Man’s Search for Meaning, Austrian psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s harrowing account of his time in Nazi concentration camps from 1942 to 1945, is among the ten most influential books in America (according to a Library of Congress survey asking people to “name a book that made a difference in your life”). From a story of unbelievable suffering, Frankl draws the insight that our primary drive is not pleasure, nor the avoidance of pain, but the discovery and pursuit of meaning.
The book is filled with wisdom for leaders (or anyone), and the power of its ending is unmatched:
In the concentration camps … we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.
Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.
-Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning