Book Suggestions for Character Development

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When the Chief of Chaplains of the Civil Air Patrol, Chaplain (Colonel) Charlie Sattgast, CAP, announced the changes to the Civil Air Patrol’s character development program, he also announced a partnership with the United States Air Force Academy’s Center for Character and Leadership Development (CCLD).  During an interview with the director of that organization, Colonel Mark Anarumo, the chaplain corps asked what books would be good to read to learn more about developing character and good role models of virtue.

The staff of the CCLD submitted the following initial list with “more to come.”

Character and Leadership Reading List for the NACDA Conference

Ariely, Dan. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone–Especially Ourselves.  Based on behavioral research, Ariely explains the motivations and typical behaviors behind lying.

Brooks, David. The Road to Character.  Using chapters on inspiring leaders to illustrate his points, Brooks describes how we must balance our “résumé virtues” with our “eulogy virtues” in our daily lives.

David Brooks is the author of “The Road to Character” which is a recommended book on character from the USAFA Center for Character and Leadership.

Dweck, Carol. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  Dweck’s research concludes that motivation outweighs intelligence and ability in achieving success.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success.  Gladwell describes how we should focus more on where people are from—their experiences, generation and culture—rather than their attributes to understand success.

Goleman, Daniel. Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.  Achievers need to focus their attention in three ways—inner, outer, and other—in order to succeed in a world rife with distractions.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.  Presidential historian and journalist Doris Kearns Goodwin reveals how Lincoln won the respect of his cabinet, mostly made up of political rivals, in order to win the Civil War.

Guinier, Lani. The Tyranny of Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America.  Guinier argues that college admissions processes need to focus on recruiting students who will serve society and that universities should be measured not by the personal qualities of entrants but by how well the graduates work in and serve their communities.

Junger, Sebastian. Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging.  Junger’s book is about how and why people come together and the psychology and history of loyalty and a sense of belonging.

McChrystal, Stanley. Team of Teams.  McChrystal juxtaposes the challenge to defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq to challenges in the today’s business world.

Pink, Daniel. A Whole New Mind.  Pink foretells the future of professional success and personal fulfillment supported by six fundamental human abilities.

Pink, Daniel. Drive.  Pink asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Schein, Edgar H. Corporate Culture Survival Guide.  This book explains what culture is and why it’s important, how to evaluate your organization’s culture, and how to improve it, using straightforward, practical tools based on decades of research and real-world case studies.

Sinek, Simon. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.  Sinek presents an optimistic approach to using Marine Corps leadership practices, where great leaders sacrifice comfort and survival for the welfare of others to form a “Circle of Safety.”

Sinek, Simon. Start With Why.  Powerful leaders should focus on the “Why” to inspire and influence an organization to succeed.

Weirsma, Bill. The Power of Professionalism.  Weirsma establishes professionalism as the basis for organizational virtue providing a competitive advantage by outlining seven key mind-sets.

Wheatley, Margaret. Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World.  By using ideas from quantum physics, chaos theory, and molecular biology, Wheatley revolutionizes commonplace ideas within organizational performance.


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