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Members of the Idaho Leads learning community engage in thoughtful reading and reflection that helps us grow as leaders and learners. These are some of the books that we read, discussed, and learned from in our first year of work together. 

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by the Arbinger Institute

Anatomy of Peace Cover

When your heart is at peace, you don’t wage war. This is as true at home as it is on the global stage, and is the premise of the Arbinger Institute’s semi-fictional investigation of how conflicts start, why we perpetuate them, and how to diffuse them and build lasting peace. As with any work worth doing, it’s not easy, and it starts with taking a hard look at yourself:

  • Get out of the “box” that informs the way you view yourself, others, and the conflicts you help to sustain
  • Start by helping things go right, rather than only dealing with things that are going wrong
  • See others as people, not objects 

This is an amazingly valuable book for building relationships at all levels of a system. Be careful: it might just change your life. 

Berrett-Koehler, 2008

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath


Chip and Dan Heath understand that big change is hard for individuals, and even harder for systems and organizations. As a result, their framework for change management addresses both our emotional and rational sides. The result is a practical guide for leaders seeking to manage change at any level–even the classroom. Key takeaways:

  • Focus on what’s working (find the bright spots)
  • Point to the destination (paint a clear picture of the result you’d like to see)
  • Appeal to emotion
  • Create an environment conducive to the changes you want to see
  • Harness the power of the crowd

This is an excellent book for leaders at all levels. 

Broadway Books, 2010

The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary by Mark Sanborn


What’s a Fred? Mark Sanborn says a Fred is an individual who makes a habit of going the extra mile, taking a personal interest in people, and intentionally building relationships to make the world a better place. Want to be one? Here’s how:

  • Choose to make a difference, no mater what your position in the organization
  • Understand that success is built on relationships
  • Continually create value for others
  • Always reinvent yourself

Believe it or not, Freds are especially needed in schools today. Ready to become one? Read on!

Doubleday, 2004

Motion Leadership by Michael Fullan


“Skinny” is right: in this slim volume, change expert Michael Fullan outlines the nine elements of the “Ready-Fire-Aim” approach to change management. Here are some highlights:

  • Put relationships first
  • Beware of fat plans
  • Learn about implementation during implementation
  • Take risks and learn
  • Know that it’s OK to be assertive

Fullan knows that effective leaders do to successfully facilitate big changes on a system-wide scale–here he boils it down to key points that can immediately be put into practice. 

Corwin et al, 2010

The Moral Imperative Realized by Michael Fullan


Another gem from renowned change expert Michael Fullan. In this book Fullan explores how to make systemic change happen at all levels of the organization through a system of shared leadership. Some key points:

  • Mission statements don’t improve student learning–strategic actions taken by dedicated leaders do
  • School improvement is a moral action: we’ve got to connect passion and strategic action
  • The moral imperative in education is clear: raise the bar and close the gap in student learning for all children, regardless of background

As usual, Fullan presents us with a formidable challenge, along with practical steps to meet it. This is a must-read for leaders at all levels seeking to use effective practices and manage change.

Corwin Press, 2011

Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools by William H. Parrett and Kathleen M. Budge


Dr. Bill Parrett and Dr. Kathleen Budge take an in-depth look at the effective practices leaders use to turn schools with high-poverty populations into high-performing academic powerhouses. Here are three key practices all leaders of such schools implement:

  • Build leadership capacity at all levels
  • Foster a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment
  • Focus on student, professional, and system learning

These lessons can be easily applied in any school or district seeking to raise achievement for all students–an essential read for leaders at every level.

ASCD, 2012

Understanding Common Core State Standards by John Kendall


Feel like you’re drowning in a sea of Common Core misinformation? John Kendall’s short by useful book might be your life preserver. In it he explores the Common Core in the larger context of the standards movement, gives an in-depth look at the standards themselves, outlines the benefits and concerns posed by the Common Core, and proposes some key considerations to keep in mind for successful implementation. This is an excellent starting point for educators and key stakeholders who may be new to the Core–succinct, practical, and accurate.

McREL, 2011