Books that can change your life

Must-reads for 2008.

Andrew Galbus was a programmer/analyst at a food manufacturing company in the mid-1990s when he read Edward Yourdon's Decline and Fall of the American Programmer. Galbus says the book made him realize that his employer was not helping him build a sustainable career in the IT sector. "It made me think, 'Do I want a job or a career, and do I want just a career in a company or a career in the IT industry?'" Galbus says.

Spurred by the book's message, Galbus got a job at an organization that helped its people build their careers. He also got an MBA. He's now unit manager of the IT Quality Office at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Books can educate, provide insight, prompt reflection and even inspire change. We asked corporate coaches, leadership consultants and IT professionals for their top picks:

Performance

Now, Discover Your Strengths (Free Press, 2001), by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, and Go Put Your Strengths to Work: Six Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance (Free Press, 2007), by Marcus Buckingham. "They give you a system for actually identifying and putting language to your strengths," says Wendy Wallbridge, president and executive coach at On Your Mark Corporate Coaching & Consulting.

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable ... About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business (Jossey-Bass, 2004) and The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable (Jossey-Bass, 1998), by Patrick M. Lencioni. "The stories are very real, and the way he approaches things makes it very memorable," says Bart Bolton, a leadership consultant at Lifetime Learning.

The Nibble Theory and the Kernel of Power: A Book About Leadership, Self-Empowerment and Personal Growth (Paulist Press, 2004), by Kaleel Jamison. "This was a real eye-opener to me on how I needed to step back and think differently about what I was doing," says Catherine Brune, senior vice president and CIO at Allstate Insurance Co. in Northbrook, Ill.

Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up (Harmony/Bell Tower, 2005), by Patricia Ryan Madson. "A refreshing view of communication and behavior in work and personal life," says Robert Rouse, director of the Regional Leadership Forum of the Society for Information Management and a professor of computer science and engineering at Washington University in St. Louis.

Leadership

On Becoming a Leader: The Leadership Classic (Basic Books, 2003), by Warren G. Bennis. "Someone who really wants to understand leadership should start here," says Bolton.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (Bantam Books, 2006) and Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead With Emotional Intelligence (Harvard Business School Press, 2002), by Daniel Goleman. "Good leaders need to understand people," Bolton says.

Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry (Thin Book Publishing Co., 1998), by Sue Annis Hammond. "You have to have a culture of appreciation or people become demoralized," says Wallbridge.

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