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Leaders Should Be Readers

Perhaps when you first started umpiring, there should have been a notice that said "Warning: the job of umpiring requires extensive reading."

For starters, there's the rule book, and, as we all know, that's not the easiest thing to get through. It's not like it's a novel, with interesting characters, a plot twist and a satisfying ending. Then there's the positioning manuals, the association rules and bylaws, and multiple reference manuals.

But we're not even talking about all those. There's a lot more to becoming a high-level umpire than just learning your rule book, manuals, safes and outs, balls and strikes, fair and foul. It's extra, recommended reading on topics that aren't specifically about umpiring that will help you become even more successful once you've become familiar with your rule book and manuals.

Among many, many other things, you should have confidence to be successful. You should also be a good communicator. And if you ever find yourself in the position of being a mentor, evaluator or someone who makes training presentations, you need to learn how to speak and present to a group.

With that in mind, we're presenting a three-part series on books we recommend that will help you become a better leader, mentor, evaluator, communicator, and presenter. Here we go:

1. Psychology of Officiating, by Dr. Robert S. Weinberg and Dr. Peggy A. Richardson.

This should almost be required reading for any serious umpire. I led off the series with this book because even if you read no further than this, you'll know about this book. It's definitely a worthwhile and important read.

Both authors are professors in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of North Texas, and both have extensive experience in sports officiating.

The book has practical advice and exercises on several key topics for officials, such as getting motivated, officiating with confidence, learning how to concentrate and relax, and being a good communicator. It also has a section on burnout, which is a hot topic these days.

Key quote: "Research has indicated that the most powerful builder of confidence is performance accomplishments. The concept is simple: Having performed a behavior successfully in the past will increase your confidence that you can perform it successfully in the future."

2. A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring, by John Wooden and Don Yaeger.

If you don't know who John Wooden is, you need to get to work. Briefly, he is the most successful basketball coach in NCAA history, and he has become a mentor to hundreds of people.

In the book, Wooden defines what a mentor is, lists the people who have been his

mentors (including Mother Teresa and Abraham Lincoln), and seven people he has mentored, including Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. The chapters about the people Wooden mentored are written by the mentees themselves, with an introduction by Wooden.

As he goes through these stories, Wooden offers valuable insights not only about being mentored, but also about being a mentor.

Key quote: "Mentors do not seek to create a new person; they simply seek to help a person become a better version of himself. Mentors are, after all, primarily concerned with teaching, and a teacher is there to inspire. I urge everyone to seek out someone whose life inspires you and speaks to your own goals."

3. The Leadership Challenge, by James M. Kouzes and Dr. Barry Z. Posner.

Kouzes and Posner are coauthors of more than 15 books and workbooks on leadership and leadership development.

Simply put, you won't find a more detailed book on leadership. The Leadership Challenge is considered the most trusted source on becoming a better leader.

The book features extensive interviews with a diverse group of leaders from organizations around the world. It has scores of new case studies and could be thought of as a "personal coach in a book."

The authors base their system on five practices - Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart.

Key quote: "Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting. It's hard to imagine leaders getting up day after day, putting in the long hours and hard work it takes to get extraordinary things done, without having their hearts in it. The best-kept secret of successful leaders is love: staying in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with those who honor the organization by using its products and services.

"Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart."

4. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, by John C. Maxwell.

Long considered a leadership guru, Maxwell has written at least 23 books, most of them on leadership. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is perhaps his most well known, and for good reason. The book uses captivating stories to illustrate Maxwell's 21 laws, such as how Ray Kroc took McDonald's to the successful level it's at now, even though two brothers, Dick and Maurice McDonald, created the restaurant. But they didn't understand the "Law of the Lid," and Kroc did.

Other "laws" Maxwell uses include the Law of Influence, the Law of Navigation, the Law of Respect, the Law of Connection, and the Law of Timing.

Key quote: "Many people who approach the area of vision in leadership have it all backward. They believe that if the cause is good enough, people will automatically buy into it and follow. But that's not how leadership really works. People don't at first follow worthy causes. They follow worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes. People buy into the leader first, then the leader's vision. Having an understanding of that changes your whole approach to leading people."