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4 Essential Leadership Books from Industry Leaders

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The Best Leadership Books
Three shop owners and one consultant share the leadership books that inspired them the most.

Kevin Wolfe, owner and president of LeadersWay, says that leadership is one of the most talked about, and most misunderstood, terms in business.

A common misunderstanding of the term “leader,” Wolfe says, is that people often view it as merely a title. In reality, being a leader requires considerable action.

“When something needs to be done, the person who stands up and takes charge is in the lead position,” Wolfe says. “It can be anybody in the shop.”

To learn about the actionable steps you, or other growing leaders in your shop, should take, one of the best sources of informations is certainly books. Three shop owners and one consultant share the leadership books that influenced them the most in their businesses, and inspired them to be better leaders.


The Book: The Success Principles by Jack Canfield

The Reviewer: Tom Lambert, owner of Layton, Utah-based Shadetree Automotive, which generated $2.6 million in 2017 revenue. 

The Takeaway:

Lambert found The Success Principles through a member of his local Business Networking International (BNI) group. After reading it, he was struck by how many of the book’s principles he had already implemented in his shop, and already proved successful. He says this verified the work he put into his business already, like hiring a business coach, goal setting with clear, measurable goals, and striking a proper balance between work and life—principles that author Jack Canfield expounds on in the book.

“It’s basically a book about controlling your own destiny, as a lot of it is about avoiding excuses and taking responsibility for yourself,” Lambert says. “You choose if you’re going to have a positive or negative day. You can suck it up and just do it.”

The book has a heavy emphasis on setting clear financial, business and personal goals. A few months ago, Lambert started writing down the goals in these categories that were most important to him, and he now says he gets close to reaching them every time.

Lambert says that the months of January and February are typically slow for his shop, but he wants his staff to remain productive when business stalls. He bought a copy of this book to show them why the changes he made in his shop were the best options available, and he says, to increase their accountability.


The Book: The Leadership Test: Will You Pass? By Timothy R. Clark

The Reviewer: Kevin Wolfe, owner and president of LeadersWay, a business coaching, culture and leadership development company.

The Takeaway:

Wolfe says that The Leadership Test is a great book for a young leader who wants to get better, and could potentially be in the next generation of leadership. Wolfe says it poses some striking questions for somebody looking to move into a lead position.
“More importantly, they ask the question, ‘Why would you do this? Why would you want to move into a lead position?’” Wolfe says.

If a worker simply wants a promotion or more money, for instance, that might not be the best reason to move into a leadership position. One of the main points The Leadership Test makes, Wolfe says, is that you have to be able to ask yourself if you’re willing to take responsibility when things don’t go well.

There are five main lessons in the book that Wolfe has all of his clients examine:

  1. Fill your pack. To become a leader, you have to put yourself out there, and you take on responsibility. When something needs to be done, you raise your hand, offer time and energy to get it done. This also involves building your circle of influence, which Wolfe recommends to anyone in a shop looking for a leadership position.

    “Finding ways to bring more value in helping people and the organization get better creates a greater and greater circle of influence,” Wolfe says.
  2. Sign your name. No matter what happens, if it goes well or terribly, make sure you sign your name to it. Don’t point fingers; take responsibility for any failures or missteps.

  3. Share the stage. When things go well, make sure people who are on the team get credit, as well.

  4. Take the oath. When you move into a lead position, you’re committing yourself. Make sure you make all the decisions from an objective standpoint.

  5. Pour your cup. Just be willing to give everything you have to other people to help them be successful.


The Book: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell

The Reviewer: Chris Cloutier, founder of Autoflow, and owner of Golden Rule Auto Care in Rowlett, Texas.

The Takeaway:

Chris Cloutier has dozens of leadership books he says have influenced him as a leader, but one of his core leadership reads is The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. As the name suggests, this book lists the 21 vital laws of an effective leader, as outlined by leadership expert, speaker and author John Maxwell.

The most impactful law, he says, is the law of the lid, which says that leadership ability is the lid that determines a person’s level of effectiveness. By learning more and increasing your experiences and capabilities, you end up increasing your lid, therefore increasing your effectiveness. Some shop owners, Cloutier says, might be hesitant to explore things they don’t understand, like digital inspections or new shop technology, but it can be very beneficial for your business in the long run.

“A lot of times, we don’t like getting into places that make us fear the unknown,” Cloutier says. “You’re the lid; you need to go through those dark places to take your organization through it.”

Another law that Cloutier enjoyed from the book is the law of intuition, which takes inspiration from the law of the lid. If you’ve increased your lid, and gained experiences throughout the years, you’ll be able to “trust your gut,” and make sound decisions from those past experiences and hardships.


The Book: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

The Reviewer: Terry Joy, owner of Midwest Auto Care & Transmission Center in Lake Station, Ind. which generated $882,000 in 2017 revenue.

The Takeaway:

Joy found Extreme Ownership through his management group, Repair Shop Coach, and one of his fellow members was adamant that everyone in the group should read it. As the title suggests, Joy says Extreme Ownership is about being responsible for everything that goes on in your business, and taking ownership of your decisions.

In this book, two former Iraq War veterans describe how their time overseas shaped their leadership abilities and their sense of accountability. The book was so well-received, that the pair now coaches executives and business owners on leadership skills.

“It’s very easy to translate their stories of what happened on the battlefield in Iraq, and how it transfers over into the business world,” Joy says.

One of the main takeaways Joy says he received from the book is that, when things go well, you should put all the praise on your employees, making the successes about them and what they accomplished. Joy says he often dishes out praise during his weekly meetings, sharing any positive reviews they received the previous week. If things are not going well, instead of putting the blame on his employees, Joy says he tries to reflect and figure out where he is falling short as a leader.

“The best leaders are not driven by ego and personal agendas,” Joy says. “They simply are focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it.”

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Designation: Essential

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