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Chancellor’s Professional Reading List

“Books open your mind, broaden your mind, and strengthen you as nothing else can.”

—William Feather

The Office of Professional Development is pleased to announce The Virginia Community College System’s first Chancellor’s Professional Reading List. This curated list includes professional development book recommendations from VCCS college presidents and the VCCS Chancellor in the categories of education and leadership.

Reading thought-provoking books will always be a pillar of self-paced professional development. This professional reading list is designed:

  • to expand existing knowledge, skills and abilities
  • to foster individualized growth, commitment, and renewal
  • to provoke critical thinking, analysis and reflection
  • to inspire commitment to innovation in educational practices
  • to provide an avenue for campus dialogue and debate
  • to cultivate excellence in community college education
  • to support an ethos of continuous learning and professional development among VCCS faculty, staff, and administrators

To borrow a line from William Faulkner: “Read, read, read.” Then discuss — in campus book clubs; in learning communities; during in-service training days; at professional development sessions; in class; over lunch; but discuss. Use these great reads as a tool to:

Engage. Transform. Succeed.

 

Book Title Author(s) Recommended By Comments
Angels in the WhirlwindBenson BobrickChancellor Glenn DuBoisI would recommend any book on Washington, but this one is particularly compelling. This is a portrait of our nation’s birth, and the leaders who shaped it. It’s the story of independence and rebellion; patriotism and loyalty. We must all remember that Washington did something that not many leaders would do: he walked away from power not once, but twice. That is a profound testament to his legacy, and an imperative lesson for us all.
Mornings on HorsebackDavid McCulloughChancellor Glenn DuBoisThis is an inspiring book about drive, tenacity, and impressive self-determination. As an avid reader of historical biographies, I find this to be an enthralling story of Theodore Roosevelt’s early years. It’s been described as a penetrating character study, a brilliant social history, and a work of important scholarship. But to me, it’s a moving story of self-determination, and a remarkable little boy who beat the odds.
Start with WhySimon SinekDr. Al RobertsAny person can explain "what" they do. Most can explain "how" they do it; but very few can clearly articulate "why." "Why" is the thing that inspires us and those around us.
The Sea is So Wide and My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next GenerationMarian Wright EdelmanDr. Al RobertsEdelman asks difficult questions about what we truly value, and looks at what we must do to build a nation fit for all children. She calls us all to stand up for the future of America.
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas In Just Five DaysJake KnappDr. Angeline GodwinHigher education is often negatively labeled as bureaucratic and sluggish in decision-making. SPRINT drives us to map out an idea from concept to testing in just five days. While complex initiatives or problems certainly require more than one week, this strategy clearly enhances the ability to focus and to explore opportunities quickly. The MAP + SKETCH + DECIDE + PROTOTYPE + TEST steps, one for each day, work beautifully for team building as well.
Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and BusinessCharles Duhigg Dr. Angeline GodwinSMARTER, FASTER, BETTER builds on Duhigg’s book HABITS, emphasizing that how we work as a group is even more important than who is actually in the group. As we build dream teams, this book provides some priceless insights on how individual choices and decision making influences productivity. As we try to improve everything that we do, and yes, doing more with less, this work provides some valuable insights and practical strategies.
Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in CommandDouglas Southall Freeman/SearsDr. Bruce ScismWhen I read this, as with my other choice, I was struck by the theme that runs throughout: how and why leaders, in both informal and formal leadership positions, acted and how they reacted to events in order to sustain a vision to completion.
Civil War a Narrative; 3 Volumes: Fort Sumter to Perryville; Fredericksburg to Meridian; Red River to AppomattoxShelby FooteDr. Bruce Scism
A Carrot a DayAdrian Gostick and Chester EltonDr. Cheryl Thompson-StacyA quick read with excellent tips and advice on how to recognize and reward employees. Our people are what makes our institutions great and it is vital to remember that daily to have the most productive and effective college possible.
The Ethics of Educational LeadershipRonald ReboreDr. Cheryl Thompson-StacyIn today's world, unethical behavior almost seems to be the norm - it is certainly covered in the media. As educators, ethical behavior is required. We must model what we teach and this book talks about human communication in relation to building ethical relationships with the various stakeholders we serve.
Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional IntelligenceDaniel Goleman , Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKeeDr. Daniel LufkinIf we are unable to understand ourselves and the way that our emotions impact others, then as leaders we will have a hard time creating the necessary connections that inspire others to change. This book offers a five-step process of reflection and planning that helps leaders see how their emotional leadership is driving the moods and actions of the organization, and provides steps for adjusting behavior accordingly to effect desired change.
Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American WestStephen AmbroseDr. Daniel LufkinThis book is not only an outstanding work of scholarship on one of the most fascinating and significant voyages in American history, but a wonderful reminder of the preparation, courage, and leadership required of pioneers.
True North: Discover Your Authentic LeadershipBill GeorgeDr. David SamYou have to constantly work on yourself to be effective at working with others.
The Four Cultures of the AcademyWilliam H. BergquistDr. David SamAn oldie but still as relevant as ever. We are organizations with tribes who see the world through very different lenses.
The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning OrganizationPeter M. SengeDr. Dean SprinkleSenge’s message is about building a culture of learning, i.e., of becoming a learning organization. The book conveys the importance of the development of individuals and teams, creating a culture of openness through exploring our “mental model’s,” building a shared vision, and “the fifth discipline,” systems thinking.
Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional IntelligenceDaniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKeeDr. Dean SprinkleWhile some may find portions of the content a bit clichéd on a surface level, this book is recommended because it gives cause to explore and reflect upon the role and importance of emotion in leading. Topics range from self-awareness and self-management to social awareness and relationship management. It has implications for setting tone and culture within the organization. A good companion read is Emotional Intelligence by Goleman.
Robert E. Lee on Leadership: Executive Lessons in Character, Courage, and VisionH.W. Crocker IIIDr. Edward RaspillerI find this book inspiring for a couple reasons: 1) It references several aspects of Lee’s tremendous leadership acumen relative to his military service, agricultural entrepreneurism, and turnaround of a college in western Virginia, and 2) At the end of each chapter there is a summary of his leadership traits and lessons learned that apply today.
The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important GoalsChris McChesney and Sean CoveyDr. Edward RaspillerThis is an excellent book that outlines specific ways to implement strategic plans, goals, etc. Our college leadership team read it as a precursor to our retreat last year, and it served as a terrific guide to help us take our new 6-year strategic plan from development to implementation. There are several practices we have implemented across our college.
InfluencerPatterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, SwitzlerDr. Elizabeth CrowtherThis book suggests practical things we all can do to create change, influence culture, and nurture an organization to welcome beneficial change.
Gift From the SeaAnne Morrow LindberghDr. Elizabeth CrowtherBooks on leadership theory abound and are highly instructive. This book helps one to stop and consider the quiet frame of mind we must pursue in order to be able to process the complexities of our work, social, and family lives. I appreciate the meditations on contentment and simplicity, as well as the cues to making solitude constructive. Presidents, in particular, carry an element of isolation that can sometimes be oppressive, so we need tools to maintain a proper perspective.
The Neglected MajorityDale ParnellDr. Frank FriedmanAlthough written in 1985 this book is still relevant. This book launched the Tech-Prep movement and it provides a relevant case for everything we are trying to do in workforce development and credentialing today. I still consider it the best book ever written about the community college movement.
Good to Great and the Social SectorsJim CollinsDr. Frank FriedmanSeveral presidents have recommended Jim Collins' book Good to Great. I am recommending this short monograph he later wrote to apply the principles of Good to Great to the non-profit sector including education. It is a valuable quick read.
Good to GreatJim CollinsDr. Gary RhodesThe principles discussed in this book will stand the test of time and have proven to be common-sensical and effective in significantly increasing the odds of an organization’s (even individual operational units within an organization) being successful.
Keep Calm and Carry OnMark A. ReineckeDr. Gary RhodesThis book is a hands-on practical (and quick and simple read) tool that offers specific techniques for working through adversity, stress, and negative thoughts. It is a book that I reread about two times a year just to refresh my attitude about challenges in all environments.
Leadership GoldJohn C. MaxwellDr. Gene CouchJohn Maxwell is an icon in leadership development. In this book, he shares lessons he has learned from a lifetime of leading. An easy read.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleStephen R. CoveyDr. Gene CouchThis book is a game changer in personal and professional development. I read it over 25 years ago, and I still quote material from it today. As a testament to its impact, the book has sold over 25 million copies. If you have not read it yet, you must. Also, see Dr. Jack Lewis’s comments.
Why Leaders Can't LeadWarren BennisDr. John CappsI like Why Leaders Can’t Lead because it focuses on the difference between leadership and management. Too, I admire what Bennis describes as the four themes of “empowerment,” or the four goals that an effective leader hopes to achieve: “People feel significant,” “Learning and competence matter,” “People are part of a community,” and “Work is exciting.”
Emile, or On EducationJean-Jacques RousseauDr. John CappsRousseau’s Emile has profoundly influenced who I am as a teacher, an administrator, and a person. The qualities that Rousseau hopes to cultivate in Emile are in many ways the qualities I hope to embody—and I believe they are the essence of education. As he says, “We have made [Emile] an active and thinking being. It remains for us, in order to complete the man, only to make a loving and feeling being — that is to say, to perfect reason by sentiment.”
The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning OrganizationPeter M. SengeDr. John DeverAlthough written primarily for a business audience, the fundamental idea that any organization should be about learning fits well with the collegial environment that characterizes our world of community colleges. The five disciplines—personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, tam learning, and systems thinking—are essential tools that leaders at all levels in the organization need to use in addressing challenges and seizing opportunities. One caveat: Senge does not adequately value the executive function.
Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, and LeadershipLee G. Bolman and Terrance E. DealDr. John DeverWhen working at any leadership task, it is very helpful to ask yourself what is the dominant frame through which the issue is best viewed: structural, human resources, political, or symbolic. Effective leaders need to be proficient with all four frames and understand which one is called for in a particular situation. As the subtitle indicates, it’s a matter of artistry and choice.
You Don't Need a Title to Be a LeaderMark SanbornDr. John DowneyLeadership is about service and people looking for opportunities to lead should pursue opportunities to serve. Anyone, at all levels of the organization, can make an important contribution to result in a positive outcome for the College and the Virginia Community College System. Sanborn reveals a variety of behaviors that can be enhanced through professional development for providing leadership and personal development.
Alexander HamiltonRon ChernowDr. John DowneyThe nation's founding fathers provide a wonderful case study in interpersonal behavior and organizational development. This New York Times bestseller that inspired the Broadway musical, "Hamilton!" will provide insight in how people can work together, despite passionate differences of opinion, to accomplish a noble purpose.
Reframing Academic LeadershipLee Bolman and Joan GallosDr. John RainoneReframing Academic Leadership is a practical guide for administrators at all levels in community colleges. Based on the classic Reframing Organizations, this version explores the unique challenges and opportunities in leading institutions of higher education.
The Leadership ChallengeJim Kouzes and Barry PosnerDr. John RainoneCelebrating its 25th Anniversary in print, The Leadership Challenge is still the classic research book on the subject of leadership. The theme is that leadership is for everyone and is based upon leaders at all levels and how "regular people" can make a huge, positive difference in their organizations. It is written for all leaderships of leadership in an organization.
Leadership on the LineRobnald A. Heifetz and Marty LinskyDr. Linda Thomas-GloverThe subtitle of this book is "Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading". Being successful as a leader can be very rewarding; however it is critical to realize that since leaders are expected to effect change, dangers do abound. Institutional culture, environmental changes and sheer entropy within organizations can create significant challenges. This book provides a backdrop upon which to consider some potential "alligators in the waters" and offers suggestions on how to avoid such entanglements.
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective PeopleStephen R. CoveyDr. Linda Thomas-GloverThe principles outlined in this book have universal application to all facets of our existence, including higher education.
Good to GreatJim CollinsDr. Mark EsteppGood to Great was not written for the education market, and I think that is one reason I find it so useful. It forces us to look through a lens that is not normal for us, and confront the brutal facts!
The First 90 DaysMichael WatkinsDr. Mark EsteppTransitions are a critical time for leaders. You have to balance your obligatory “listening tour” with a window that most leaders believe is open for about 3 months. Moving too fast is dangerous, moving too slow is worse. This book makes you think about how to start, and succeed, with change.
The Third WaveSteve CaseDr. Robert Sandel
US Fiscal ImbalanceJeffrey MironDr. Robert SandelFiscal Education
Reframing Organizations - Artistry, Choice and LeadershipBolman and DealDr. Scott HamiltonThis work aims to show how to become a more versatile manager and a more artistic leader by presenting how to use the powerful tool of reframing to help bring order out of confusion and build high-performing, responsive organizations. Using examples from business, education, health care, and the public sector, the authors demonstrate how to integrate the structural, human resource, political, and symbolic frames into a powerful, coherent, and flexible management strategy that responds to an organizations current and future needs.
The Community College PresidencyDr. George VaughnDr. Scott HamiltonDr. Vaughn was the founding president of Mountain Empire Community College and went on from there to a distinguished career in higher education, training many presidents. This book is a classic that should be read by all aspiring and sitting presidents.
Leadership Dilemmas - Grid Solutions Robert Blake and Anne McCanse Dr. Gary Rhodes The principles discussed in this book will stand the test of time and have proven to be common-sensical and effective in significantly increasing the odds of an organization’s (even individual operational units within an organization) being successful. The focus of this book is the dynamics of leadership and consensus decision-making.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R. Covey Dr. Jack Lewis There are so many books out there on leadership and management. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is my "go to" book for personal change. It has been extremely important in shaping me for leadership both in my personal life and in my work, especially as a college administrator. The "pearls of wisdom" in The 7 Habits are still highly relevant in my life, and they serve to remind me just how vital it is to manage "me" as I lead and strive to influence leadership in others.

So I highly recommend this book for focusing on the "personal self." No doubt it can prove valuable to those who are preparing for leadership and also to those seeking to become more effective leaders. This book remains my most valuable resource in dealing with personal change and development.
Change the Culture, Change the Game Roger Connors and Tom Smith Dr. Jack Lewis Change the Culture, Change the Game addresses organizational growth and development. This book by Connors and Smith focuses on shaping the culture of an organization to achieve desired results, or building a culture of accountability aimed at getting everyone to accept responsibility for contributing to the desired outcomes of the organization. The fundamental premise is that it is the culture that produces the results and hence, "the most effective culture is a Culture of Accountability."

This book’s most instructive message is what the authors call “the results pyramid.” This provides a conceptual and hierarchical process for changing "how people think and act" in an organization. The premise is that "how people think and act" defines an organization’s culture. The authors go beyond this conceptual framework into tools and methodology that can be used to affect what people believe, which in turn drives their thinking as well as their actions and ultimately shapes the culture.

Change the Culture has influenced me more than any other work on organizational development. Following its tenets can lead to superior results often referred to in the literature as those of a "high performance organization."