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5 Leadership Books That Challenge Us to Lead with Higher Ambition

At ConantLeadership we believe in having noble aspirations for our leadership. We know that the best organizations can “do well by doing good” through practices that create value for all stakeholders — your customers, your employees, your shareholders, your communities, and the world. Higher Ambition leaders are driven by a sense of purpose that goes beyond achieving financial success, and that purpose can drive them to achieve high performance that makes a tangible difference in people’s lives.

Higher Ambition leaders are driven by a sense of purpose.

That’s why our Founder & CEO, Doug Conant, helped to create the Higher Ambition Leadership Institute (HALI) in collaboration with the Center for Higher Ambition Leadership — a non-profit organization dedicated to helping a global community of leaders build high-performing organizations while also working to build a better world. At HALI, Doug works with high-potential leaders to better cultivate the profound possibilities that come with Higher Ambition leadership. One of the most important ways leaders can develop and grow is by reading the work of other Higher Ambition leaders. Here, we celebrate five important books that challenge us to live and lead with greater impact. We heartily encourage you to explore these books; we spend most of our waking hours either at work or thinking about work — shouldn’t we all pursue a Higher Ambition to make it as meaningful as possible?

Higher Ambition: How Great Leaders Create Economic and Social ValueHigher Am | Michael Beer, Russell Eisenstat, Nathaniel Foote, Tobias Fredberg, Flemming Norrgren

This book is essential reading for the 21st century. Increasingly, companies must behave in a way that is aligned with societal expectations — and they must strive to create value in a way that benefits all the stakeholders, not just the shareholders. This book addresses this need eloquently and comprehensively. Higher Ambition chronicles how the great leaders of this century are finding ways to create both economic and social value in an enduring way. It is about the lofty but achievable goal of harmonizing the economic return objectives of the enterprise with the best interests of society. The higher ambition notion presented here is profoundly meaningful and very deliverable.


TotalLeadershipTotal Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life | Stew Friedman

This book is required reading for leaders looking to meaningfully anchor their leadership journey to their life journey. The two journeys are, in fact, inextricably connected and Wharton Professor, Stew Friedman, brings this idea to life wonderfully. Friedman asserts that we don’t have to sacrifice success in one area (like work) to achieve success in another (like family) — in fact the best leaders can learn to become more successful in all dimensions of life: work, home, community, and self by being real, whole, and innovative. Total Leadership provides research-backed insights that can challenge you to achieve higher performance and satisfaction in your leadership and life.


From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadershipvaluesaction | Harry Kraemer Jr.

This book is written by a highly accomplished practitioner of leadership—Harry Kraemer, Professor of Management and Strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and former Chairman and CEO of Baxter International. Kraemer provides a step-by-step process for Higher Ambition leaders to deliver extraordinary results while “doing the right thing” in their leadership. He urges leaders to begin their journey with self-reflection so they can ensure they make decisions that are aligned with their values. Any leader searching for tools to make a bigger difference while staying true to themselves should enthusiastically digest these insights.


LEADERSHIP-CHALLENGE The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations | Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner

There’s a reason this seminal leadership text has sold over 2 million copies and continues to be among the most trusted sources of leadership information today — there is crucial information for today’s leaders contained therein. Backed by quality research, this book contains a call-to-action to reach ever-higher to make an extraordinary impact right in the title. And it follows through. Based on insights gleaned from leaders at all levels, this text helps ordinary people meet challenges and transform them into opportunities, and urges readers to persevere towards a better future. As the authors remind us, in an increasingly complex and tumultuous world, “teams, organizations, and communities need people to step up and take charge.” Are you up to the challenge? If so, a thorough reading of this book is a good place to start.


speedoftrustThe Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything | Stephen M.R. Covey

This is the most fundamental reading on trust by the most knowledgeable expert on trust building, Stephen M.R. Covey. Any leader with the noble ambition of building a high-performance organization in a sustainable way should begin here to better understand the crucial link between trust and performance. Covey challenges leaders to dispel the illusion that trust is an unessential or elusive skill. Instead, he asserts, “Contrary to what most people believe, trust is not some soft, illusive quality that you either have or you don’t; rather, trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create.” Readers and leaders who aspire to build high-trust, outstanding organizations should look no further — your trust guidebook is here.

What books did we miss — which required reading texts for Higher Ambition leaders would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments.

Doug Conant is remarkable—and so is this work.
– Stephen M. R. Covey
Author of The Speed of Trust

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