Many managers commit leadership malpractice everyday. Much like a physician, the leaders mantra should be “First, do no harm”. Unlike doctors, however, there is no requirement to go through 12 years of schooling before beginning a practice. New managers receive little or no training at all when they start out and even less is available as they move into mid-level.

This leaves leaders in the position where they must teach themselves. The first place many will turn is to the latest book, article, blog, etc. on the latest leadership trends thinking this will quickly bring them up to speed. How much information is out there? Taking a look at amazon.com alone, results for Leadership books have over 182,000 results. Management books number over 990,000. Imagine the overwhelming feeling an already overwhelmed manager must feel.

For those brave enough to soldier on, how do you figure out where to begin? Take heart knowing nothing is new. While volumes are written and spoken on this topic every year, the fundamentals of leadership never change. As you flip or click through new material, here is what to look for:

Applicability – Look for information relevant to you now. Make a list of the issues you are facing and group them together. Look for trends. Pick the top one or two and focus on information that can help solve your immediate problems. Now look for material that not only includes the information you need but tools you can use to get started.

Credibility – While we naturally gravitate towards authors who have published many books or who have a lot of endorsements, this doesn’t always translate into useful information.  Rather, it is good marketing. Instead of relying on the positive reviews of strangers, seek out the people you respect and ask their recommendation. A simple LinkedIn request could save you a lot of time. You should also look for information based in actual research. Before you read them, know why you are reading them.

Availability – As I said, the fundamentals of leadership don’t change. Many books will say the same things but in different ways. Use this to your advantage to find information that speaks to you. The language should be simple and straightforward. It should be presented in a format that will help you learn and take action.

Community – The reason why there is so much information out there is that there are so many people in the same position you are in. They are also seeking answers. And there are ways to connect with them. Seek out Communities of Practice or even book clubs that focus on leadership. If you cannot find one, start one.

Brevity – As with many things, keep this simple. Limit the number of books, blogs, and/or journals you read to two or three. You can also seek out book summary services like getabstract.com. Remember, our goal here is not to read, but to act.

What books, authors, podcasts, etc. have you found to be helpful in learning leadership?