My Top Leadership Books & Coaching Biographies

Hello everyone! Listed below are a few of my top leadership books that rest in my library. In addition to the most recent additions of Win In The Dark and Chop Wood Carry Water by Jordan Medcalf, I have found these books to be essential in developing a well-rounded philosophy on leadership. Please feel free to comment and offer your thoughts on the books beneficial in building your growth mindset and leadership skills.

LEADERSHIP

Character Carved in Stone by Pat Williams The twelve leadership virtues include Compassion, Courage, Dedication, Determination, Dignity, Discipline, Integrity, Loyalty, Perseverance, Responsibility, Service, and Trust. Each virtue is dissected and detailed. Take each on separately and weave it into your philosophy and program. West Point graduate General H. Norman Schwartzkopf Jr., one of the Academy’s most illustrious graduates, once observed, “Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must do without one, be without the strategy.”

Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle Coyle takes a profound look at some of the world’s most successful organizations. From the U.S. Navy Seals Team Six to the San Antonio Spurs, the author reveals the path that makes these organizations go. From innovation, problem solving, to exceeding expectations, it is must read for leaders like yourself. Two plus two equals ten illustrates the synergy that separates the great organizations from the field. As a baseball coach, I want my nine to play like 10 or 11 and out-team the other team. 

Lead for God’s Sake: A Parable for Finding the Heart of Leadership by Todd Gongwer No book in my library affected me more than this one. It tugs at the human side of what Life is supposed to mean. Through leadership, relationships, and the pursuit of success, Gongwer forces the reader to re-evaluate their principles and how they live their lives. It is inspirational, leaving you wanting to do more—a positive read with real-life illustrations through the lives of a basketball coach, a successful CEO, and a gentle, soft-spoken, and unpretentious janitor.

Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips When we explore the most significant leader in history, one name appears most often – Abraham Lincoln. A President who assumed the duties in the White House during arguably the Nation’s most challenging time. Donald Phillips offers examples of near-perfect leadership skills, detailing Lincoln’s handling of his people, who are often said to be the essential asset to any organization, is the crux, the core of this book. From the first lesson of getting out of the office and circulating among troops, the book keeps giving you more.

The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork by John Maxwell Any book written by Maxwell, the leadership guru, is a superb read. This book examines teamwork dynamics using real life examples to illustrate leadership principles in communication, selflessness, values, and a shared vision. The book’s 17 Laws are separated so that you can indulge in one law at a time. It can be used as a playbook for team building, spurring an improvement in the all-important culture. 

The Winners Manual for the Game of Life by Jim Tressel. Although things have drastically changed for Coach Jim Tressel since his days at Ohio State, his work in this book carries its weight in leadership and leadership development. As a five-time National Championship coach, Tressel’s winners manual, developed at Youngstown State in the mid-1980s, can be used as a solid foundation to begin building your program to achieve excellence. Each chapter (there’s 10) concludes with questions for reflection followed by questions about your game plan giving this book a workbook feel. It is an easy read, loaded with examples and quotes to improve your team and its members.

COACHING BIOGRAPHIES

A Fire to Win: The Life and Times of Woody Hayes by John Lombardo Lombardo illustrates the epitome of old school coaching in his recount of the life of Woody Hayes. Hayes, who believed football was an extension of the battlefield, was intense and disciplined. Hayes centered his coaching foundation on the fundamentals within an uncomplicated system. Hayes teaches us to remain faithful to his principles, values, and beliefs. It was simple and sound. I have heard two things in my experiences that resonated with me and have guided my philosophy. One is “Do Simple Better,” and two is “Simplicity is the Ultimate of Sophistication.” Hayes was not flashy, but he was one of the best.   

Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work by Mike McCambridge (one of my favorite authors) The greatest coaches in NFL history often list Lombardi, Brown, Shula, Walsh, and Belichick as the best. Yet one name always seems to get overlooked – Chuck Noll. His Life’s Work provides the reader with an inside look at a coach, laced with humility who dedicated his life to coaching football. His transformation of the lowly Pittsburgh Steelers, who had never won a playoff game, to a four-time Super Bowl champion rests as a remarkable and unmatched accomplishment. A disciple of the great Paul Brown, Noll is shown as the ultimate teacher who motivated his men by demanding excellence and even better results. 

Paul Brown: The Rise and Fall and Fall Again of Footballs Most Innovative Coach by Andrew O’Toole My feelings are if a coach’s last name is attached to a professional team, I need to learn more about him. So I did. Paul Brown is the Cleveland Browns. He was an innovator, a visionary, and an excellent coach. Brown went from Massillon Washington High School to Ohio State to the newly founded Cleveland Professional Football Team (soon to be named “the Browns”), winning at every stop. He is known as the father of modern football. Brown’s career experienced plenty of ups and downs that illustrated the tenacity required to be a great leader of people. Brown is that person.

When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi by Dave Maraniss Often considered the greatest football coach of all-time, Lombardi’s life is thoroughly and meticulously detailed by Maraniss. From his childhood through his adolescence, college, and adult life, we learn that Vince worked exceptionally hard to achieve his professional goals. “Family, Religion, and Football” were the three essential principles he lived by and not necessarily in that order. Always the teacher, Lombardi’s leadership skills, albeit authoritative and demanding, give the audience a clear picture of how he built the Green Bay Packers into a dynasty that stands with the greatest teams ever. 

Wooden: A Coach’s Life by Seth Davis The greatest coach, college or professional, football or basketball, of all-time is arguably UCLA’s John Wooden. His 12 National Championships, all at UCLA, will likely stand forever, as will his 88-game winning streak. Davis digs deep into John Wooden’s life, giving readers an in-depth look at the complexities and simplicities of his life. From his evolution as a player at Purdue to the master coach he became and everything in between, this is a book every coach should own. The man who developed the “Pyramid of Success” – his life, from start to finish is an excellent read.

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