here are five books to add to your packing list.

With his decorated military experience, principled leadership at the Department of State and experience working with both the private and nonprofit sectors, Powell is considered a leadership role model among a large number of the federal leaders and employees whom I have come into contact with over the years. In his book, Powell shares lessons learned from his public service career, including his "Thirteen Rules," which range from "Get mad, then get over it," to "Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision."

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen

Based on his popular Harvard Business Review article, innovation expert Christensen asks readers to answer some deceptively simple questions about fulfilling work, family relationships and ethics that may cause federal managers to reexamine their approach to life at work and at home. To help provide insight, Christensen shares lessons from some of the world's greatest business leaders.

Based on a TED Talk he delivered that went viral, Sinek offers ideas for how leaders can better communicate their vision and connect with their employees. Sinek examines leaders who've had great influence -- from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Wright Brothers to Steve Jobs -- and finds that despite the differences in their times and missions, they all think, act and communicate in the same way. This book can be a great resource for federal leaders who are trying to find classic ways of inspiring their teams and keeping them focused on achieving their agencies' goals and mission.

This book provides tips for how leaders can communicate more effectively by making their agency's culture more intimate, interactive, inclusive and intentional. At the heart of the book is the fundamental idea that the power of conversation can help drive employee engagement.

Given the difficult budget environment facing federal managers, you may be struggling with how best to adapt to the changing landscape both personally and organizationally. This book looks at the barriers to fundamental change and why crucial change efforts fail. It offers ways for leaders to overcome their resistance to change and transform both their life and their work.

In the coming weeks, I will be interviewing authors David Allen and George Anders and discussing their books, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and The Rare Find: Spotting Exceptional Talent Before Everyone Else, respectively. These are two books that I consider must-reads for the summer.

What leadership books are at the top of your summer reading list? Please share your suggestions by sending an email to

This post was originally featured on The Washington Post's website.