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5 Books That Will Change The Way You Think About Being an Effective Leader Want to improve the way you lead? Learn from those who blazed the trails you hope to follow.

By Lucas Miller Edited by Maria Bailey

Key Takeaways

  • The advice from these industry pioneers leaves a reader with a more nuanced understanding of both business relationships and their personal ability to lead.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Innovation has become synonymous with success for modern business leaders. Industry landscapes shift faster than ever due to technological leaps, and leaders must quickly adapt to better meet the challenges of today and tomorrow alike.

While real-world experience is invaluable to gaining knowledge specific to your field, I have found that reading the right books can rapidly transform my perception — and ultimately enhance my ability to lead teams through even the most challenging circumstances.

As an estimated four million new books are released annually, it can quickly become a slog of a job in itself to find the gems among the rubble. The following books challenged my perception of innovation and left me a more effective leader. The information within them can improve anyone's ability to innovate and steer their brand toward true and lasting success.

Related: How to Tap Into Innovation, the Most Essential Part of Your Entrepreneurial Journey

1. 'Deep Work' by Cal Newport

For a team to fully flourish and innovate, they must first find the ability to focus deeply. This is easier said than done in the age of distractions, though. Since 2000, the average adult attention span has plummeted by 25%, leaving it at a paltry 8.25-second average.

"Deep Work" steps in to challenge conventional norms about productivity and reevaluate habits, communication and accessibility. Newport leads the reader through how to best approach complex problems that require long periods of focus to overcome.

All modern teams face significant obstacles between themselves and performing their best work. This book provides a framework to clear the mind and truly focus on what matters in the moment, creating the best setting possible for innovation to occur.

Related: 3 Proven Ways to Achieve Superhuman Focus In 14 Days

2. 'Shoe Dog' by Phil Knight

Sometimes, the best way to learn to lead isn't from straightforward advice but by following the story of someone who experienced unprecedented success. "Shoe Dog" chronicles the rise of Nike from the early sixties into the digital age. From humble origins to an annual revenue of almost $19 billion, Knight led Nike with a series of daring, innovative moves that bucked the trends of his time.

His choices and ability to lead led to the creation of an iconic brand recognizable around the world, and the lessons from this rise are readily applicable beyond the footwear world. If you're looking for a book about how to succeed and lead with grace, then "Shoe Dog" is a near-perfect fit.

3. 'Going On Offense: A Leader's Playbook for Perpetual Innovation' by Behnam Tabrizi

Far too often, after a business achieves initial success after early innovation, it rests on its laurels. This gives competitors time to catch up while their lead diminishes, squandering an opportunity to cement themselves at the top of their industry.

In "Going on Offense: A Leader's Playbook for Perpetual Innovation," Tabrizi outlines exactly how to not just innovate once but to ingrain creativity throughout your business. For businesses looking to regain their innovative stride and reclaim their spot at the top of their industry, Tabrizi's work is essential reading.

Based on a comprehensive seven-year study that covers trends of industry leaders like Apple, Facebook and Amazon, Tabrizi's work gives the precise knowledge base and actionable insights modern leaders need to continually innovate and improve past initial success. There are few works as fitting or relevant for those looking to set themselves and their team up for long-term, sustainable innovation and success.

Related: How to Use Entrepreneurial Creativity for Innovation

4. 'The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses' by Eric Ries

This book provides a methodology for entrepreneurs to create and manage startups effectively. It emphasizes the importance of experimentation, customer feedback and rapid iteration and advocates for the development of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which is then tested with customers to gain real-world data and insights. The concept of "validated learning" is central, encouraging entrepreneurs to gather data as quickly as possible and make data-driven decisions.

The business model canvas helps entrepreneurs refine their business models, while customer development focuses on understanding the target market through continuous interaction. Agile development advocates for a flexible and iterative approach to product development.

Through real-life examples like Dropbox and IMVU, the book demonstrates how startups have successfully applied their principles to achieve innovation, growth, and market success. Overall, The Lean Startup is a valuable guide for entrepreneurs navigating the uncertain landscape of innovation and seeking to build sustainable and successful businesses.

5. 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen Covey

Both positive and negative habits shape every decision and day throughout our lives. In this classic read, Covey systematically notes how to view your personal habits with objectivity so you can then improve them and become an easier individual to work with.

While some of the concepts within, like "Win-Win," might seem old hat at this time, there's a reason this book has maintained relevance and steady sales since the 80s. It's a timeless approach to accepting responsibility not for yourself but for how you interact daily with others. Covey provides a proven system that doesn't just lead to efficient productivity but more effective leadership skills that work under virtually any conditions.

Related: 11 Proven Habits of Highly Innovative People

A process of continual improvement

A quality book can be a transformative experience that imparts the lessons of a lifetime within the few hours it takes to read. The advice from these industry pioneers leaves a reader with a more nuanced understanding of both business relationships and their personal ability to lead.

Give them a read, and I'm confident you will find relatable insights that can help further fuel your ability to innovate and thrive.

Lucas Miller

Founder of Echelon Copy LLC

Lucas Miller is the founder and CEO of Echelon Copy LLC, a media relations agency based in Provo, Utah that helps brands improve visibility, enhance reputation and generate leads through authentic storytelling.

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