I get asked what I’m reading all the time. One of my favorite things to do is buy a book by an emerging author or one about a relevant topic and read through it, dog-ear a bunch of pages, makes some notes, and pass it along to someone I think it would help. I read a mixture of business, philosophy, fiction and spiritual books. Whatever I’m in the mood for at the moment. But I’m always reading something, because I believe a leader must always be in learning mode. And there’s no better way to learn than to read.
Here’s a list of books I’ve recommended to new leaders over the years. Get them, read them, then pass them along.
Monday Morning Leadership – This book has 8 great lessons for leaders. Leadership is tough, and if you’re like me, you learn from the stories and experiences of others. MML is written as the story of a leader seeking out a mentor who can help him improve his business. In MML, we learn 8 very practical lessons like hiring tough, focusing on the main thing, and taking responsibility. I give this book to anyone transitioning from doing to leading. It hits home on the mindset a leader has to have, and gives the new leader a playbook for success. I think I’ve read this book at least 10 times, either on my own or leading a group of next generation leaders through it together.
Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni is my favorite author for business books by far. He writes Five Dysfunctions as a fable, so it’s not like your average business book with a bunch of how to’s. It’s a story about a leader who comes into a new organization and takes on the challenge of transforming the company and leading the team into the next phase of growth. Before she can do that, she has to get everyone on the leadership team comfortable with challenging each other and being honest. I love this book not only because it’s a great story, but because I have seen this play out in my success as a leader. I stay in learning mode all the time, and part of learning is giving other leaders around you the freedom to tell you where you are weak and challenge you. This book will help you learn the art of inviting feedback and holding each other accountable across a team of peers.
Start With Why – This book was born from Simon Sinek’s discovery of behaviors around ideas in business. Studying business and people, he was curious about how people get inspired. He uncovered a phenomenon he calls the golden circle. What/How/Why. So many businesses focus on what we do and how we do it. But the companies or leaders who are known for innovation focus on why we do it. When we as leaders help others understand the WHY behind what we do, they will be more likely to get inspired, stay engaged, and innovate around our product, service or idea. If you want to inspire others, Start With Why!
Originals – This is my favorite book on this list. I am a non-conformist. I like to go against the grain because I think that’s where the innovation is. I think that’s where the best thinkers and doers live. In Originals, Adam Grant uses stories from business, sports, entertainment, and politics to show how people who change the world don’t go with the flow, but live outside the norm and think differently. They embrace creativity, originality and challenging the status quo. Through research, stories and historical accounts, Adam Grant teaches us how to deal with fear and doubt, inspire others around our thinking, and nurture originality in those we lead.
Living With A Seal – Jesse Itzler is part of the group that owns the Atlanta Hawks. He is the quintessential entrepreneur and has now written a book to inspire you to rethink your limitations. I was given this book by another entrepreneur and my first thought was “I doubt there’s much for me here”. I was wrong! The book is about all the limitations we put on ourselves by getting comfortable and not being present in every moment. In Living With A Seal, Jesse chronicles a month of living with David Goggins, a Navy Seal commonly known as the toughest man on the planet. Jesse’s desire to go beyond his self-imposed limits led him to commit to doing whatever “SEAL” told him to do for an entire month. He goes from being able to do 22 push-ups to 1,000 in a day. He rethinks limitations and gets a new perspective on being present. No joke, I read this book and immediately decided to run 3 miles at the beach (on vacation) and not let my mind tell me I couldn’t run faster than my average 9:20/mile pace. I ran 3 miles at a pace of 8:07/mile. Enough said! Get the book at read it over and over. Then give it away.
Whatever you do, read. Learn. Listen. Stay in the student mindset. I can’t tell you how much it matters to your development as a new leader to make it a part of your daily/weekly routine to soak up the wisdom of those who have gone before you. Hope these books make an impact in your journey. If so, let me know in the comments.