As a leadership writer, I get asked from time to time to share a list of my favourite leadership books; books that I found to be the most informative either for those new to leadership, or for those looking for new insights on how they can build on their existing leadership skills.
With summer now in full-swing and with many people now gearing up to take their much-needed summer vacation break, I thought it’d be fun to share five of my favourite leadership books, along with my own leadership insights on how we can be the kind of leader our employees need us to be:
1. “Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter” by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown
Have you ever worked for a boss who made you feel like you did your best work? What was it about their leadership that allowed them to motivate you to bring your best efforts to the job? That’s the question Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown answer in this book.
Their basic premise is that successful leaders – who they call “Multipliers” – view intelligence as something that can be expanded, as opposed to being a fixed and limited resource. Based on their own research, Wiseman and McKeown share actionable steps to help readers transform into leaders who tap into the full potential of every employee under their care.
One of my favourite insights from their book – “Multipliers understand that people love to contribute their genius. If they put in the effort to figure out someone’s genius, they have opened a pathway for that person to contribute.”
This idea aligns with one of the leadership insights I’ve written about numerous times here on my leadership blog:
Leadership is not about you; it’s about how you’re empowering those you lead to succeed and thrive [Share on Twitter].
Click here to buy “Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter” on Amazon and Amazon.ca.
2. “The Progress Principle – Using Small Wins To Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work” by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer
One of the common challenges leaders everywhere face is how do we empower people to be driven to deliver their best, and which actions of ours are causing people to lose their motivation?
In “The Progress Principle”, Harvard professor Teresa Amabile and psychologist Steven Kramer reveal that the key to understanding this is the connection between what they call “inner work life – the perceptions, emotions, and motivations that people experience as they react to and make sense of events in the workday” and deriving a sense of accomplishment from doing meaningful work.
One of my favourite insights from their book – “If people do not perceive that they and their work are valued by a trustworthy organization, if they derive no pride or happiness from their work, they will have little drive to dig into a project.”
This ties into another one of my leadership insights that I like to share:
What we all need is doing work that matters; that we’re creating value for others and for ourselves [Share on Twitter].
Click here to buy “The Progress Principle – Using Small Wins To Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work” on Amazon and Amazon.ca.
3. “Touchpoints – Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments” by Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard
When it comes to leadership books, it’s only natural that we’re drawn to those written by renowned leaders. Given their successes leading organizations or countries, it’s not surprising that we’d want to learn from their insights to understand how we might succeed at leading others.
What I enjoyed about retired Campbell’s president and CEO Doug Conant’s book is that he addresses a common situation leaders everywhere face – of dealing with numerous demands on our time and attention – and upends our perception of them to view them not as “interruptions” but as “opportunities to touch someone and improve the situation”.
One of my favourite insights from their book – “those who are called to leadership really care about the people on their team and could talk for hours about each of them […] To them, leading people is much more than a job.”
And that leads me to my next leadership insight:
If we don’t care about what matters to employees, why would they care about what matters to us? [Share on Twitter]
Click here to buy “Touchpoints – Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments” on Amazon and Amazon.ca.
4. “No One Understands You And What To Do About It” by Heidi Grant Halvorson
If there’s one thing we can all agree on it’s that we’re living in an increasingly divisive world. As leaders, this can make things much harder as we now have to navigate a more treacherous workplace as we balance encouraging employees to bring their full selves to work against the potential for personality conflicts to arise.
It’s from this vantage point that readers can gain much insight from Heidi Grant Halvorson’s book as it explores what various studies have shown about how we not only perceive others, but also how we often misperceive how others view us.
This book offers readers a unique insight into human behaviour and motivations and how leaders can make sure they truly understand their employees, as well as being understood themselves.
One of my favourite insights from her book – “Without realizing it you – like everyone else – are very likely operating under two very flawed assumptions: first, that other people see you objectively as you are, and, second, that other people see you as you see yourself.”
This quote brings to mind this leadership insight I’ve shared in some of my talks:
Leaders need to see employees beyond what they do; they also have to see them for who they are [Share on Twitter].
Click here to buy “No One Understands You And What To Do About It” on Amazon and Amazon.ca.
5. “The Laws of Subtraction – 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything” by Matthew E May
This book builds in a way on the previous one in that it also addresses how we perceive things, but in the case of Matthew May’s book, here the value is really more about helping leaders learn how to focus on what matters most in an age where all of us are constantly being bombarded with information, news, ideas, notifications, and so forth.
May’s book starts from the perspective of design thinking and helps readers to understand how we can overcome our assumptions and learn how to identify extraneous information or ideas that can impede us from focusing on what really matters towards achieving our shared goals.
One of my favourite insights from his book – “There’s a reason why everyone talks about the big picture. It’s difficult to remain fully engaged without that bigger picture, because our daily work is really about putting a little dot down each day, metaphorically speaking. Something needs to guide us in connecting them.”
And this leads me to my final leadership insight taken from an article I wrote last September:
In our rush to get things done, we risk losing out on providing context for why these efforts matter [Share on Twitter].
Click here to buy “The Laws of Subtraction – 6 Simple Rules for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything” on Amazon and Amazon.ca.
I hope you enjoy my summer leadership reading list and if you have any suggestions of your own, please let me know. I’m always on the lookout for another good book to read.
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