I’ve been reading a lot of books on leadership lately, something that I really haven’t done all that much before. Historically, I’ve read mostly time management, productivity, and technology books. While these have helped shape my skill set and knowledge, I’ve recognized that anyone who is interested in boosting their productivity needs to read leadership books as well.
One of the most important reasons to read leadership books is you can take the lessons you’ve learned and then applying them to yourself.
To put it simply, in order to lead others effectively, you need to lead yourself first.
I learned this lesson through just one particular book on leadership: The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh. (It somewhat pained me to read the second one as the late author was the legendary coach of the San Francisco 49ers — a team that beat my Cincinnati Bengals in two Super Bowls — but he also did coach for the Bengals, so I kept that in mind as I poured over the pages. Now that I think about it, if he’d only stayed with the Bengals maybe we would’ve won a few already…)
There were plenty of takeaways I got from Bill Walsh’s book. For example, Walsh praises the virtues of creating frameworks and boundaries, as well as “scripting” — the notion of setting things up in advance so that your chance to success is much greater than if you just go by the agenda to presents itself throughout the game (or in our case, the day).
He also focused on the importance of being consistent, which is definitely something you need to keep in mind if you want to not only get through daily tasks but also to complete larger projects and achieve much loftier goals.
The reason these leadership books are so helpful is because of the ideas and insights that they present. What makes them so powerful is that you get to read about the results of implementing such tactics.
Bill Walsh is a Hall of Fame football coach who essentially invented the offense that anyone watching professional football sees today. The results of setting himself and his team up for success is inspiring and has motivated me to lead myself even better so that I can lead others better.
Walsh also spent plenty of time doing what he calls “organizational archaeology.” This is digging deep into things so that you can look back and course correct as well as plan for the future in a positive and results-oriented way.
This is an approach we all need to implement to make sure we are accomplishing what we need to accomplish and ultimately doing more of what we want to do. The process of digging deep into our to do lists, calendars, and notebooks allows us to make better decisions. Then we can focus on finding the positives within the negatives.
Walsh found improvements on his offense despite having a losing record in his first two years. He felt ready to give the reins over to his quarterback of the future, Joe Montana, after analyzing completion percentages and interception ratios between his veteran starter Steve DeBerg and the young Montana. Walsh found out where the holes were and took strides to fill them in a way that wasn’t knee-jerk but measured. That’s why his defense went from near the bottom of the league rankings to second overall the following year.
This organizational archaeology also played a big role in why they won the Super Bowl in his third year as well.
He’s willing to make the tough decisions. Walsh writes about having to cut players who were quite good but not ideal for his system. Walsh shares about how Joe Montana felt when Steve Young was acquired to eventually replace him. He writes about letting players go that were almost past their prime so that he could build for the future and seeing little to no attrition while doing so. He hated doing it most of the time, but he did it because he knew it was for the good of the organization.
When it comes to being purely productive, we need to be willing to make the tough calls. We need to say “no” when appropriate (which is likely more often than we admit). We need to cut out things that aren’t working anymore, be it tools, resources, or even people. We don’t have to like doing it, but doing it allows us to do the things we need and want to do better. We do it for the greater good.
Walsh was patient. While it only took three years to go from losing franchise to Super Bowl champion, he didn’t think they’d win it that soon. Walsh was prepared to wait another two to three years before winning a championship was realistic. But his patience with the framework he developed and resources used within the framework allowed him to reach greater heights far quicker than even he imagined.
There is no “magic bullet” for enhanced productivity. No app will do it for us alone. We need a framework that we set up in advance that will support us. We need resources that will aid us in working efficiently and effectively. Resources that will thrive within the framework. But we also need to give them time to take hold and do their thing. We can’t be switching from app to app or fiddling with our framework every time something new comes along. We need to be patient.
I’ve only read a few leadership books so far, but I’ve come to realize that I get a lot more out of them than just some leadership ideas I can use with my team. I find that I get ideas I can use on myself – to make myself better. I find that reading leadership books don’t just boost my productivity. They help me move things forward in a more consistent way. They help me craft frameworks that are nimble enough to be used by many, but they have to start with me.
“Consistent effort is a consistent challenge.” – Bill Walsh
I may not be a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, but I am a fan of Bill Walsh. And while I recommend The Score Takes Care of Itself as a great read on leadership, I have three other books to help you get started.
- Looptail: How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business by Bruce Poon Tip
- Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality by Scott Belsky
- Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh
I know there are plenty of others out there that I didn’t list. There are plenty more that I need and want to read. And I’m going to make that happen going forward.
If you want to boost your productivity, then you should make it happen too.