Best Books to Become a Better Boss

An HR consultant in Lansing reading a leadership training book.
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Supervising people is challenging.  If you want to be successful as a supervisor or manager, you must continually improve.  A fast and simple way to do this is by reading regularly.

But time is tight for most working people, so you may be wondering if reading is worth the time investment.

Let’s look at a few of the benefits of cracking open a book.

It Pays to Read

Steve Siebold, author of How Rich People Think, found that a common trait among 1,200 of the world’s wealthiest people he studied was that they read a lot.  It’s not so much the volume of reading that aided in their professional and financial successes, but the fact that they focus their reading on books they could learn from rather than those that are strictly entertaining.

Andrew Merle’s post, The Reading Habits of Ultra-Successful People, cites the link between career and financial success and also describes the health benefits of reading:  “Reading has been shown to help prevent stress, depression, and dementia while enhancing confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction.”

Wow!  Amazon, here we come!

But who has time to sort through the mountains of business books available?

As an avid reader throughout a 26-year business career, I’ll save you time by pointing you toward some that I consider required reading–the books I refer to repeatedly.

My All-Time Top 10

I have hundreds of books on my bookshelves, on my e-reader, and in audiobook form.  I rarely meet a book out of which I can’t get at least a little nugget.  But when it comes to the superstars, the following ten books come to mind.

Most of them are not new but have stood the test of time and are still as relevant as ever.

1.Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, All SwitzlerCrucial Conversations

It seems almost impossible to have more than one person working together without conflict of some kind popping up.  This book provides a framework and some techniques for working through conflict that I’ve used, and coached others to use, with enormous success! It will help you more effectively work through issues with your boss, coworkers, and staff as well as provide you tools to help you develop your team’s conflict management skills.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team2. Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

If you’re managing a team of people that seems to continually struggle, you’ll be familiar with the leadership fable laid out in this book.  The author goes beyond symptoms to show root causes of most team dysfunction, then lays out the path to fixing them.  The 220 pages are short, so it’s a quick, but highly actionable read.

3. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. PinkDrive

Ever wonder how to motivate a staff member–or yourself?  Then, this is the book for you!  This is one of the newer books on my list, but I expect it will become a timeless classic.  It asks us to set aside what we thought we knew about what motivates people and consider the author’s perspective.  An outstanding read.

Aftershock4. Aftershock: Helping People Through Corporate Change, Harry Woodward and Steve Buchholz

For years, we’ve been hearing that the only thing constant is change. As people responsible for leading others, it’s imperative that we ourselves can ride the wave of change and have tools to support our teams in doing the same. This book gives you those tools.  You’ll reach for this one repeatedly.

5. Strengthsfinder 2.0, Tom Rath

All the strengths-based books based on the Gallup study are incredible.  They include Strengths Based Leadership, First, Break All the Rules, Now, Discover Your Strengths, and Go Put Your Strengths to Work. But I recommend starting with Strengthsfinder 2.0.  To apply the material, take the strengths assessment first.  There’s a code in the back of the book that you’ll use to complete the online assessment for free.  The book gives a thorough description and action plans for each strength.  Use this book to see yourself and your team through a different, more productive lens and learn to play to their strong suits.

Speed of Trust6. The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, Stephen M.R. Covey

Trust is the basis of all good relationships, and relationships are the glue that holds organizations together.  This book will help you understand what builds trust, what breaks down trust, and how to repair trust.  It provides 13 specific behaviors you and your staff can use to develop trust with each other and your customers/clients/members. I highly recommend this book.

7. The Magic of Thinking Big, David J. Schwartz, Ph.DMagic of Thinking Big

This book teaches how to use your mind as a tool to improve all areas of your life.  This book is not about sitting on the couch thinking happy thoughts and expecting amazing things to knock on your door.  Thought precedes every action, so it makes sense that the right-thinking leads to the right action.  This book is about habits of thought and action that will support you in achieving what you want and coaching your team to higher productivity.  Each chapter ends with a useful list of keys to remember or actions to try.

How to Win Friends and Influence People8. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

Written in 1936, this is the oldest book on the list. But don’t let that deter you; I guarantee it will resonate with you!  I read it for the first time at least 20 years ago, but key points from the book regularly pop into my head.  I think it’s the way the author phrased the techniques that sticks with me.  One of my favorites is, “Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.”  If you’re interested in building your people skills and developing more influence with others (your boss, peers, employees), this is the perfect place to start!

9. Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This classic book is a must read, even if you think you’re working at your best.  If you haven’t read it, you’ve probably heard of it.  As with all the books on the list, it will help your performance and assist you in developing the skills of your team.  As a sneak peek, one of the habits on Stephen’s list involves constantly improving (i.e. read to learn!).

How to Read a Book10. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

I’m recommending this book because it’ll help you get more out of all the others.  I only recently came across this book from the 1970s, and I’m glad I did. Even after being an avid reader all my life, I have not been following many of these practices.  You may be thinking that you learned how to read in kindergarten.  Of course, you know how to read written words on a page, or you wouldn’t be able to read the book at all.  This book assumes you know how to do elementary reading.  It explores the three higher levels of reading: investigative, analytical, and syntopical.  I’m going to re-read some of my favorites with this reading process and see how much more I can squeeze out of them!

Make it Manageable

Take it easy on yourself, and start with just one book.  I’m personally guilty of binge-ordering books that I never get around to reading.

Pick the one that most grabs your attention, click on the title, and order it today!

Commit to finishing it within 30 days. Divide the total number of pages in the book by 30, and you’ll know how many pages, on average, you’ll need to read every day to get through it.

Or if that’s too much, carve out 15 minutes every day to read.

Whatever strategy you pick for devouring the book, start reading the day it arrives in the mail.  Then congratulate yourself on beginning to build a reading habit that will make you and your team more knowledgeable, more productive, more successful, and, if the research is correct, richer!  Cha-ching!

Which One Are You Choosing?

Which book will you start with?  You can leave your answer in a comment below.

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