"What are the best books on leadership?"
"What book should I read to improve my leadership skills?"
"What should I read to help me get to the next level of my career?"
If you're asking these questions, congrats, you're like all the emerging women leaders I've worked with!! 🤗
I've spent thousands of hours reading (and listening) to the BEST leadership books out there, and I've broken them down into a guide on what you should read, depending on what stage you're at in your career.
I used the stages to help give you guidance on where to start on a list of 38 books, but really, anyone could (should? ;) read any (all!) of these books.
And how can you use this list to advance your career? Here are some ideas:
A) Leadership at every level: Everyone
What Got You Here Won't Get You There: how successful people become even more successful
21 Irrefutable laws of Leadership
B) Grassroots Leadership: Individual contributors
5 languages of appreciation at work
The Leadership Challenge
Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us
C) Front Line Leadership: New Supervisors, team leaders and project managers
Primal Leadership: unleashing the power of emotional intelligence
Ideal Team Player
The Effective Manager
D) Team Leadership: Experienced Supervisors and Middle managers
Extreme Ownership: how u.s. navy seals lead and win
The Leadership Challenge Field book
E) Strategic Leadership: Executives & Business Owners
The new leaders 100 day action plan
Heart of change
BONUS: Entrepreneurial Leadership: Solopreneurs & Startups
The Real-Life MBA
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
One of the questions I hear all the time is "What are the best books to help me develop my leadership skills?"
When you search Amazon for leadership, there are thousands of books to read.
And I have my own long list of books, but I was really curious to know what are the most recommended books out there.
So I decided to do my own mini research project.
I went out to all the places where I know that some pretty smart people hang out.
I checked in with my fellow coaches.
I put up a bunch of posts on Facebook groups like the one for Harvard Business Review subscribers.
I sent an email out to my peers in my graduate program on organizational leadership and learning.
And then I took ALL those recommendations, and plugged them into excel and made a lovely colour coded pivot chart (because I'm nerdy like that ;)
Overall, I had 526 book recommendations.
What did I find?
First of all.. there are a LOT of books being recommended.
In fact... there were 318 unique book recommendations for the "best" leadership book.
Let's say it takes you a week to read a book.
(What?? A week?? Yes. I promise it can be done!)
If you read a book a week, it would still take you more than 6 years to read that entire list of books.
Six years is a long time to get started with your leadership journey.
Instead of giving you the full list, I decided that we need to prioritize. I figure that a list of 5 is a great place to start.
So take a look below at the top 5 most recommended leadership books.
The 5 Most Recommended Leadership Books
*The links are from my Amazon affiliate account and will give me a small commission at no cost to you, should you choose to purchase any of the books. It's a little bit like buying me a coffee!
So there you are, five excellent books to add to your reading list.
Do you like lists like these?
If so, you're going to love the quiz I'm working on:
<< Quiz: What are the 5 leadership books YOU should be reading right now? >>
Now, this solution may not improve your reputation overnight.
But if you're like most of my clients, you are committed to leadership development. And development is different than a quick "one and done" training.
Development takes time and repeated practice. It's the application of learning -- and it doesn't happen instantly.
If you're still with me, and you're willing to work on your own development, here's what I want you to practice.
Now, this word has three parts to it, and each part is important.
First -- to "appreciate", it means that you recognize full worth... You don't try to change others. You simply value people for who they are.
Second -- to "appreciate" also means that you fully understand a situation or a person. To do this, you will step into their shoes and see the world from their eyes. It's also called "perspective taking" which is a critical skill for leaders to develop.
Third -- to "appreciate" is also an active verb, because it implies an increase in value. What this means for your leadership development is to take every opportunity to empower, grow and develop others.
This part is key, because so often, leaders are drawn to their inner circle. (there's a whole school of thought around this in the academic world!)
Yes, having an inner circle is valuable... But so often, we leaders forget about the folks who are outside the inner circle.
And far too often, our inner circle is composed of the people who are like us, whether by appearance, background, opinion, or approach to the world.
Even if we are polite to the outer circle, there is usually a distance between us and the people outside our circle. (And sometimes, if we're really honest with ourselves, we're not so polite, especially at those water cooler conversations. Ever heard or made a comment like this "Ugh, can you BELIEVE Tom said that during the meeting? What's wrong with him?!")
Plus, we often forget to appreciate upwards -- we may feel so frustrated with our leadership that we don't take the time to consider the positive impact a leader has on us.
So I want to urge you to take an active approach to appreciating everyone, regardless of rank or relationship to you.
And especially regardless of your impression, perception or opinion of who they are, their attitude or their work product.
As Brene Brown writes in Rising Strong, what if everyone is just doing the best they can?
Now, you might be wondering, what the heck does this have to do with reputation?
Appreciating everyone means that people's interactions with you are not only pleasant, they're uplifting. "Everyone" will walk away feeling empowered, feeling valued, feeling like they are being recognized.
And while it may not be overnight -- this will cause a ripple effect in your organization.
When your name comes up at the water cooler, people will smile and share a comment about the positivity that you bring to the workplace.
It may not be immediate, but if you're persistent with your "appreciate everyone" practice, it will be noticed. I promise.
Let me know what you plan to do this week to practice your own style of "appreciate everyone"!
P.S. If you're looking to grow your own leadership and need a bit of support to craft a leadership development plan, click here to book a complimentary consult call. We'll talk about your goals and create a strategy for how to develop your unique leadership style.
Leadership at its very core is about relationships with other people. And we build relationships through communication, including our emails.
We all know that email dominates communication in the workplace -- but we don't often think of how email habits can affect our relationships, because most of us only think about email in a very transactional kind of way.
"I send information about projects and tasks to my colleague. They send information back to me."
Or we think about the one-off impact of an email -- usually when we're at the receiving end of a a badly written email.
(I mean, let's face it... Who hasn't received "that" email... You know the one -- where you throw your hands in the air, make a face at the computer, turn to a colleague and start venting about what someone just wrote to you.)
So we all intuitively know the value of writing a good email -- one that conveys the message, tone and intent properly.
Which is also transactional.
"If I send a well written email, our relationship will improve."
And many of us don't realize that there's ONE email habit that has a longer term impact on work relationships:
Letting your email inbox overflow.
We all know what it's like to have too many emails. We stare at our inbox, which might have hundreds of messages. We've responded to some. But not all. Some need responses. Some are just "FYI" or newsletters.
And we think to ourselves that we "should" be better at email. We look at it from our personal perspective. We think to ourselves that we need to be on top of email to make life less hectic. Or so we don't fall short on deadlines.
But losing control of your inbox also impacts your relationships.
Because when you let your email inbox overflow, you lose track of emails that don't seem important to your priorities. It might take days (dare I say... weeks?) to reply to someone, because you've lost track of your emails.
Of course, everyone understands -- we're all drowning in our inboxes.
Here's the thing.
The person who sent you the email is waiting for a response.
Now, we're usually pretty good at responding when the request seems urgent, or when it's from someone important to us.
It's when the email isn't really about our own priorities, it's not urgent, or when it's not from someone we think is all that important.... we might let the email slide. Sandwiched somewhere between all the other emails in your inbox.
You don't do it intentionally of course. It's not like you're sitting there, reading the email and thinking "You know, I don't really care if Jen gets an answer. I'm just not going to write back to her". (At least I hope you don't do that)
It's a bit more insidious... The email wasn't urgent, so you don't write back immediately. It wasn't one of your projects, so it doesn't come to mind during your daily work. And because your email inbox overflows, you lose track of the email. Meaning that if Jen wants a response, she's going to have to email you again, stop by your office, or call you to get an answer.
And Jen totally understands. She doesn't judge you, because she knows how much email you get.
But over time... It does impact your relationship with Jen. Because she may feel just a little bit (or a lot) uncomfortable having to ask about the email. Or she might start thinking that you're probably too busy to help her.
Eventually it'll mean she'll prefer to ask questions or get help from someone else. (Which means she's building a relationships with someone else rather than you!)
On the other hand.... If you're the person who is always getting back to Jen, you're going to build an incredible relationship with her.
She's going to see you as the go-to person.
She's going to feel like you always have time for her.
And as the relationships continues to build and develop, she's going to see your emails as important. So when you have a question for Jen, she'll instinctively get back to you right away.
And it all starts with making sure your inbox doesn't overflow.
So here are a few "email habits" that can help you keep your inbox from overflowing:
1. 2 minute rule: If you can reply to an email in 2 minutes or less, do it right away.
2. Archive: When you've replied to an email get it OUT of your inbox. Archive or even delete that bad boy.
3. Create a project: If the email is part of a bigger project, and you feel like you can't archive or answer in 2 minutes, then create a project and have a way to keep track of emails related to your project that need a response. Maybe you turn it into a task or put it on your calendar. But get it OUT of your inbox.
4. Be deliberate and do your email in batches: Set aside chunks of time in the day when you can batch your email. Be focused and deliberate.
5. Turn off pop-ups or other email alerts: These are major distractions from your other work, and most of the time, we don't actually deal with the email anyways. Instead, see point #4 about doing your email in batches.
6. Use filters and subfolders: Do you get emails with industry news going into your inbox? Or project updates? Or messages from your boss? STOP! Use sub-folders and filters to organize your email. Remember tip #4? Be deliberate about your email. Some examples of filters and how to use them:
Email Inbox Checklist
I've turned these tips into a short checklist -- keep a copy at your desk to help you keep your inbox from overflow!
1) Do it now (if you're thinking about doing something, do it right now)
2) Do it at 80% (unless you absolutely have to have perfection, you can usually spend 20% of the time to get an 80% result)
3) Don't do it (know what to prioritize and let go of feeling responsible for everything else)
4) Don't do it twice (this is especially for email - don't re-read emails without actioning them. You're just wasting mental energy)
5) Don't get upset (know how to release anger - venting and stewing just wastes emotional and mental energy)
I wanted to share three tips that you can use to inspire your team -- whether you're the formal leader or an emerging leader within the team.
These tips are especially important when you're leading a group of high performers, because it's easy to assume that they'll lead themselves. With these tips, you can help your high performers flex their talents and contribute even more to your team.
1. Communicate how your team objectives fit within the bigger picture
Most people on your team, especially high performers, are so busy (maybe even overwhelmed) that they focus solely on the work in front of them. By articulating how their work fits in the bigger picture, you give them more context about how their work is contributing to the organization's mission.
This is especially important for mission-driven organizations -- when you don't measure success in profit, stock prices or other figures, it can be tricky for your high performers to really understand how their work is impacting the organization. You can boost morale simply by verbalizing the big picture WHY behind their work.
2. Tell people they matter
High performers often take initiative and are self-motivated. And because of that, it's easy to assume that they understand just how important they are to the organization. But even high performers need a confidence boost -- especially since high performers can struggle with impostor syndrome. Telling your people that they're important shows that you care and that you see them. Even something as simple as :
"You have a bright future ahead of you in the organization. I don't know what your path will be, but I can see that you are going to make a real difference here."
3. Arrange regular feedback sessions
High performers crave feedback. In some cases, it's because they want confirmation that they ARE in fact performing at a high level. But most of the time it's because they constantly want to improve -- and you can use feedback sessions to help guide them. As a leader, you have the bigger picture, and your high performers will appreciate your guidance. This is not about "fixing" problems, or pointing out weaknesses. This is about helping your people see how they can develop their abilities.
Welcome to Selene's Story - a journey in short fiction to explore leadership, personal empowerment and getting your passions aligned with your daily pursuits.
Selene's Story is a way to discover new insights and strategies to:
- bring more balance, happiness, enjoyment and satisfaction into your life.
- reignite your motivation to change the world
- find your clarity of purpose
- feel energized and joyful at work
Selene's Story comes in 3 parts
Part 1 : The story
Part 2: Practical support with 5 tangible steps
Part 3: Reflection questions & resources
Part 1. The Story
Selene stood gazing at a wall of shelves. Each book’s spine, unique in height and colour and thickness, represented a doorway to something more. She had come to the library, like so many times lately, and roamed through the various sections hoping to find a book that opened up like a map to a future that she was impatiently awaiting to arrive.
Part 2. Practical Support
Selene's finding herself stuck wondering "maybe the grass is greener"... but she's not sure, so she's not willing to take concrete steps towards a career change.
If you think you're stuck in ‘is the grass greener’ confusion, here are 5 tangible steps you can take to help you decide whether you need a career change... or whether you should stay put!
As you think through the options, remember... It’s crucial to spend focused time considering whether you are making fear-based or conscious-based decisions.
Resources & Research
ResourcesFor more Information on the “Is the Grass Really Greener” question, which Selene is confronting in her decision about whether to stay in her current career.
Last summer, Organization Science published an article about getting advice from your inactive network ( "Reconnection Choices: Selecting the Most Valuable (vs. Most Preferred) Dormant Ties"). The authors ran a study predicated on the notion that when you seek career or business advice, your inactive relationships - that is, people in your network with whom you don't have a regular, ongoing connection - are still valuable. At times, they may in fact be more valuable that people who are active, current contacts. The authors note that "recent evidence... indicates that past relationships can retain considerable value, without the need for active maintenance." So the authors posed the question - if inactive, or "dormant", contacts are valuable, which of your inactive contacts provide the best value, and which of your contacts are you most likely to ask for advice.
past relationships can retain considerable value, without the need for active maintenance
The authors defined two aspects of value: novelty, which is the degree to which your contact provides you with fresh insight, and engagement, which I prefer to refer to as trust, since it is the notion that the closer relationship you have with your contact, the more comfortable you feel, leading you to have more productive discussions. The authors look at three aspects of dormant connections and develop hypotheses about value and people's preferences in reaching out to old contacts.
How much interaction did you have with that contact?
Some of our inactive relationships are with people where there used to be a great deal of interaction, whether it was short-lived or lasted years. This is a close work relationship that slipped away when you changed jobs. This is an old colleague who you knew quite well, but you haven't stayed in touch since they changed positions. This is someone you had worked with closely on a multi-month or multi-year project, but you haven't talked to since the project ended. This is your old university friend who was side-by-side with you as you worked tirelessly towards a degree.
We like these 'inactive' contacts. We are comfortable asking advice from them. We know that they will remember us, so it's easy to reach out. We already have a rapport, so there is no anxiety around picking up the phone or sending an email.
We also have another set of inactive contacts. This portion of your dormant network includes the people who you only interacted with occasionally. This is the project manager of that initiative that you were only involved with for a few weeks. This is the person you met at an industry conference a few years ago. This is the person from university who you worked with on a class project, but you didn't socialize with them. This is your former colleague who you only interacted with at team meetings, because your projects didn't overlap.
The idea of reaching out to this person for advice - someone you barely knew - causes us anxiety. In fact, the researchers interviewed 156 executives who shared these nervous feelings. You're not sure if the other person will remember you. You get nervous about the idea that you might be rejected. You worry that you will annoy the other person by 'wasting their time'. You don't know them well, so you're not sure how to even start the conversation - how can you ask about their family if you're even not sure they have a spouse or children?
So, when we need career or business advice, we stick to the comfortable network of people we used to know well, because to do otherwise causes us anxiety. However. When we are reaching out for advice, this comfortable network of contacts is less likely to yield great insight to your problem, because they will have had similar experiences to your own. Rather, when you have had fewer interactions with another person, it is more likely that they will have different experiences and pieces of knowledge to share with you.
Does your inactive contact have higher status than you?
Our inactive contacts are not always our peers; some of them will have higher status. This is a former boss. This is a VP who you met while working on a special project. This is a manager from another division who you know through your child's school or sporting activity. This is the CEO of another company who you know because they are a client or vendor to your company.
If someone in your inactive network has higher status than you, they will have valuable insights. They will likely have had more experience and/or exposure to the business, so they will bring powerful business acumen to the challenge you are facing. They will likely have a broad network and can give you referrals to people outside of your network.
The researchers supposed that people should also feel more comfortable in reaching out to higher status contacts, because these relationships have a natural ebb and flow. However, according to the research results (and, I would argue, common sense), people do in fact feel anxious about reaching out to a higher status contact. We fear and suspect that we will be rejected by these higher status individuals. They surely will not wish to help someone beneath them. Yet, these are the very individuals who can provide us with great advice.
Do you trust the contact?
We have inherent trust in some contacts more than others. This is the person you could vent a work frustration and they always helped you work through it. This is the coworker who was always willing to give advice and help others with a project. This is the individual who is willing to have an open conversation and provide honest feedback in a non-judgemental manner.
These contacts provide tremendous value, and we enjoy reconnecting with them. The high level of trust ("engagement") means that you will have a very productive interaction. You will also feel less anxiety about reaching out, because you expect that they will help you. Luckily, the research also shows that these contacts also provide us with better advice than other contacts. The greater the trust and openness in a relationship, the more likely that it will result in valuable support.
The power of Trust + Insight
The authors found that the most powerful impact from an inactive contact came when there was a combination of trust ("engagement") and insight ("novelty"). These are contacts who you can trust, so you can have an open, possibly even vulnerable, discussion. But this person is also distant enough from you that they have new insights that you may not have previously considered. Yet, because this person is more distant, we recoil from reaching out to them. We fear that they will reject us, so we stick to people we used to know well. In effect, our natural instincts lead us to sub-optimal decisions: we reach out to the people who are less likely to give us good advice. Happily, the research showed that although you worry about a negative experience, our inactive contacts are usually more than happy to help. Most of the executives surveyed were surprised at the extremely positive reactions they received.
Six steps to leveraging your inactive network.
So that's the research. What does this mean for you, the working professional? It means that you should reach out to inactive contacts with whom you did not have a close relationship in the past.
Reach out to inactive contacts with whom you did not have a close relationship in the past
This will naturally cause anxiety, and for some of you may even be terrifying, So I recommend this six step process to approach the reconnection in a less emotional manner. If you find yourself stuck on any of these steps, reach out to me, and we can work through it together.
1. Consider a business or career problem that you face. Write a brief summary to help you clarify the problem and identify the advice you need. Write out the question that you are looking to have answered.
2. Make a list of your former contacts who might have insight to this problem. Avoid trying to anticipate how they will react to your reconnection, just consider whether they have knowledge or experience to help with the problem.
3. Put a check mark beside all the people who:
4. Make a short list of the people with two check marks. These are the people who will likely yield you the most valuable advice.
5. Set aside a morning to make phone calls or send emails to these individuals. In the morning, both you and your contact will be fresh, so the conversation will flow more readily. Plus, it will be easier to tackle any emotional anxiety you may have for contacting these individuals. If you find your anxiety levels rising, take deep breaths and visualize a positive interaction. Before you make a phone call, take a moment in the bathroom or a stairwell to strike a 'power pose' - this will give you the boost of confidence to propel you through the conversation.
6. After you've received the advice or referral, make sure you remember to thank the contact. Consider keeping in touch with this person, even just lightly. A quick phone call or a short email every six months is enough to maintain the relationship so that you feel more comfortable the next time you want to reconnect with this person.
Are you on the path to burnout... or an extraordinary career?
Hi, I'm Liz!