Most of us recognize the importance of “continuing education,” whether in the form of courses, certifications, seminars, or books. We asked members of the Security Executive Council, and their deputies, to let us know what books they would recommend to their peers. Some are relatively new works, some are classics that may have fallen off the radar. All have helped these successful security professionals become better leaders. While it’s a little too late to put these books on your summer reading list, consider building them into your reading schedule this year.  

Derek Benz, CISO,
Honeywell International

How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. calls this the “grandfather of all people-skills books.” The author teaches readers how to deal with others to become a leader, including how to win trust, how to encourage people to want what you want, and how to change minds without building resentment. “Security comes down to people: protecting them, informing them, and influencing them. And there’s no greater book out there on how to work with and understand people than this one. I read it for the first time in 2003, and I continually refer back to it to enhance my behavior and leadership qualities. There’s a reason why this is always on the bestseller list: It works!”


Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher and William Ury.
This book lays out a five-step system for successful negotiations that can be applied for personal and business use. Fisher and Ury include real-life negotiating scenarios and examples to help illustrate their main points. “Even after nearly 30 years on the market, this is still the top seller of negotiation books. Life, both at home and at work, is all about negotiating. And in our current economy, negotiating has never been more critical. As security executives, we frequently find ourselves in challenging discussions around issues such as investment, resources, time management, strategy planning and threat response. This book provides a practical and winning toolset for the negotiations table.”


Chris Berg, Senior Director,
Corporate Security & Safety, Symantec

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
This popular 2007 book points to the vast number of major historical events – those with extreme impacts – have been unpredicted and unpredictable. The September 11 attacks are one example. The author posits that the value in recognizing the unpredictability of events is not in attempting to predict more accurately, but in preparing to recover from unpredictable negative events and preparing to exploit positive ones. “The Black Swan Event is virtually unpredictable and can have spectacular impact. The premise is that after the fact, we concoct a narrative to explain it. The author suggests what we don’t know is often more important than what we do know (or what we think we know). He presents evidence that people, often the so-called experts, tend to overestimate what they know and underestimate the uncertainty that comes from not knowing. Great brain candy and thought provoking.”

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, by Patrick Lencioni.
This is one in a trilogy of corporate fables in which the author uses a fictional story to illuminate leadership teaching concepts. The second part of the book outlines five common problems teams experience and provides practical resources for dealing with them. “This is a classic. Five Dysfunctions should be used by any leader who wants to keep a smoothly running team on the same path, or a leader who has a dysfunctional team without any trust for one another. I have used this with my team and have passed it along to my mentees.”

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business, by Patrick Lencioni.
Another of Lencioni’s fiction-to-application books, Death by Meeting begins with a CEO frustrated with the passive ineffectiveness of business meetings in his company. It ends with a blueprint for planning and holding meetings that engage and invigorate the team. “We have adopted this book as a model for meetings in my organization. The premise is that most meetings are boring, either consisting of regurgitating what happened since the last time the group met, or a mish mash of strategic and tactical topics. Following this model has streamlined our meetings, and made them more meaningful and impactful.”


On Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times, by Donald T. Phillips.
In this book, author Donald T. Phillips examines the management techniques and people skills that Abraham Lincoln employed as he worked to re-unify the United States, including methods of alliance building and persuasion. Phillips develops each trait into a lesson for modern business leaders. “Short but dynamic book on how ’s leadership principles helped him navigate the presidency during the civil war. Excellent leadership ideas that one can implement in today’s business world.”


Gail Reese, Security Specialist,
Cox Corporate Security

Fit to Lead: The Proven 8-Week Solution for Shaping Up Your Body, Your Mind, and Your Career by Christopher P. Neck, Charles C. Manz, T.L. Mitchell, & Emmet C. Thompson.
According to Publishers Weekly, this book is built around the quote “Physical fitness is the basis for all other forms of excellence.” The authors lay out an exercise program for busy executives, arguing that improving fitness will lead to sharpening of the mind, which leads to better leadership. The authors are not gym gurus or personal trainers; they have special expertise in fitness and management. Neck is a management professor, Mitchell served on Bush’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Manz is a consultant and author and Thompson teaches a course on fitness for executives.

“This book reminds us that balancing work and life is critical. We cannot lead, or function for that matter, effectively if we are not healthy. By making small changes in lifestyle, we can eventually make bigger changes and improve both our professional and personal life.”