Mastermind Century Group Suggested Reading List 2020 (Updated)

D1028_49_409_1200Eight years ago I crafted a recommended reading list for the Mastermind Century Group—it is something I intended to update, yet there always seemed to be something else to write about.  As I look back at the list there are several books that are “keepers” and  others that have not had the staying power I once thought they would.  The goal of the updated reading list is to craft something current given all that I hope I have learned in the past eight years.

In Eight years—I was fortunate to have two follow on command tours—for the AFROTC Southeast Region and for The USAF’s Air Command and Staff College.  I also held positions as the Vice Commandant for the USAF’s Officer Training School, and as Air University’s Director of Staff.  I retired in the summer of 2016 and have served as the Chair of Leadership at the college I once commanded—ACSC.  Now I am fortunate to teach leadership and innovation to the world’s best up and coming leaders.  

Something occurred to me as I stepped into teaching leadership—there is a lot of crap out there written on the topic.  So much of what we pass off as leadership is old, recycled, worn-out garbage that people with big names or grand experiences pass off as something new and novel when it is really—something that someone said thousands of years ago.  

What-is-Algorithm_It seems to me that leadership learning lies at the intersection of three disciplines—philosophy, psychology, and sociology.  Of course that is a large intersection and if anyone is interested at looking deeper into those three disciplines it is not a stretch to say they all grew from one source—philosophy.  Further, we can not discount history—as history is the lens through which we view these three disciplines.  History serves as the application of the leadership algorithm and a place from which we examine the application of theory and concepts as well as developing stories, legends, and in some cases the myths of great leadership.   

In updating the 2012 list I propose a look at the top 10 books with the largest impact in the three disciplines:

three.001Philosophy:  THE fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

Psychology:  THE human mind and its functions.

Sociology:  THE development, structure, and functioning of human society.


  1. Marcus Aurelius, The Emperor’s Handbook, C. Scot Hicks and David V. Hicks trans. (NY: Scribner, 2002).
  2. Epictetus, A Manual for Living (Little Book of Wisdom (Harper San Francisco))
  3. Miyamoto Musashi, Stephen F. Kaufman, Musashi’s Book of Five Rings: The Definitive Interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi’s Classic Book of Strategy

    Miyamoto Musashi
  4. Ryan Holiday, Stillness is the Key
  5. Sun Tzu (Author), Tom Butler-Bowdon (Introduction)The Prince : The Ancient Classic
  6. Plato (Author), Tom Butler-Bowdon (Introduction) The Republic Capstone Classics
  7. The Bible, NIV, Maxwell Leadership Bible, 3rd Edition, Hardcover, Comfort Print: Holy Bible, New International Version
  8. Lao Tzu (Author), Tom Butler-Bowdon (Introduction): Tao Te Ching: The Ancient Classic
  9. Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, Michael Howard and Peter Paret eds. and trans. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976).
  10. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: The Philosophy Classic (Capstone Classics) 


  1. Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow (NY: Macmillan Publishers, 2013).
  2. Brené Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

    Brené Brown
  3. Cal Newport , Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
  4. Travis BradberryJean GreavesPatrick Lencioni, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 
  5. Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
  6. Daniel Pink, Whole New Mind,Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future
  7. John Maxwell, 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Follow Them and People Will Follow You (10th Anniversary Edition)
  8. Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ
  9. Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
  10. William Irvine, A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy


  1. Safi Bahcall, Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries
  2. Ori Brafman, Spider and the Starfish: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations
  3. James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner, The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations
  4. Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

    Tim Harford
  5. Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t
  6. James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games, A Vision of Life As Play and Possibilities / Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game (both books, although I am still processing Simon’s book)
  7. Patrick Lencioni, Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
  8. Michael D. Watkins, First 90 days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Updated and Expanded
  9. Tim Harford, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure (NY: Picador, 2011).
  10. Edgar Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010).


  1. Stanley McChrystal, Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World (NY: Portfolio/Penguin, 2015).
  2. Stanley McChrystal, Leaders: Myth and Reality (NY: Portfolio/Penguin,2018).
  3. B. H. Liddell Hart, Strategy : Second Revised Edition (Meridian)
  4. Major General J.F.C. Fuller, Generalship: Its Diseases and Their Cure
  5. ThucydidesRobert B. Strassler (Editor), Richard Crawley (Translator),Victor Davis Hanson (Introduction), The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War

    George Washington
  6. 1776 by David McCullough
  8. Admiral James Stavridis, USN (RET), Sailing True North: Ten Admirals and the Voyage of Character
  9. Eric Weiner, Geography of Genius: Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Places
  10. Barry Strauss, Masters of Command: Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and the Genius of Leadership 


  1. Peter Guralnick, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll
  2. Matthew Polly, Bruce Lee, A Life

    Enter the Dragon (1973) - filmstill
    Bruce Lee
  3. Jim Mattis, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead
  4. Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace
  5. George S. Patton Jr. , War as I Knew It 
  6. Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs: A Biography
  7. Joseph J. Ellis , His Excellency: George Washington  
  8. Bill Walsh, The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership 
  9. Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.
  10. Walter Isaacson, Leonardo da Vinci 

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