Rob Jackson: Five summer reads for leaders of volunteers

Make use of your downtime in the sun with these books full of ideas

Rob Jackson
Rob Jackson

During the summer holidays many of us take a week or two off to rest and recharge the batteries. For some this means burying themselves in some literary escapism as they read a book or two by the pool. This year, why not make one of those books something to help you develop some new ideas for your return to work?

Here are five recommended reads for leaders of volunteers.

1. Originals by Adam Grant

This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Originals is described as "a manifesto for originality and a guide to championing new ideas that challenge the status quo". It isn’t about how to have original ideas but how we take the ideas we have and strive to make them a reality. There is a lot of content for leaders of volunteers to consider, including stories and reflections relevant to recognition, influencing, motivation and understanding and working in organisational culture.

I did a full review of Originals on my own blog last year if you want to check it out before you buy or borrow the book.

2. Black Box Thinking by Mathew Syed

Leaders of volunteers (and the organisations we work for) seem to be ever more focused on issues of risk. Matthew Syed’s book does a wonderful job of examining the essential role risk plays in life and holds a mirror up to how our society thinks about risk. While his examples from the medical and aviation industries might not seem immediately applicable to volunteer management, there is lots of depth that will challenge you to be more accepting of risk.

3. How To Be A Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott

If you spend your holidays worrying about the mounting emails in your inbox and how exactly you’ll get everything done when you get back to work, you need Graham Allcott's guide to getting control of your life. The book doesn’t waste your effort on time management. Instead it focuses on how we can be more productive in an increasingly distraction-filled world. This book has been a big influence on me personally and is highly recommended.

4. All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin

A small but powerful book, ideal if you want a quick read to squeeze in between the airport novels you’ve bought for your holiday. In typical Seth Godin style, this book engages and inspires you to think afresh about how you market to prospective volunteers.

I wrote an article based on Seth’s book earlier this year. Check out All Volunteer Managers are Liars.

5. The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

One of my all-time favourites, packed full of lessons, ideas and inspiration for how we can all become better leaders. Grounded in research, this book had a huge impact on me 20 years ago and remains essential reading for anyone in a leadership role.

Rob Jackson is a volunteer consultant

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