Service Leadership Resources

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Use some of these great books and films to explore and discuss what it means to be a servant leader, and how quality leadership brings people together.  These and more are available at the Torrance Public Library


Character and Trust


71QUhm-AnILStart With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

These two books by ethnographer and innovative business thinker Simon Sinek explore how the character of the leader and the trust of the group lead to group success. From the success of the Wright Brothers to Apple Computer, from the United States Military to 3M, he explores how varying cultures bring trust and integrity to leadership.


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

In this leadership fable, a fictional CEO overcomes five elements that are preventing her team from succeeding, starting with “absence of trust.”


The Speed of Trust by Steven Covey

Trust is not merely a social virtue, it is a hard skill that improves relationships and organizations. Covey presents a roadmap for leaders to inspire trust in any organization.


Trust: The Currency of Leadership – Forbes Magazine

This article outlines the importance of trust to an organization, and outlines several ways to build it including commitment to the vision, and the values a leader lives by.



51VPAEJV7WL._SY445_Glory (1989 – Starring Denzel Washington, and Matthew Broderick, directed by Edward Zwick) Based on the true story of Robert Shaw, who volunteered to lead the first all-black company during the US Civil War. The evolution of this commander as he earns the trust of his men is a testament to the importance of character.


Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2006 – documentary, directed by Alex Gibney)

This film outlines how Enron, America’s seventh largest company, betrayed the trust of its investors and employees.


Serenity (2005 – starring Nathan Fillion and Summer Glau, directed by Joss Whedon)

Five hundred years in the future, the crew of a ship finds themselves protecting a telepath who knows a dark secret about those in power. Loyalty and trust become crucial to achieving a larger mission. 


Communication and Conflict


51YyCcywasL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and In Life One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott

This book discusses crucial aspects in making communication successful including mastering the courage to interrogate reality and taking responsibility for personal emotional wake.


Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson

A useful book for any workplace that includes sections on how to make it safe to talk about almost anything, how to stay in dialogue through strong emotions, and how to listen.


It’s Always Personal: Navigating Emotion in the New Workplace by Anne Kreamer

From “it’s not personal” to the power of compassion and empathy in business, this slim volume covers the basics of emotion in the brain, working through anger and fear, and building resiliency in emotion management. Anyone who works with people, including themselves, manages emotion on a daily basis and this volume offers advice for all.



Crimson_Tide_video_posterCrimson Tide (1995 – Starring Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, directed by Tony Scott) Aboard a nuclear submarine, a young first officer disagrees with an interpretation of orders to launch a missile, and must determine what to do while they are out of contact with base. This tense movie combines military authority with a look at conflict and loyalty in a unique situation.


Twelve Angry Men (1957 – starring Henry Fonda, directed by Sidney Lumet)

A single dissenting juror becomes a drama of each individual making a decision about the life of another. Based on a play, this entire film takes place inside the jury room and reveals depth of conflict for each man, both in communication with the others and within themselves.


Rain Man (1988 – starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, directed by Barry Levinson)

When self-centered Charlie Babbit discovers he has a brother who has inherited the bulk of their father’s fortune, Charlie kidnaps Raymond, an autistic savant, and takes him on a trip in a threat to get the inheritance. What Charlie and Raymond learn about communication across incredible differences, and resolving anger over the past is profound.  


Cross-Cultural Communication

Pellegrino Riccardi gives a talk on how we see what we want to see, search for what is accepted and familiar, and crash against cultural norms that are not our own when we communicate across cultures.


Creativity and Innovation


81QxTfW8-PLSwitch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

A fun and enlightening discussion of our dueling brains – the rider and the elephant – and how change in all aspects of humanity can be made easier. From shrinking the change to tweaking the environment, this book outlines best practices based on convincing examples applicable to anyone who works with people.


Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

The authors of the bestselling Freakonomics detail how to think more creatively and more rationally to solve problems and better the world.


Creativity Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

The President of Pixar and Disney Animation tells the story of how the pair of companies, and the innovators behind them, revived animation and created a new medium.


Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam M. Grant

A look at how some people choose to champion novel ideas, speak up, and manage fear and doubt along the way. From advice for parents to nurture creativity in children, and for leaders on fighting groupthink, this book reminds us all that it takes originals to change the world



225px-The_Great_Escape_(film)_posterThe Great Escape  (1963 – starring Steve McQueen and James Garner)

Based on a true story, this classic adventure is about a group of allied POWs put into an “escape-proof” camp. A leader must outwit the camp and lead his team to safety.


Wreck-It Ralph (2012 – starring John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman)

Wreck-It Ralph, an arcade game bad guy, really wants to be the good guy. Ralph’s journey to alter his environment and change the role he chooses to play in the world is a treat for all ages.


Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011 – documentary)

This documentary reveals why a three-star Michelin sushi restaurant is located in Tokyo subway station, and why people from around the world make reservations months in advance.




51mfcoKrxBL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Flex: The New Playbook for Managing Across Differences by Jane Hyun

Collaborative Intelligence: Thinking With People Who Think Differently by Dawna Markova Diversity of culture, race, religion, generation, background or style can only be embraced when leaders can think differently about such issues as managing across the power gap, the role of culture in communication, and how thinking together does not always mean thinking alike.


When Generations Collide: Who They Are. Why They Clash. How to Solve the Generational Puzzle at Work by Lynne C. Lancaster and David Stillman

Traditionalists. Silent Generation, Baby Boomers. Gen X. Millennials. Greatest Generation. Gen Y. Whatever you call them we have the greatest generational diversity of all time in the workplace today. This book explores the major forces that shaped each generation, and how each defines a career, retirement, and happiness differently. Practical advice on recruiting and retaining across generations and getting the most out of this unprecedented diversity is included in this groundbreaking book.


The Circuit: Stories From the Life of a Migrant Child by Francisco Jiménez

It Worked For Me: In Life and Leadership by Colin Powell

Her Dream of Dreams: The Rise and Triumph of Madam C.J. Walker by Beverly Lowry

These, and many other memoirs and biographies, detail the lives and lessons from diverse leaders, who drew upon their pasts for strength while pursuing their crafts



movie_poster_mcfarlandusa_684dfa2eMcFarland USA (2015 – starring Kevin Costner, directed by Niki Caro)

A true story of a high school cross-country team formed in California’s Central Valley, who inspired their coach and their entire town.


District 9 (2009 – starring Sharlto Copley, directed by Neill Blomkamp)

When an extraterrestrial race is forced to live in isolated slums, and a earnest government worker is sent to evacuate them, he learns a lesson about tolerance and assumptions.


A League of Their Own  (1992 – starring Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, directed by Penny Marshall)

This story of the All-American Girls Baseball League offers many looks at a newly and suddently diversified workplace - Major League Baseball. From working out what a female professional athlete should look like, to diverse communication styles on the field and in the locker room, this story resonates in the workplace today.


Leadership in a Crisis


139069Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell

Leading At the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition by Dennis N.T. Perkins

In 1915, Ernest Shackleton planned to cross the last uncharted continent, Antarctica. He set out with a specially selected crew of twenty-seven aboard the ship Endurance. Only a day’s sail short of their destination, the ship became icelocked and the ordeal began. From a drifting ship that was eventually crushed, the crew took to the ice in sledges, and then to a hostile sea. This expedition did not achieve the initial goal, but is studied to this day, especially for the leadership methods used by Sir Ernest Shackleton to keep his crew of twenty-seven alive for almost two years, and bring them all home.


Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink

A harrowing account of life inside Memorial Hospital in Louisiana in the five days after Hurricane Katrina.  Expanded from the article “The Deadly Choices at Memorial” published in the New York Times Magazine in 2009 and winner of a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.


“You Have to Lead From Everywhere” Harvard Business Review November 2010.

[Available via the Torrance Public Library’s EBSCO database] An interview with Admiral Thad Allen, National Incident Commander for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.


“Houston, We Have A Problem: Leadership in Times of Crisis” Winston Scott. Business West. October 21, 2005.

[Available via the Torrance Public Library’s EBSCO Database] A retired astronaut uses a crisis aboard the Space Shuttle to illustrate lessons in leading in a crisis, including use of non-verbal communication and asking for help



220px-Apollo_thirteen_movieApollo 13 (1995 – Starring Tom Hanks, directed by Ron Howard) Based on the experience of Commander Jim Lovell, as detailed in his personal memoir Lost Moon, this film covers the experience of NASA from planning the Apollo 13 expedition through a change in crew, an accident in space, and the myriad of things required to get the crew safely home. Called a “successful failure,” the Apollo 13 mission outlines requirements of leadership, teamwork, reliance on others, and the occasional need to let off some steam in a crisis situation.


We Are Marshall (2006 – starring Matthew McConaughey, directed by McG) When a plane crash kills a university football team, a new coach and the remaining players must keep the football program alive.


Crimson Tide (1995 – starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman, directed by Tony Scott)

Aboard a nuclear submarine, a first officer has to stage a mutiny to prevent his captain from doing something wrong.


Teamwork and Collaboration


81EXyt4zGDLCollaborate or Perish: Reaching Across Boundaries in a Networked World by William Bratton and Zachary Tumin

From rightsizing the problem, to making collaboration pay for everyone, this book outlines how in our modern world collaboration changes everything.


Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal

Using the situation of command in Iraq, where many traditional military tactics were failing, General McChrystal details how communication across generations and around the world helped him “teach a leviathan to improvise,” and how this information can move to other organizations


Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

At a time of great national divide, nobody thought a young upstart backwoods lawyer from Illinois would become the sixteenth President of the United States, or that he would put his major rivals for the office on his close team to lead the nation. How this team moved a country through a Civil War and out the other side is the subject of this award winning book.


Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz by Frank Barrett

The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together by Twyla Tharp

In the arts, collaboration is often what brings the beauty. These two books take what is intuitive in dance and music to the world of leadership and organizations.



220px-Remember_the_titansposterRemember the Titans (2000 – starring Denzel Washington and Will Patton, directed by Boaz Yakin) The true story of a high school football team’s first season as a racially integrated unit, and how the coaches, the team, and the town collaborated through a time of change, becoming a symbol for the community.


The Hunt for Red October (1990 – starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, directed by John McTiernan) CIA agent Jack Ryan figures out what a Russian submarine commander may be up to, but can he convince an American submarine commander to work with him?


The Martian (2015 – starring Matt Damon, directed by Ridley Scott) When an astronaut is stranded alone on Mars, it takes collaboration across the vastness of space, among rival agencies, and within a diverse crew to bring him home.