Project Management

20 Management Books Every Great Leader Should Read

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by Tom Elliott

Estimated reading time: 11 minute(s)

20 Management Books Every Great Leader Should Read

20 Management Books Every Great Leader Should Read

Highly effective leaders read highly effective books, right? Even natural-born leaders need help and guidance to get maximum results from themselves and their team.

Have you ever had a bad boss? Someone whose so out of synchronicity with the members of the team. Or a boss who can’t separate themselves from the situation in order to lead effectively? Well, books can help by teaching management techniques and help you avoid the errors of bad bosses.

If you plan to step into leadership these books can help prepare you for the role. Don’t be like your bad boss, be smarter, stronger, and braver. There are thousands of management books available but finding the right one can be hard. In fact, many hold little value and aren’t worth the investment.

Take the guesswork out of which book you should buy and check out these recommendations:

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You. By Julie Zhuo

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You. By Julie ZhuoJulie Zhuo thinks leaders are not born but forged through their experiences. She was Facebook’s first intern and by the age of 25, she was selected to lead a team at one of the fastest-growing tech companies ever. In the blink of an eye, her colleagues were now her employees and they looked to her to lead.

Zhuo had to deal with a lot of first such as who to hire and what to do when you have to fire a friend. Facebook was growing fast which meant its managers needed to grow fast too. Julie Zhuo is now the Vice-President of Product Design and has shared everything she’s learned about leadership in her book.

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World With OKRs. By John Doerr

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World With OKRs. By John DoerrJohn Doerr is a venture capitalist and he’s a billionaire. In 1999 he met with a small but ambitious tech company called Google. He staked his biggest investment to date with them and today Google has a market cap of over $1 trillion. Doerr helped steer the ship by teaching Larry Page and Sergey Brin the management technique known as Objectives and Key Results.

It’s a goal-setting system that helps businesses reach the results they seek. In his book, John Doerr shares how to implement this system in your company. The book contains first-person narratives from people like Bill Gates and U2’s Bono. Through case studies and first-hand knowledge, you’ll learn how to define objectives and key results (which are the milestones you’ll need to reach).

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. By Brene Brown

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. By Brene BrownBrene Brown wants to inspire the next generation of leaders to take charge and her book is going to teach you how to do that. She believes that good leadership is broken down into 4 skill sets and they can be observed, measured, and then taught. She describes those 4 skill sets as the ability to rumble with vulnerability, live into your values, building trust, and resetting after failure.

The good news is Brene Brown believes that we’re all leaders but that we need to be braver to lead well. Her book is the result of years of research including interviews with leaders at non-profits, startups, family-owned, and other businesses of all sizes.

The One Minute Manager.By Kenneth Blanchard Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson M.D.

The One Minute Manager.By Kenneth Blanchard Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson M.D.The One Minute Manager is a very popular book with managers and leaders because it is short and to the point. The book is broken down into three different pieces of advice to become an effective manager. These are the One Minute Goals, One Minute Praise, and One Minute Reprimand.

Managers who read this book are taught how to be precise with their intentions. Set clear objectives with a clear timeframe, but allow your employees the autonomy in deciding how their job is done. Issues should be dealt with when they arise and never allowed to accumulate and fester. The One Minute Manager is a great tool for leaders to use in their office.

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. By L. David Marquet

Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. By L. David MarquetMarquet took on the Navy and changed the rulebook it had been following for centuries. When Marquet was assigned leadership of the Santa Fe he found the crew to be miserable. The Santa Fe is a nuclear submarine and the margin for error is virtually nonexistent. When he unknowingly gave an impossible order Marquet was shocked that his crew followed it.

It was time for a change and Marquet developed a new system that encouraged every crew member to take responsibility and lead. This turned the fortunes of the Santa Fe around as it went from the least to the most desirable submarine in the Naval fleet. The crew was engaged at every level and Marquet changed tradition forever.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. By Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. By Simon SinekSimon Sinek wants to challenge the ideas behind what leadership is. Instead of thinking about being in charge, he wants leaders to think of those in his charge. Essentially this book is not about what your team can do for you, but what you can do for your team.

Sinek draws on the experiences of leaders within the Marine Corps as well as those at the head of big businesses and world governments. It’s a deep look into why members of the Marine Corps willingly sacrifice their lives and how businesses can adopt this model to bring out the best in their team.

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. By Nir Eyal

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. By Nir EyalThis is a world built on distractions. Distractions are a billion-dollar industry and companies like YouTube and Netflix thrive when we’re distracted. Indistractable is the toolkit you need to battle the pull of distractions and focus more on the things that matter in your life.

Nir Eyal’s book focuses on the psychology behind getting distracted. It’s not a simple do this, get that template but rather an empowering guide to help you make plans and see them through. You can achieve this by learning how to best use the technology available instead of letting technology get the better of you.

How to Win Friends and Influence People. By Dale Carnegie

How to Win Friends and Influence People. By Dale CarnegieThe most discussed book on leadership is How to Win Friends and Influence People. And despite being written in 1936 it’s still an excellent template to model yourself after. The book has sold over 30 million copies making it one of the all-time best-selling books. The advice shared is flawless as well as timeless.

One of Carnegie’s core beliefs is that changing another’s behavior can be achieved by changing your behavior towards them. The book is broken down into six ways of making people like you, twelve different ways to influence someone to your way of thinking, and nine methods of changing people without causing any resentment. Any person, whether in a leadership role or not, can learn from Dale Carnegie’s book.

First, Break All the Rules. By Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman

First, Break All the Rules. By Marcus Buckingham & Curt CoffmanThis book is the sum of 80,000 interviews with management at leaders from all sizes of business and in different kinds of positions. From C-Suite leaders to supervisors, First, Break All the Rules looks at how companies create employee satisfaction to take them to the next level.

Some of the advice found in this book include treating employees as individuals and not fixing weaknesses but focusing on strengths instead. The book covers what these managers do differently and gives practical advice for implementing these strategies in your organization.

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay StanierMichael Bungay has compiled a series of questions that you can share with your team so you’re saying less and asking more. Learn how to get to the point during a conversation with the kickstart question. Or save yourself time with the lazy question.

The Coaching Habit is backed up by neuroscience research and behavioral economics. Stainer has included interactive elements to turn his advice into habits. There are seven questions in the Coaching Habit that will help you make positive changes in the way you lead.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. By Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. By Stephen R. CoveyIn Stephen Covey’s book, you’ll learn how to be more effective with goals by focusing on what he describes as the “true north” principles based on a moral character he believes is timeless. The book has sold over 25 million copies and is hailed for being a simple model to follow.

In this book, Covey introduces the maturity continuum which details the stages of maturity as dependence, independence, and interdependence. He focuses on the latter two to help turn leaders into highly effective people. You’ll learn how to be principled and develop strong, healthy relationships with this book.

Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. By Harvey B. Mackay

Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. By Harvey B. MackaySelf-made millionaire, Harvey Mackay, shares everything he’s learned about the road to success. This book is a must-have for leaders in sales teams and particularly for people stepping up into management. Despite being released in the 1980s, the advice Mackay has to share is enduring and still relevant today.

Mackay shares his story and imparts his wisdom through chapters known as “lessons” and “quickies.” His lessons aren’t just good for a sales team but can be put into practice in your everyday life. For example, he talks about how you need to be willing to say “no” and walk away; practical advice that’s always worth remembering.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. By Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. By Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D.Dr. Robert Cialdini is one of the foremost experts on the topics of influence and persuasion. His book is a detailed look into why people say yes to things and is based on over 35 years of research. There are 6 principles examined in this book: reciprocation, commitment & consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity.

The book aims to turn you into a skilled persuader but will also teach you how to protect yourself from influence. It’s a great read for marketing professionals as well as team leaders to help influence good work from their team.

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action. By Simon Sinek

Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action. By Simon SinekThe second book on this list by Simon Sinek looks at the two main ways of influencing human behavior; manipulation and inspiration. Sinek’s book suggests that the more powerful and sustainable choice is inspiration. He looks at how leadership and purpose can drive success. He says to get the best results you need to start with “why?”

Sinek believes that the “why” helps teams to understand the purpose and that “why” should be communicated before other questions like how or what. This framework is named the Golden Circle. It can help business leaders to build their organization from the ground up.

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons in Creative Leadership from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons in Creative Leadership from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert IgerWhat does it take to lead one of the largest media companies in the world? A job that overseas film and television production, radio, theme parks, cruises, and other industries. Well, Robert Iger who was in charge of the Disney beast for 15 years has detailed his time at the top.

The Ride of a Lifetime is a must-read for anyone in the creative industry. It can also anyone to learn new leadership skills born from creative minds. Iger breaks down his belief that the core principles leaders need are optimism, courage, decisiveness, and fairness.

Nudge: The Final Edition. By Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

Nudge: The Final Edition. By Richard Thaler and Cass SunsteinNudge has changed the way businesses and governments operate. This is a new edition that has been completely rewritten and updated with the latest information. The book focuses on choice architecture to help you to make better decisions that benefit business, family, and society.

Nudging is a behavioral science method of influencing decisions through positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions. The core principle of nudging is that you should make it fun. Everything you need to learn about this concept is contained within this book.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter By Liz Wiseman & Greg McKeown

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter By Liz Wiseman & Greg McKeownThis book is about two different types of leaders and how you can become the right kind. The first type of leader is called the Idea Killer, the one you don’t want to be. These leaders drain motivation, intelligence, and capability from their team and always try to position themselves as the most important person in the room.

Be a Multiplier instead suggests Liz Wideman and Greg McKeown. A Multiplier is the type of leader who brings out the intelligence and capability from their team. If you want to be the type of leader that can inspire ideas, collaboration, and get problems solved then Multipliers can help teach you that.

Your Brain At Work. By David Rock

Your Brain At Work. By David RockYour Brain At Work details the life of a couple and their demanding careers. It gives first-hand information on how to better handle day-to-day stimulation. Rock shows the couple, as well as the reader, how they can better prioritize and organize their life. This is a guide on how to excel in today’s modern work landscape.

Rock teaches the brain’s limitations, how to be mindful of them and how to act on them in the moment. By reading this book you’ll be able to understand yourself better and learn valuable skills along the way. Arm yourself with the knowledge to overcome distractions and thrive at work.

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. By Kim Scott

Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. By Kim ScottRadical Candor is a book for managers to learn how to effectively speak to and manage their team. It doesn’t shy away from the fact that sometimes you need to criticize work and it shares ideas on how to do that constructively. Alongside criticism, the book discusses how praise should be factored into work relationships.

Relationships are key to creating a thriving work environment and that’s what Kim Scott’s book is all about. Scott shares her three guiding principles; make it personal, get it done, and understand why it matters.

The Ordinary Leader: 10 Key Insights for Building and Leading a Thriving Organization. By Randy Grieser

The Ordinary Leader: 10 Key Insights for Building and Leading a Thriving Organization. By Randy GrieserThe Ordinary Leader takes the focus away from the Fortune 100 CEOs and looks at the leaders at small organizations. Rarely are these leaders discussed in the national press but they represent far more of the workforce. How they work is vital to business success and Randy Grieser has taken the conversation to them.

Grieser’s work was surveyed by over 1,700 leaders and the book contains the perspective of 10 people from a range of professions. His findings are distilled through 10 principles that he believes will make you a more passionate, productive, and visionary leader.

Conclusion

The world needs leaders of all shapes and sizes and if these books teach us anything it’s that anyone can become one. It’s not just businesses that need leaders and these books can help you to develop skills that are useful in everyday life. Community leaders can inspire change, teachers can teach independence, and parents can encourage ideas.

We indeed live in a world full of distractions but there are brain techniques you can learn to increase your focus and productivity. Don’t hold yourself back if there are things you want to achieve. The books on this list have helped millions to be the best version of themselves. It can happen for you too if you apply the lessons in these books.

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