No one becomes a great leader on their own. You need examples to model yourself after. That can sometimes come from a teacher or mentor willing to guide you through the path they took on the journey to becoming an effective leader.
Books are a great way to get the knowledge of mentors distilled into a few hundred pages' worth of material. Here are the 10 best books for business leaders.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
To be an effective leader, you have to develop habits that help you maintain consistent effectiveness in every aspect of what you do. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People tells you how to do just that. Written in 1990, this Steven Covey classic is still one of the very best guides to being successful in the workplace.
The seven habits that Covey prescribes include:
- Be proactive.
- Begin with the end in mind.
- Put first things first.
- Think win-win.
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
- Sharpen the saw.
The book goes into much more detail on why these principles are important and how to master each one. The lessons included in this book are good for anyone, no matter where you are in your professional journey.
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't
Leaders Eat Last was written by author Simon Sinek who also wrote another motivational book titled Start with Why. It stresses the importance of the organization over the individual. It also talks about putting the needs of the subordinate over the needs of the leader. Sinek also breaks down the biochemistry of human beings and how it distinguishes us from other animals. He discusses how our great leaders can derive neurochemical benefits by emphasizing their team's concerns above their own. It talks about how cooperation isn't just good for the group, it's also good for the individual as well.
Great leaders foster environments in which collaboration is encouraged and this book does a great job showing exactly why that is.
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are two former U.S. Navy Seals who were part of a SEAL unit tasked with securing the city of Ramadi during the Iraq War. Their book, Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win captures all the leadership principles they used in their mission, which can be applied in the workplace and in life. You can read about Willink's and Babin's harrowing tales, the leadership framework they used to overcome their obstacles, and how you can use it.
The One Minute Manager
A short book that adopts the narrative framework of an employee searching for the perfect supervisor, The One Minute Manager is a leadership classic. It focuses on the core concept of "one-minute management" and teaches you three techniques for fast and effective management: one minute goal setting, one minute praising, and one minute reprimands. It's meant to help improve your efficiency and productivity as a leader while also enabling your direct reports to improve as well. And at only 112 pages it's a quick, easy read you can knock out in a few hours.
Originally published in 1982, an updated version called The New One Minute Manager was released in 2015 to account for modern changes in the workplace.
Tribe of Mentors
In Tribe of Mentors, Tim Ferriss, author of The Four-Hour Work Week, uses the knowledge gained from some of his favorite mentors, which includes some of the top minds from multiple industries and disciplines. Ferriss calls the assembled group "world-class performers" and they share advice that can be useful in both life and management.
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
Here's an excerpt from the description for Smarter Faster Better from its Amazon site which sums the book up well:
"At the core of Smarter Faster Better are eight key productivity concepts—from motivation and goal setting to focus and decision making—that explain why some people and companies get so much done. Drawing on the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics—as well as the experiences of CEOs, educational reformers, four-star generals, FBI agents, airplane pilots, and Broadway songwriters - this painstakingly researched book explains that the most productive people, companies, and organizations don't merely act differently...They view the world, and their choices, in profoundly different ways."
This book is the quintessential tome on how productivity functions.
The 48 Laws of Power
Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power is a Machiavellian how-to guide on navigating the concept of power. Its lessons can be applied to the workplace. This is a bit of a cynical read as not all of its advice is necessarily positive (the book itself is amoral and notes that its principles can be used for good or bad), but it's nonetheless eye-opening on how humans function with regards to power.
The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
Author Ryan Holliday's The Obstacle is the Way uses a concept popular in ancient Greek philosophy, stoicism, to frame how to approach challenges. He uses examples of different famous figures to display how they handled adversity through the practice of remaining stoic. This is a great read for business leaders undergoing changes or transitions in their office.
The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy on Leadership
Bill Walsh was the former head coach of the National Football League's San Francisco 49ers, leading the team to four Super Bowl championships in the 1980s. In The Score Takes Care of Itself, he shares some of his ruminations on what it takes to be a leader. His main point is that by focusing on having solid principles, you'll produce the end result you desire - i.e. "the score will take care of itself." He shares multiple stories from his time as a head coach that helps demonstrate solid leadership approaches.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People is the definition of a timeless classic. Originally published in 1937, it's principles can all still be applied today to help you get what you want. It will help managers increase their likability and maintain better relationships with their employees. This is a must-read for anyone looking to succeed in corporate culture or in life.
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