10 BOOKS - STRATEGY
'Strategy - a plan or method for achieving a particular goal, usually over a long period of time.'
The English word traces its routes back from the 19th century French stratégie, and before that, the Greek strategia, or 'generalship'.
Strategy, as a tool for success in business or personal goals, is as important and as widely discussed as ever before. Yale University's 'Grand Strategy' course, despite only having begun in 2000, 'has become a breeding ground for aspiring policy makers, with students going on to plum jobs with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security' according to a WSJ article by Amy Dockser Marcus.
Below, ten of the best reads on strategy. Arm yourself with the tools and knowledge deemed essential by top Fortune 500 company leaders and Silicone Valley start-up pirates alike.
- Lawrence Freedman
Freedman, one of the worlds most renowned thinkers and writers on the subject of strategy, presents a broad, overarching view of the topic in this book. Noted as being one of the best books ever written on the subject, 'Strategy' covers it all, managing to be educational without being too dry.
The books defines strategy as the central art of getting more out of a situation then the starting balance of power would suggest.
Selected as 'Book of the Year - 2013' by The Financial Times
2. RULES FOR RADICALS
- Saul Alinsky
This widely respected book by Alinsky details ten strategic techniques for successfully uniting people behind a common goal, to effect change.
Although published in 1971 with a mind to influence counter-culture community organizers, it has been adopted and read more recently by both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on their road to Washington and establishment power.
A valuable read on the strategy behind uniting teams and motivating people.
3. THE 48 LAWS OF POWER
- Robert Greene
An international bestseller, Greene's book studies the use of strategy and power in a wide range of time periods and contexts. Ending each example with a key take-away, The 48 Laws of Power became popular for its easy-to-read, digestible format.
While deeper, more academic texts exist for many of the historical examples presented in Greene's book - it is a great short read and clearly explains the lessons to learn from each example.
4. NUDGE: IMPROVING DECISIONS ABOUT HEALTH, WEALTH AND HAPPINESS
- Richard B. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein
A great example of the wide range of available actions to those in pursuit of their goal. While many of the above books cover grand, overarching ideas and concepts, 'Nudge' is about smaller actions that can bring large rewards.
Thaler and Sunstein argue that smaller, bite-size ideas can often have more impact than large, complex or ambitions plans, as they are easier to control, model and predict. The main lesson from the book - aim high, but stay humble.
- Henry Kissinger
Kissinger is one of the twentieth centuries leading scholars and practitioners on the subject of strategy. This book is a great read, covering both his early ideas on the subject as a young student, through to his practice and later lessons serving as a US statesman. Behind the scenes examples of modern day political strategy in action.
6. GOD AND GOLD: BRITAIN, AMERICA, AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD
- Walter Russell Mead
Focusing on the strategy, luck and circumstance that resulted in the small island of Britain conquering and creating one of the largest, most dominant empires of the modern age.
Mead goes on to discuss the British empires after effects and influence on the United States today, pointing out both its highs and lows.
7. ABRAHAM LINCOLN: REDEEMER PRESIDENT
- Allen Guelzo
There are many books written on Lincoln, but few more enlightening as examples of the mans strategic thinking than this. Studying how Lincoln navigated the country through civil war, through force, suggestion, persuasion, and resolve, it highlights the grand task he faced in fighting against what was tearing the country apart.
A great example of an inspiring man using his heart and head in the face of a huge, daunting challenge.
- B. H. Liddell Hart
Another book by the same name, by another respected writer on the subject. Hart has written many books on strategy and on strategic thinkers, but this gives a great general overview.
Like Robert Green, Hart excels at explaining and summarising sometimes complex situations into digestible, easy to learn lessons.
9. THE PRINCE
A classic on the subject of power, strategy and manipulation.
This book deals in extremes, less the softly spoken subtleties of modern diplomacy, and more the bloody back-stabbing of an era when raw power was intimidatingly displayed for all to see.
10. THE PILGRIMS PROGRESS
- John Bunyan
A classic of English literature, 'The Pilgrims Progress' is a beautifully written, engaging story, with valuable lessons woven throughout the tale.
An age old tale of struggle, a long, uncertain journey, and puzzles to solve along the way.