I'm just finishing up Boards At Work which talks about how a good board of directors can make a big difference to a business. It also covers a lot of ways that a board can be made ineffective. It was written in 1998 and shows its age just a little, but many of the concerns expressed about boards...well, you have to wish some of our bigger financial companies had read the book and tried harder. The book is really a set of short blurbs that cover each area, examples from real life that the author was able to gather. One thing I found interesting was that the board should focus on governance and not management, leaving the CEO some room to make decisions. Another was it's support for retreat type meetings of 1-2 days, a concept I've used for general brain storming and so find it easy to agree with the approach. It also talks about the downside of an executive committee on the board, it creates two categories of directors and the "nots" that aren't on the committee tend to adopt a passive role. I got this one from the local library out of general interest and to see if it has some ideas as far as my upcoming role on the PASS Board of Directors. Not quite a match, the PASS board is elected and expected to own tasks, while most (but not all) directors on a corporate board are external (to leverage their experience and depth). I've never had the privilege of serving on an appointed Board of Directors, but it seems like a challenge I'd enjoy and fits with my enthusiasm for mentoring.
I also recently re-read Executive Orders. It sounds like a CEO book and in a way it is, but it's by Tom Clancy and talks about the aftermath of a terrorist incident that places a real non-politician as the President. The story is good and the good guys win, but the part I enjoyed more this time was the 'lessons' President Ryan learns about leadership in a democracy. For example, at one point he's balking at a delivering a carefully tailored message in a speech, his chief of staff asserts it's no different than writing a novel - you try to use the right words to frame your argument to best effect - why wouldn't you? It talks about the stress of a situation where if you make the best decision possible at least 40% of the voters will dislike it for some reason (usually political party), it made more real to me how hard it is to get something done in that kind of environment. Even getting used to the idea that there are a lot of people focused on taking care of the little things (making breakfast) so that you can conserve your time and energy for the things only you can do. Read it because it's fun and it's Clancy, but think about the leadership stuff while you do. If you haven't read Clancy before start back at the beginning and enjoy the ride.