The Top 10 Books Leaders Should Be Reading Now

Interview
Interview

Reading is an essential life skill. It’s how we record our history and share stories. Sure, there are countless books jam-packed from cover to cover with valuable facts. But there are also limitless volumes containing invaluable insights on the human experience. Generations of people have scribed their experiences and struggles, their emotions and confessions onto blank pages, thereby transforming them into rich resources.

One of the best ways to ensure that you grow as a person and a leader is to read — a lot.

Time and time again, we learn that the most successful people are also avid bookworms. Constant reading allows them to absorb knowledge, broaden their worldviews and perspectives and challenge obsolete viewpoints.

But of course not all books are worthy of the time and effort it takes to go from cover to cover. To help you on your journey toward becoming a successful leader, here are the top 10 books you should be reading now.

1. Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive

Keep learning, or risk becoming irrelevant.

It’s a truism in today’s economy: the only constant is change. Technological automation is making jobs less routine and more cognitively challenging. Globalization means you’re competing with workers around the world. Simultaneously, the internet and other communication technologies have radically increased the potential impact of individual knowledge.The relentless dynamism of these forces shaping our lives has created a new imperative: we must strive to become dynamic learners. In every industry and sector, dynamic learners outperform their peers and realize higher impact and fulfillment by learning continuously and by leveraging that learning to build yet more knowledge.

In Never Stop Learning, behavioral scientist and operations expert Bradley R. Staats describes the principles and practices that comprise dynamic learning and outlines a framework to help you become more effective as a lifelong learner. The steps include:

  • Valuing failure
  • Focusing on process, not outcome, and on questions, not answers
  • Making time for reflection
  • Learning to be true to yourself by playing to your strengths
  • Pairing specialization with variety
  • Treating others as learning partners

Replete with the most recent research about how we learn as well as engaging stories that show how real learning happens, Never Stop Learning will become the operating manual for leaders, managers, and anyone who wants to keep thriving in the new world of work.

2. How to Work with and Lead People Not Like You: Practical Solutions for Today’s Diverse Workplace

If you’re in a diverse team, you know employee differences can cause miscommunication, lower trust, and hurt productivity. . . It doesn’t have to be this way!

The people you work with may be from a different generation, different culture, different race, different gender, or just a different philosophy toward work and life in general, but you need to work together toward a common goal. How to Work With and Lead People Not Like You explains how to dial down the differences, smooth out the friction, and play upon each other’s strengths to become more effective, more productive, and less stressed. The keys are to find the common ground and identify hidden conflicts that are hurting productivity.

Many people shudder at the prospect of working with diverse groups of people, but they can’t voice their fear or anxiety. At work, it’s not OK or politically correct to say, ‘I’m uncomfortable with this person.’ In fact, if you do say something along those lines, your job may be at risk. Your company may terminate you for not being on the ‘diversity bandwagon.’ So you keep quiet and you keep your thoughts to yourself. But deep down, you are uncomfortable.

If you feel like this, it doesn’t mean you’re racist, sexist, ageist, homophobic, or any other negative label. It means you’re struggling.

You’re struggling to understand people, cultures, or values that are unfamiliar to you. You’re struggling to do your job with teammates and coworkers who may have very different viewpoints or different approaches to communication than you have. You’re struggling to overcome differences and pull together to achieve high performance at work.

Whether you’re leading a diverse team, working in a challenging cross-cultural environment, or simply working with people who are ‘not like you, ‘ you need to be able to get along with everyone as a team, to get the work done. This book explains the skills you need to communicate, motivate, and inspire people to collaborate — even if they have very different values, lifestyles, or priorities.

  • Learn key steps that bring cohesion to diversity
  • How to have a constructive conversation about working alongside people who are different
  • The four magic words that make this easier and smooth over friction
  • What not to say — and why
  • Learn to set aside differences and get things done
  • Learn how to handle a racist, sexist, homophobic or offensive remark in a professional way
  • Retain your sanity when colleagues drive you crazy

The changing demographics of today’s workforce bring conflicting viewpoints, perspectives, approaches, skills, habits, and personalities together in one place; whether that leads to synergy or catastrophe is up to you. How to Work With and Lead People Not Like You helps you turn a hurdle into an advantage so you or your team can do more, achieve more, and enjoy the ride.

3. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Daniel H. Pink, the #1 bestselling author of Drive and To Sell Is Human, unlocks the scientific secrets to good timing to help you flourish at work, at school, and at home.

Everyone knows that timing is everything. But we don’t know much about timing itself. Our lives are a never-ending stream of “when” decisions: when to start a business, schedule a class, get serious about a person. Yet we make those decisions based on intuition and guesswork.

Timing, it’s often assumed, is an art. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink shows that timing is really a science.

Drawing on a rich trove of research from psychology, biology, and economics, Pink reveals how best to live, work, and succeed. How can we use the hidden patterns of the day to build the ideal schedule? Why do certain breaks dramatically improve student test scores? How can we turn a stumbling beginning into a fresh start? Why should we avoid going to the hospital in the afternoon? Why is singing in time with other people as good for you as exercise? And what is the ideal time to quit a job, switch careers, or get married?

In When, Pink distills cutting-edge research and data on timing and synthesizes them into a fascinating, readable narrative packed with irresistible stories and practical takeaways that give readers compelling insights into how we can live richer, more engaged lives.

4. From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Values-Based Leadership

In this highly-anticipated book, Harry Kraemer argues that today’s business environment demands values-based leaders who, in “doing the right thing,” deliver outstanding and lasting results. The journey to becoming a values-based leader starts with self-reflection. He asks, “If you are not self-reflective, how can you know yourself? If you do not know yourself, how can you lead yourself? If you cannot lead yourself, how can you lead others?” Kraemer identifies self-reflection as the first of four principles that guide leaders to make choices that honor their values and candidly recounts how these principles helped him navigate some of the toughest challenges he faced in his career.

  • Offers a framework for adopting the principles of values-based leadership?self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence, and genuine humility?to lead organizations effectively
  • Based on Kraemer’s popular Kellogg MBA course on values-based leadership
  • A recognized expert in values-based leadership, Kraemer is a sought after speaker on the subject

Lively and engaging, Kraemer’s book comes at a critical time when true leadership in every facet of society is desperately needed.

5. Bring Your Whole Self to Work: How Vulnerability Unlocks Creativity, Connection, and Performance

In today’s work environment, the lines between our professional and personal lives are blurred more than ever before. Whatever is happening to us outside of our workplace — whether stressful, painful, or joyful — follows us into work as well. We may think we have to keep these realities under wraps and act as if we “have it all together.” But as Mike Robbins explains, we can work better, lead better, and be more engaged and fulfilled if — instead of trying to hide who we are — we show up fully and authentically.

Mike, a sought-after motivational speaker and business consultant, has spent more than 15 years researching, writing, and speaking about essential human experiences and high performance in the workplace. His clients have ranged from Google to Citibank, from the U.S. Department of Labor to the San Francisco Giants. From small start-ups in Silicon Valley to family-owned businesses in the Midwest. From what he’s seen and studied over the years, Mike believes that for us to thrive professionally, we must be willing to bring our whole selves to the work that we do.Bringing our whole selves to work means acknowledging that we’re all vulnerable, imperfect human beings doing the best we can. It means having the courage to take risks, speak up, have compassion, ask for help, connect with others in a genuine way, and allow ourselves to be truly seen.

In this book, Mike outlines five principles we can use to approach our own work in this spirit of openness and humanity, and to help the people we work with feel safe enough to do the same, so that the teams and organizations we’re a part of can truly succeed.”This book will offer you insights, ideas, and tools to inspire you to bring all of who you are to the work that you do — regardless of where you work, what kind of work you do, and with whom you do it. And, if you’re an owner, leader, or just someone who wants to have influence on those around you — this book will also give you specific techniques for how to build or enhance your team’s culture in such a way that encourages others to bring all of who they are to work.

6. Rise and Grind: Outperform, Outwork, and Outhustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life

New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Broke and “Shark” on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank explores how grit, persistence, and good old-fashioned hard work are the backbone of every successful business and individual, and inspires readers to Rise & Grind their way the top.

Daymond John knows what it means to push yourself hard — and he also knows how spectacularly a killer work ethic can pay off. As a young man, he founded a modest line of clothing on a $40 budget by hand-sewing hats between his shifts at Red Lobster. Today, his brand FUBU has over $6 billion in sales.

Convenient though it might be to believe that you can shortcut your way to the top, says John, the truth is that if you want to get and stay ahead, you need to put in the work. You need to out-think, out-hustle, and out-perform everyone around you. You’ve got to rise and grindevery day.

In the anticipated follow-up to the bestselling The Power of Broke, Daymond takes an up close look at the hard-charging routines and winning secrets of individuals who have risen to the challenges in their lives and grinded their way to the very tops of their fields. Along the way, he also reveals how grit and persistence both helped him overcome the obstacles he has faced in life and ultimately fueled his success.

7. It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy

The story of Captain D. Michael Abrashoff and his command of USS Benfold has become legendary inside and outside the Navy. Now Abrashoff offers this fascinating tale of top-down change for anyone trying to navigate today’s uncertain business seas. When Captain Abrashoff took over as commander of USS Benfold, a ship armed with every cutting-edge system available, it was like a business that had all the latest technology but only some of the productivity. Knowing that responsibility for improving performance rested with him, he realized he had to improve his own leadership skills before he could improve his ship. Within months he created a crew of confident and inspired problem-solvers eager to take the initiative and take responsibility for their actions. The slogan on board became “It’s your ship,” and Benfold was soon recognized far and wide as a model of naval efficiency. How did Abrashoff do it? Against the backdrop of today’s United States Navy-Benfold was a key player in our Persian Gulf fleet-Abrashoff shares his secrets of successful management including:

  • See the ship through the eyes of the crew: By soliciting a sailor’s suggestions, Abrashoff drastically reduced tedious chores that provided little additional value.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate: The more Abrashoff communicated the plan, the better the crew’s performance. His crew would eventually call him “Megaphone Mike,” since they heard from him so often.
  • Create discipline by focusing on purpose: Discipline skyrocketed when Abrashoff’s crew believed that what they were doing was important.
  • Listen aggressively: After learning that many sailors wanted to use the GI Bill, Abrashoff brought a test official aboard the ship-and held the SATs forty miles off the Iraqi coast. From achieving amazing cost savings to winning the highest gunnery score in the Pacific Fleet, Captain Abrashoff’s extraordinary campaign sent shock waves through the U.S. Navy. It can help you change the course of your ship, no matter where your business battles are fought.

8. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work, feels trusted and valued during the day, then returns home feeling fulfilled. This is not a crazy, idealized notion. Today, in many successful organizations, great leaders create environments in which people naturally work together to do remarkable things.

In his work with organizations around the world, Simon Sinek noticed that some teams trust each other so deeply that they would literally put their lives on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives are offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure. Why?

The answer became clear during a conversation with a Marine Corps general. “Officers eat last,” he said. Sinek watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. What’s symbolic in the chow hall is deadly serious on the battlefield: Great leaders sacrifice their own comfort — even their own survival — for the good of those in their care.

Too many workplaces are driven by cynicism, paranoia, and self-interest. But the best ones foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a “Circle of Safety” that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside.

Sinek illustrates his ideas with fascinating true stories that range from the military to big business, from government to investment banking.

9. How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age

An adaptation of Dale Carnegie’s timeless prescriptions for the digital age.

Dale Carnegie’s time-tested advice has carried millions upon millions of readers for more than seventy-five years up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. Now the first and best book of its kind has been rebooted to tame the complexities of modern times and will teach you how to communicate with diplomacy and tact, capitalize on a solid network, make people like you, project your message widely and clearly, be a more effective leader, increase your ability to get things done, and optimize the power of digital tools.

Dale Carnegie’s commonsense approach to communicating has endured for a century, touching millions and millions of readers. The only diploma that hangs in Warren Buffett’s office is his certificate from Dale Carnegie Training. Lee Iacocca credits Carnegie for giving him the courage to speak in public. Dilbert creator Scott Adams called Carnegie’s teachings “life-changing.” To demonstrate the lasting relevancy of his tools, Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc., has reimagined his prescriptions and his advice for our difficult digital age. We may communicate today with different tools and with greater speed, but Carnegie’s advice on how to communicate, lead, and work efficiently remains priceless across the ages.

10. Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years

“This book is your chance to learn from others’ mistakes.” — Entrepreneur

In the 1960s, IBM CEO Tom Watson called an executive into his office after his venture lost $10 million. The man assumed he was being fired. Watson told him, “Fired? Hell, I spent $10 million educating you. I just want to be sure you learned the right lessons.”

There are thousands of books about successful companies but virtually none about the lessons to be learned from those that crash and burn. Now Paul Carroll and Chunka Mui draw on research into more than 750 flameouts to reveal the seven biggest reasons for business failure.

Why don’t you share your favorite list?


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