You never stop being a student, no matter how many years it’s been since you’ve stepped into a classroom.
Great leaders read. Learning new things is essential to skilled leadership – and reading is one of the best ways to do this. There are thousands of incredible books from talented writers which give you a grip on the topic you’re currently interested in. With so many books to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming to know where to start.
So I’ve written a list of five book recommendations for you to get stuck into and which will help you in your leadership journey. And if reading an entire book is too much to face right now, there’s always my weekly blog, The Leader’s Digest. It offers up bite sized leadership tips for you to consume as you wait in line for your coffee. So if you haven’t already, subscribe now.
As for books, here are my top five reads for leaders:
Ever since Brene Brown burst onto our screens with one of the most watched TED talks on vulnerability, she’s captured my attention. Dare to Lead is her latest book. It’s jam packed with insightful commentary about vulnerability, courage and how these things are fundamental to great leadership and successful teams. One of my favourite quotes from the book is “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”
This is one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years because it’s challenged my mental models towards constraints. And let’s be honest. Working within constraints is a daily reality for every leader. Constraints of time, constraints of capability, constraints of money and resources. Leadership is a veritable constraint-fest! Author Adam Morgan provides practical approaches on how to move from a victim mode of thinking to an “ultimate transformer” approach when we’re faced with constraints. This book is also a great one to workshop with your team.
From the world’s most famous executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith, comes Triggers. This book helps you create behaviour that is lasting and which enables you to become the type of person you want to be. And who’s not up for some of that!? If anyone knows what it takes to make enduring positive change in behaviour, it’s this guy. This book is packed with practical tools, his own insightful anecdotes and some funny stories. Anything by this dude is worth a read for leaders, IMHO.
Hands up anyone who’s dealing with conflicting demands and struggling priorities? Yep, pretty much every senior executive and leadership team I’ve ever worked with! Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, works to directly challenge your thinking around your priorities. It’s confronting, but it helps you acknowledge just how often you’re trying to do too much – whether that’s personally, as a team and even your organisation. His solution? Do less, but better. I always recommend this book as reading for any leadership team doing my Pivot High Performance Programme for Senior Leadership Teams, and it’s a must read for any leader who has ever felt slightly overwhelmed by their to do list.
Whilst not strictly a leadership book, Tribe of Mentors makes the cut for this list. Tim Ferriss is a hero of mine – and his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the best. In this book, Tim interviews the world’s ‘best of the best’ in a variety of fields from business to sports to arts. He asks these over achievers about their habits, how they have approached performance and their advice for success. If you’re aspiring to achieve mastery in your chosen field, or just want a bit of inspiration, check it out. The quotes are hilarious.
Bonus Book (which is not actually a book) – Creative Whackpack, by Roger von Oech
Whilst not technically a book, this Whackpack by one of the world’s experts on creativity will get even the Tom in Accounts Who Doesn’t Have a Creative Cell in his Brain thinking outside the box. The Whackpack is a deck of cards, each offering a unique strategy to think differently about any issue. Use it for brainstorming sessions, problem solving workshops or just whenever you want your team to think creatively …which is, well, most of the time isn’t it?
What is your book recommendation for challenging our thinking, inspiring action, or offering opportunities personal growth? DO TELL! Make sure you share it in a comment below.