If you’re a manager and looking for something new to read, here are a handful of books I enjoyed this past summer.
I don’t like leadership books. Many tend to be hyperbolic (was that tactic really “life changing”?) or repetitive (you could say the same thing in about 30% of the text). Most tellingly, I often don’t do anything different having read the book.
Yet as a CEO, myself, and someone who studies leadership for a living, I try to read as much as I can to learn what is working and not working for other leaders. And every so often, I stumble on a leadership book that’s fantastic.
Over the summer, I read a handful of books on leadership that surprised me in the best ways. A few even had me glowing. Some of them are not “business books” or “leadership books” per se — but the lessons and insights they contain are highly applicable for managers.
If you’re a manager and looking for something new to dive into, here are 6 books I enjoyed recently:
I can’t stop recommending this book to people. Based on data from thousands of CEOs, it shares the 4 behaviors that make for a successful CEO. While it’s centered primarily for CEOs of large enterprise companies and non-founding CEOs, I personally found all the concepts resonant. My favorite one? The idea of holding your stakeholders to be “constructively dissatisfied” (see below).
While this isn’t your typical “leadership” read, I strongly suggest leaders pick it up. It gave me a enlightening framework around self-perception: You tell stories that cause you to resent team members, you want to be angry at a situation, and a deep desire to be liked motivates almost all your decisions. The minute we have the courage to be disliked — and instead to serve our community and live in accordance with our own personal conviction — the freer we are, as managers and as people. Interestingly enough, this is also a recent national bestseller in Japan.
I’d read a lot of Peter Drucker before, but had not gotten around to this one yet. I wish I’d read it sooner. It’s a classic for a reason. How you spend your time determines your effectiveness as a leader, says Drucker, and he is so spot on. After reading this book, I did an inventory of my time and overhauled how I spend it. It was painful, yet necessary. The reality is, you’re spending it on things you shouldn’t, and there’s only one way to fix it: Face it.
Another “not business book,” but I have applied many ideas from it already. Leaders ultimately gather people together — so thinking intentionally about how to gather people in the best way is paramount. It has helped me reconsider the way I run workshops at Know Your Team, how I facilitate a meeting with clients, and how I interact with team members. I now focus more on the purpose in gathering people, and the beginning and end of a gathering.
Originally intended for writers or artists, I found this book to be equally helpful for the “craft” of management. Pressfield discusses how ego is a barrier to progress and creativity. Similarly, I realized how much ego is a part of what causes us to be bad managers. To softly kill the negative effects of ego, I loved his suggestion that you frame of yourself as a company instead of as an individual: Think of yourself as “Claire, Inc.” when you receive critical feedback. That way you’re more likely to be open to feedback, take things less personally, and willing to improve. Be a vessel for your work, instead of tying your own ego to it.
Like many, I’m a big fan of Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, and author of the infamous “Culture Deck.” Her new book, Powerful, was a breath of fresh air to me. I completely agree with her emphasis on performance — we’ve gotten away from the fact that a team is supposed to perform, and that’s what a leader is supposed to make happen. She takes a lot of commonly embraced HR truisms and spits on them. I love it. For example, she rails on not calling your company “family.” Here’s my favorite quote of hers (didn’t have a screenshot of it!):
“Great teams are not created with incentives, procedures, and perks. They are created by hiring talented people who are adults and want nothing more than to tackle a challenge, and then communicating to them, clearly and continuously, about what the challenge is.” –Patty McCord
Have you read any of these, yourself? What’d ya think? If you get a chance, would be curious to hear your thoughts. And, as I look for my next books to read, I’m eager to know what you’d recommend. Please give me a shout on Twitter (@clairejlew) or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Look forward to hearing from you!