Category Archives: Book Reviews

What Makes Great Leaders Great (book review)

Every once in awhile a leadership book is published that is easily read and pertains to both management executives and student leaders alike. What Makes Great Leaders Great: Management Lessons from Icons Who Changed the World by Frank Arnold profiles important leadership lessons from 56 iconic individuals, including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, and Benjamin Franklin.

The book is divided into three sections, including Managing Organizations, Managing Innovation, and Managing People. Each two to four page chapter is dedicated to a different individual and provides a short biography of that person. The leadership lesson is presented along with a final bulleted Action Points and Food for Thought that is intended to provoke discussion related to your own organization. Some of the lessons include: Demand Effective Management (Warren Buffet), Innovate Systematically (Thomas Edison), Embody Integrity (General George Marshall), and Create Trust (Levi Strauss).

What Makes Great Leaders Great is an excellent resource that can be easily incorporated into student leader training or as a text in a leadership development class. The book is versatile in that various chapters can be assigned and discussed without having to read the entire book. Lessons from chapters can be easily incorporated into meeting discussions and for staff development activities.

This book can be purchased via in hardcopy or Kindle versions and makes a perfect gift for a leadership-minded colleague or student mentee.

Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations (book review)

Combating apathy can be one of the most challenging aspects of leading or advising a student organization. The book Motivating the Middle: Fighting Apathy in College Student Organizations by T. J. Sullivan aims to offer concrete solutions for this often reoccuring problem on our campuses. T.J.’s premise is that there are three different types of student organization members: the Top-Third; the Middle-Third; and the Bottom-Third. The “Top-Third” are your organization superstars that participate in everything and are high achievers. The “Bottom-Third” members, on the other hand, are those individuals who are doing the bare minimum, if that, in terms of organization involvement.

T.J. suggests that student leaders concentrate on developing those “Middle-Third” members who are not the stellar achievers, but who do indeed participate and engage more than the “Bottom-Third” individuals. They may simply be involved in other activities, have other responsibilities, or just simply want to be involved under their own terms. By developing these particular members, the organization can benefit from increased participation and renewed vigor.

The book is 64 pages in length and is easily readable in under an hour’s time. Where many student life leadership instructors miss the mark by offering theory-dense texts that may be largely academic and undigestible for student leaders, Motivating the Middle is a leadership resource that offers concrete solutions for solving organization member apathy. This book is not only appropriate for students, but for student life professionals as well. I highly recommend this book as a text for any type of leadership course your campus offers or as an appropriate resource to include during organization board training.

The book is available for purchase on by clicking HERE. For bulk purchases of 20 or more books, contact T.J. Sullivan at and mention “StudentLifeGuru” to receive 20% off the list price. The first 50 people to share this post on Twitter by clicking below will be entered into a raffle to win a signed copy of T.J.’s book.

140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form (book review)

In 2009, one of the founders of Twitter, Dom Sagolla (@Dom), wrote the book 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form. This is a fun little read that not only has a sense of humor, but is also practical for those who are new to or are veterans of the Twitterverse.

The book is broken up in five parts (Lead, Value, Master, Evolve, and Accelerate) and 19 separate chapters. The titles of the chapters serve as snippets of advice themselves and is a nod to Strunk and White’s Elements of Style (you may remember this from high school or college composition or English). Here are a few examples:

  • Simplify: Say More with Less
  • Avoid: Don’t Become a Fable about Too Much Information
  • Reach: Understand Your Audience
  • Mention: Stamp Your Own Currency
  • Open: Give and You Shall Receive
  • Increase: Do More
  • Fragment: Do It Smaller

As is the case with many of the “self-help” Twitter books that I have read, 140 Characters comes complete with a short history of the founding of Twitter, practical tips, and recommended individuals to follow.

This is a nice resource for both professors and student affairs professionals alike. It is a short read (179 pages) that can be completed in one sitting and applied to various student learning applications, such as networking (career services), composition and writing (English / poetry / creative writing) and communication skills (leadership development / Greek Life / Residence Life / clubs & organizations).

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