I’ve been studying leadership for many years, and I’ve read a lot of books on the topic. I’m sharing with you some of my favourites.
The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
I like to read books that are in plain language. I’m easily distracted when a book feels too academic, but this book is easy to read and very practical. Kouzes and Posner point out that leadership isn’t about personality, but rather about behaviour (i.e., leaders are made, not born). In this book, they outline five core practices of leadership: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart. They have updated this book several times to stay current. I read the 5th edition but there’s also a 6th.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Amy Wallace and Edwin Catmull
Ed Catmull co-founded Pixar so I loved reading about the stories behind some of my favourite movies - Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E. In this book, Catmull talks about the environment he helped to create within Pixar to empower the team to be creative, innovative and (obviously) wildly successful. A couple of points I loved in this book was the idea that it’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them. Also, he made it clear that hierarchy in an organization’s structure shouldn’t impede employees’ ability to communicate. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
As an introvert, I appreciated this book. The world seems to favour extroverts, but this book provides insight into what introverts bring to the table. It also offers ways to navigate the world as an introvert. The book features research and case studies but doesn’t feel heavy. What really stood out for me was the fact that introvert’s ability to listen to others is a powerful leadership skill.
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't by Simon Sinek
I love Simon Sinek and have watched his Ted Talks and follow him on LinkedIn. In this book, Sinek discusses the circle of safety and how groups are able to work more effectively when they feel safe. He draws on military examples where people in trusting teams will actually put their lives on the line for their teammates. While no one is asking you to take a bullet for Linda in accounting, this book provides insight into how you, as a leader, can create a workplace where people feel valued, trusted and inspired.
Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others by Stephen R.M. Covey (his father wrote the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
Okay, full disclosure, I have NOT read this book…yet. I watched a webinar with Mr. Covey last week and loved what he had to say. A couple of things stood out for me. He said leadership begins with mindset. You must believe that everyone has greatness within them. He also pointed out that Leadership is a choice, not a position. In this book he shares the three stewards of leadership: Model, Trust and Inspire. I’ve ordered the book and can’t wait to read it. (He also wrote The Speed of Trust, another great book for leaders.)
Mind the Gap: Navigating Your Leadership Journey by Doug Forsdick, Keri Schwebius and Heather Thomson
Yes, you’re right, shameless self-promotion. But I truly believe it’s a great book, especially for those who are new or aspiring leaders and those who may be struggling in their leadership role. Many people who are later in their careers are telling me they wished they had this book when they were just starting out. This book is concise, practical and covers a broad range of topics. We also added reflection questions at the end of each chapter to help the reader find their own leadership style.
I truly believe leaders must continuously be learning and growing, otherwise, they become ineffective or, worse, irrelevant. There are so many books and articles, podcasts and webinars available for leaders who want to create effective teams.