Book Summary: A better lens on leadership and group performance.

DAC Book Cover

Direction, Alignment, Commitment: Achieving Better Results Through Leadership, Second Edition

by Cynthia McCauley and Lynn Fick-Cooper, Center for Creative Leadership

This book aims to help us refine our perspective on group performance by deepening our understanding of “leadership” and its impact on collective success. It encourages us to move beyond instinctively blaming individual leaders for poor performance. Instead, it urges us to recognize that leadership is a social process involving factors across the group, extending beyond the person in charge. As a result, a “leadership” problem isn’t always a “leader” problem. Effective leadership yields three outcomes within the group: direction, alignment, and commitment (DAC). We can enhance the overall success of the group by assessing and improving DAC variables in a holistic manner.

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Book Summary: What’s putting a lid on your success?

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful

by Marshall Goldsmith

“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” explores the habits and behaviors that can keep us from advancing in leadership.

Renowned executive coach Marshall Goldsmith argues that the focus shifts from technical skills to behaviors as we move up the organizational ladder. And bad habits and outdated strategies—many of which helped us get to where we are—can hold us back. He provides a roadmap for identifying and addressing these limitations and achieving next-level personal and professional growth. He uses real-life examples from his extensive coaching experience with top executives and leaders.

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Book Summary: 8 common challenges facing transitioning leaders.

Mater You Next Move book cover

Master Your Next Move: Proven Strategies for Navigating the First 90 Days – and Beyond

by Michael Watkins

Master Your Next Move is a guide for leaders who are transitioning into new roles, be it through promotions, taking a job at a different organization, or other career shifts. Successful careers involve navigating a sequence of demanding transitions, often occurring in clusters. It is crucial to map out these transitions, identify your personal adaptability, and recognize the obstacles to organizational change so that you can better understand the challenges you are facing.

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Book Summary: The four supporting roles in a CEO transition.

Transitions at the Top: What Organizations Must Do to Make Sure New Leaders Succeed

by Dan Ciampa and David L. Dotlich

Transitions at the Top aims to address the high failure rate and lackluster performance of newly-appointed CEOs of public corporations.

This summary comes with a caveat for nonprofits: the focus is on CEOs of public corporations. Public corporations have a different governance structure than nonprofits. First, their boards include inside (executive) directors and outside (independent) directors. Second, the current or former CEO often serves as board chair. Given the differences in governance structure and the role of the chief executive, some advice in those two areas must be taken with a grain of salt.

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Book Summary: Master your new job from Day One.

100-Day Action Plan book cover

The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Deliver Better Results Faster

by George B. Bradt, Jayme A. Check, and John A. Lawler

The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan is a comprehensive guide for newly appointed leaders, whether they are succeeding an incumbent in an existing position or taking on a newly created role. The book offers an in-depth exploration of the new leader’s journey and presents a practical, detailed roadmap for assuming full leadership in the new role. First-time leaders will find the step-by-step recommendations particularly helpful.

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Book Summary: Accelerate your success in your new role.

first 90 days book cover

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter

by Michael Watkins

The First 90 Days helps leaders to transition smoothly and make a positive impact early in their new job. The book focuses on the first 90 days because actions during the first few months in a new role determine if a leader succeeds or fails.

Whether you’ve been promoted to a new position within the same organization or you’re joining a different organization, this book covers how to get to the “breakeven point” faster and ultimately be more successful in your new role. (Breakeven is when you start to contribute more to the organization than you consume through learning and integration.) Watkins says this book’s principles can shorten the time to breakeven by 40%.

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What to Do When Your Executive Director Decides to Leave

Pensive executive

Nearly every nonprofit faces the challenge of hiring a new chief executive at some point. And every board seems to remember the terse line in their bylaws when it comes to managing the transition. The one that reads, “The board is responsible for hiring and supervising the chief executive.” Unfortunately, that directive doesn’t come close to addressing the board’s responsibility for managing executive turnover.

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Book Summary: A master class in making better decisions.

Thinking in Bets book cover

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts

by Annie Duke

Thinking with Bets promises to help us make better decisions in an uncertain and challenging world.

Written by poker champion and decision strategist Annie Duke, the book’s premise is that poker is a good metaphor for life. Decisions in life are bets on hoped-for outcomes. Like poker bets, these decisions can have significant consequences. And they are made under conditions of uncertainty, with incomplete information, and at least some luck is involved.

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Book Summary: How trust and purpose unleash performance.

Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies

by Paul J. Zak

Stewarding the organization’s culture and operating environment are among the most important leadership functions. And trust is one of the most crucial factors in that environment. Trust profoundly influences everything from employee retention to the organization’s ability to achieve its most crucial goals.

In the Trust Factor, neuroscientist Paul Zak uses his original research to reveal insights for building high-trust organizations. He explains how brain chemicals affect people’s behavior, how trust is undermined, and how you can stimulate it.

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Book Summary: Turn goals into accomplishments – systematically.

4 Disciplines of Execution book cover

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals

by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, Jim Huling, Scott Thele, and Beverly Walker

The premise of this book is that defining a strategy is easy, but executing it is difficult. And execution is made especially hard by what the authors call the “whirlwind” of daily activities necessary to keep the organization running. As always, urgency trumps importance. We need to elevate the importance of what the book calls “WIGs.” The one or two overarching, “wildly important goals” that would make all the difference in the world to your organization’s future and get your departments and teams to develop and focus on supporting WIGs.

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