8 Books Every Manager Should Read to Become a Better Leader
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
It is okay to admit that managing other people is challenging. It requires monitoring multiple emotional energies, personalities and preferences while also caring about yourself. Even people with years of training and experience struggle.
The good thing is that you do not have to figure it out by yourself. There are helpful resources to improve your managing skills. Among the most useful are the books written by people who have studied what it takes to manage well. They have written about some of the best managers and their tactics. Here are eight books based in fact and science to help you become a better leader and manager immediately:
1. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Daniel Pink)
Our society has extreme problems with happiness levels at work. In Drive, Daniel Pink addresses these issues. He talks about what some of the most innovative companies have done to create positive office cultures and retain employees.
He illuminates what really drives employees on an individual level. It is about empowering them and making them feel valued. People want to learn, do and leave an impact. Pink provides strong examples of companies that help their employees do so, and he will leave you feeling truly confident in inspiring others.
2. The Power of Habit (Charles Duhigg)
Everybody has bad habits. In this book, author Charles Duhigg talks about what it takes to break those vices that plague our lives.
This is a science-backed and example-rich read about getting over our biggest challenges. The first step, proclaims Duhigg, is understanding how habits work. You can then take that knowledge to empower your employees to be better workers and people. You can also apply it to your own life and work away from habits that hurt your leadership potential.
Related: 5 Habits to Ensure Success at Work
3. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World (Adam Grant)
Part of being a top-notch manager is creating a culture in which your employees can shine. The best employees are the most creative and willing to speak their mind.
In Originals, Adam Grant talks about what it means to be truly original. He furthermore explains how leaders like Steve Jobs were able to empower their employees and create a culture full of people speaking their mind while doing their best work.
An office of truly original people will, no doubt, yield significant results.
4. Extreme Ownership (Jocko Willink & Leif Babin)
Willink and Babin were leaders of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, one of the most challenging and strong-armed force teams in the country. Just these two writing about leadership is worth reading. They explain how they motivated and unified their Navy SEALs to accomplish the most challenging missions, and how to apply these leadership principles in organizations to create high-impact and tight-knit teams.
5. How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
This is the classic you can't ignore -- even with it's somewhat over-the-top name.
There is a reason that it’s still at the top of many peoples’ lists, despite being over 80 years old. It is a fantastic read about how to establish more meaningful connections with others. It will give you the tools needed to better know and support those around you, including employees. Carnegie’s ideas can, consequently, help you get employees to open up and trust you, both very valuable leadership skills.
6. Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (Ashlee Vance)
The way that Elon Musk manages others may not be the most productive for their mental health. He, like Steve Jobs, is an extremely demanding boss. In return, though, he gets extreme levels of output.
Beyond being a fascinating read on what has made Musk so successful and influential, this biography gives you a peek into his mind.
One thing that was said about Steve Jobs that Elon Musk has managed to emulate is creating "reality distortion fields" (as Jobs’ old employees used to say).
The idea is that Musk is able to warp his employees' perspectives about how quickly they are able to get work done. Despite the fact that he is constantly falling short on his proclaimed deadlines, his teams have built things quicker than was thought humanly possible.
Although all of Musk’s tactics may not be ones that you wish to emulate, understanding his leadership style and the ways in which he inspires others can be extremely helpful in crafting your own tendencies.
Related: 4 Signs of a Terrible, Toxic Boss
7. The Hard Thing about Hard Things (Ben Horowitz)
As a San Francisco resident, I've heard people speak highly about The Hard Thing about Hard Things since it published in 2014. It's already one of those legendary books that gives some insight into Silicon Valley history. It's also one of the most real and eye-opening books out there on running a business.
In it, Ben Horowitz talks about his experiences telling employees that he could not make payroll. He also discusses both poor and superior hiring decisions. He goes into depth in all that he did and learned starting Loudcloud, which became Opsware, early internet companies acquired for over $1.5B.
It’s always helpful to read the story of a founder who lead his company through thick and thin. Reading The Hard Thing can make you a much better leader and manager as well as increase your empathy for running a company.
8. Nudge (Richard Thaler)
Recent Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler wrote Nudge primarily for its applicability to policy changes. The ideas in the book, though, are effective on micro levels as well. Nudge dives into the subtle changes, based on psychology and behavioral economics research, that can influence individual decision-making. Thaler subsequently concludes that the ways in which we are presented information have a large impact.
To better lead those around you, understanding how small changes can positively impact their decisions and thoughts can be very valuable.
No matter what you need to work on as a leader, there’s some kind of book out there that can assist your leadership journey. Reading about what others have learned and constantly improving yourself will yield benefits not only in the output of your employees but also in your personal happiness. Work is less stressful and more rewarding when you see your employees thrive.