I called a good friend last week and asked her for a favor. My friend, Andrea, sits on the Board of Trustees at an East Coast private high school that has sent some of their students to participate in our annual
National Leadership Academy. “We’d love to have ten more of your students participate in our 21st Annual National Leadership Academy in Denver, Colorado, this June 25th– 28th,” I explained. I, then, proceeded to share with Andrea that I know another trustee at her school, who had sponsored a handful of students years ago, to attend our youth leadership academy. I suggested that she contact him for a reference and to learn more.

I was shocked to hear what came out of her and his conversation.

“I really see the value of what they are teaching at the National Leadership Academy, but our high school students are already learning about servant leadership at school. So, I don’t see the need for them to ‘double dip’.”  This was the feedback my friend, Andrea, received from her fellow trustee.

I was stunned to learn this. And, to be honest, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit how I responded.

“That is, absolutely, the stupidest thing that I’ve ever heard,” I shared with Andrea. “I didn’t know that once you learn about servant leadership, that you will never need to learn about it again!”

The sad thing is that this other trustee, who made the “double dip” comment, is a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company. With this type of shortsighted view on leadership development: Can you imagine what it was like to work for this guy? Can you envision the kind of personal development that occurred, or even worse, may not have occurred, on his team? I want to drink a gallon of gasoline at even the thought of the answers to these two questions.

This got me thinking: Do other leaders think that leadership development is a one-and-done course for study? Do some leaders believe that after they’ve read a book on this subject, like The Heart-Led Leader, that they will have magically received a lifetime-supply of leadership development? Do they figure that if they’ve attended one leadership training, retreat, or seminar, that they will, somehow, instantly be ready to lead hundreds of people? Do they think that if a person attends one marriage counseling session, that he, or she, would become “as good as gold” in the marriage department for the next fifty years?

I, certainly, hope not. But, unfortunately, I think my “double dip” friend is not alone. I think, sadly, there are far too many leaders out there that look at leadership development as a one-and-done course for study.

The best leaders that I know believe that leadership development is a lifelong journey. They are always reading yet another great leadership book; subscribing to the Harvard Business Review; attending a Heart-Led Leader Retreat; taking a 360-degree leadership assessment; watching YouTube videos produced by the Jack Welch Management Institute; or taking a leadership class at their local college… you get the point!

I’ve been running Heart-Led Leader Retreats for eight years now. We take a group of eighteen rising to senior corporate and organizational leaders off-site for a three-day long retreat. And, we teach them how to take heart-led leadership from a concept in a book, and turn it into a philosophical foundation that transforms their personal and professional lives and, most importantly, also impacts the lives of each and every employee at the organizations, they serve.

Do you know what I hear from EVERY attendee that has ever participated in a Heart-Led Leader Retreat? They tell me that they are thankful to have a boss, who invests in them, personally and professionally. They share that they are appreciative to have a manager, who wants to help and support them, as they work to become a better leader. They explain how inspiring it is to have a CEO, who understands the power of continuous learning, growing, and professional development. If I may be so bold… if you have a boss, a manager, or a CEO, who does not believe in these things… RUN, RUN, RUN! And, go work for (or start) a company that does.

So far, we’ve been quarantined, sheltered, and sequestered in our homes for over a month. And while we don’t know for certain, we could easily have another month, or so, to go. With this in mind, what leadership books have you read this month? What have you done to move the needle an inch, or two, in your personal development journey? Or, did you just sit home watching all of season three of Ozark on Netflix? I want to challenge us to be more deliberate and intentional about how we choose to spend our time.

To help you get started and without offending a hundred of my fellow leadership development authors and thought leader peers and friends, here is a list of the top leadership books that I think every leader should read.

Tommy Spaulding’s Top Ten Leadership Books of all Time*

Any book written by Jim Collins

Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Pat Lencioni

The Heart of Leadership, by Mark Miller

Above The Line, by Stephen & Mara Klemich

The Dream Manager, by Matthew Kelly

The One-Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard

Give & Take, by Adam Grant

Multipliers, by Liz Wiseman

Radical LEAP, by Steve Farber

The Energy Bus, by Jon Gordon

*And if you have time to read an eleventh leadership book, I’d, perhaps, humbly suggest throwing my book, The Heart-Led Leader, onto your list 😊.

Leadership development is NOT a one and done course. It is not a “check-the-box” activity, that leaves you certified for life. And, heart-led leadership is certainly not a subject you can master by solely reading the ten books, I’ve recommended above. But, as you flip each page, you will be progressing on your leadership journey. And there is not an ice cream flavor in the world that is more enjoyable, than growing, learning, and becoming a better human being–both personally and professionally. Now, that is a “double dip” worth celebrating!