Best books on enlightened workforce leadership

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 12-12-13

IndustryWeek Editor-in-Chief Patricia Panchak wrote a blog post that caught my eye: The Best Books on Enlightened Workforce Management.

Of course, enlightened is a tough word because it can mean different things to different people. Here’s her list of what she calls “old faithfuls”.

I love Max DePree, some of my favorite quotes come from his writing. I don’t think I would put In Search of Excellence on the list, or Good to Great. While both were important books, I really think of them more about strategy and structure than enlightened workforce management.

What would I add to the list, at least from a classics standpoint? Here are a few. All make their own unique contribution.


Kiyoshi Suzaki wrote about the people side of lean long before it become common to do it. In many ways, we are just remembering what Suzaki wrote. We used Suzaki’s books so much 20 years ago, we just called them the “red book” and the “blue book.” The Fifth Discipline and the people surrounding it did tremendous things to elevate engagement. While the book by Ed Schein isn’t a classic, Ed Schein’s contributions are significant. And although he doesn’t seem to get the credit he deserved, Robert Greenleaf both wrote well about servant leadership but also embodied it. Of course, Dr. Deming made significant contributions here. And finally, Imai’s writing about kaizen gave a means by which employees could engage in driving improvement.

That’s just a start. Do you have suggestions or favorites?

I’ve been trying to read more (a lot more). I just bought myself the new Kindle Paperwhite, which I have to admit is a fantastic device. I’ve already increased my book reading time.

UPDATE: The books recommended by Edward and Amiel:


  • “Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance” by Thomas Gilbert

    Edward Blackman December 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm
  • Age of Heretics by Art Kleiner tells the history of enlightened business leadership better than just about anyone else.

    Amiel Handelsman December 16, 2013 at 11:48 pm