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Published on May 1, 2020

20 Best Management Books That Will Make You a Great Leader

20 Best Management Books That Will Make You a Great Leader

What makes a person a great leader? Is it a magnetic personality? Is it having a bold vision or confidence?

I would argue that all of these traits are possessed by great leaders. But how do you acquire these attributes? After all, there is such a thing as a “born leader”, but most of us who are called on to lead doesn’t fit into that category.

Fortunately, there is an abundance of information out there designed to give us the skillsets of a great leader. In this article, we listed the 20 best management books that will make you a great leader.

1. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson M.D.

    This is a remarkable book that tells the story of a young man in search of a good leader. While he encounters different management styles, some autocratic care only about results, and the workers suffered. Others with a democratic approach were only concerned with people, and the organization also suffered. Finally, he finds what he’s been looking for in a manager that uses the one-minute method.

    The one-minute method is basically a way to set clear goals or expectations for those you manage.

    For example, if you were told to clean a room, does that mean sweeping the floor, dusting the shelves, or organizing the bookshelves? But if you are told to sweep the floor and organize the bookshelves, the expectations are clearer. Then, there are one minute of praisings and one minute of reprimands where you give praise and reprimands immediately and quickly.

    Get the book here.

    2. On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis

      Considered a must-read for any business person, Warren Bennis was a business school professor at the University of Southern California. He got his first taste of leadership during world war 2 when he was one of the youngest lieutenants to serve in Europe. He is a firm believer that leaders are made, not born.

      This one of the best management books out there. It outlines several traits that make up a great leader. For Bennis, a leader is self-aware, curious, and are risk-takers. A leader sees the big picture and does what is right.

      Get the book here.

      3. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders by L. David Marquet

        Marquet was the captain of a submarine and was trained to lead in the typical military fashion of issuing orders and getting results. However, one time he gave an order that was impossible to follow, but his crew tried anyway with near-disastrous results. When he asked why, the answer was “because you told me to”.

        That’s when he decided to try a different management style, giving those under him the responsibility for their job and the autonomy to do it. The results from the change in his management style were significant.

        Get the book here.

        4. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

          Why do some teams come together to get the task done while other teams disintegrate into squabbling, infighting, and backstabbing?

          Sinek tackles this question in Leaders Eat Last after he had a conversation with a Marine Corps general. He noticed that all the junior Marines ate first, while the most senior Marines were all at the back of the line. The general explained that “leaders eat last” because what was symbolic in the chow hall was deadly serious in war.

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          Leaders need to sacrifice their own comfort and even their lives for the good of the team they lead. He goes on to illustrate his ideas through examples of true stories in business and military.

          Get the book here.

          5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

            A list of the best management books will not be complete without this book by Carnegie. This is probably one of the most famous books on leadership ever written, and that’s for good reason.

            Carnegie reveals some of the “soft skills” of good leadership, such as making people feel important and appreciated. Implementing the ideas found in this classic will help you be a better leader, negotiator, and motivator.

            Get the book here.

            6. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

              Written over two thousand years ago, this is still touted by business people all over the world as a must-read for leaders. Sun Tzu was a military leader who put his philosophies regarding war and leadership to paper.

              It is filled with timeless wisdom such as “Avoid what is strong and strike at what is weak.” and “Supreme excellence rests in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting”.

              The book is divided into thirteen chapters and each one is devoted to a certain philosophy.

              Get the book here.

              7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

                Another classic, Covey is widely known as a world-renowned leadership expert. Although he already has other published works, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is his most famous one.

                Covey’s idea is that true leadership starts from within. A good leader must first manage their inner well-being, create a personal vision, and cultivate self-control. Only then can they extend their influence to others.

                Here’s a short video on the 7 habits of highly successful people:

                Get the book here.

                8. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John Maxwell

                  One of the most popular books on leadership of all time, Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is one of the best management books you can find.

                  Maxwell contends that while there may be more “laws” of leadership than 21, these 21 laws are true and needed for anyone to be effective. Furthermore, these laws apply to all leadership roles in society, be they be in the military, business, or government.

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                  Get the book here.

                  9. Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive By Harvey B. Mackay

                    Written by a self-made millionaire, Mackay gives practical advice on how to outsell your competition and motivate your employees. It’s a short read filled with useful and practical ideas. It contains much helpful advice like “If You Don’t Have a Destination, You’ll Never Get There,” “Make Decisions with Your Heart and What You’ll End Up with Is Heart Disease,” and “It isn’t the people you fire who make your life miserable, it’s the people you don’t”.

                    Get the book here.

                    10. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D.

                      Dr. Robert Cialdini spent his entire career researching the science of influence, earning him an international reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation.

                      In his book, Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion, he breaks down the principles of influence and persuasion into six categories that are easy to understand and implement. This book will teach you not only how to persuade others but also how to protect yourself from deceptive persuasion.

                      Get the book here.

                      11. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute

                        This book might be a hard read, not because of the concepts involved or the language used, but because it forces the reader to confront their responsibility for problems. Most of us like to blame things outside of us for the problems we have. But in order to truly find solutions, you need to be able to see your role in the problem.

                        The Arbinger Institute is recognized as a world leader in improving organizational effectiveness and conflict resolution.

                        Get the book here.

                        12. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman

                          A Wall Street Journal bestseller, this relatively short, 292-page read talks about two leadership styles.

                          In this book, leadership expert Liz Wiseman explores these two leadership styles, persuasively showing how Multipliers can have a resoundingly positive and profitable effect on organizations.

                          Multipliers are the ones who get more done with fewer resources, develop and attract talent, and cultivate new ideas and energy to drive organizational change and innovation. On the other hand, Diminishers are the type of people who drain creativity and innovation from their teams.

                          Get the book here.

                          13. My Years With General Motors by Alfred Sloan Jr.

                            This is another management book that’s considered a “classic”. First published in 1963, Sloan’s My Years With General Motors became an instant bestseller. The author talks about the “discipline of management” that he has practiced for decades and which made him an effective leader.

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                            Still relevant today, Bill Gates praises this book as the best book on management. Even Business Week named it “the number one choice for its bookshelf of indispensable reading.”

                            Get the book here.

                            14. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

                              This New York Times bestseller was produced by the co-founder of Pixar Studios – the people behind some of the most famous and successful films of all time. In this book, the authors explore the leadership qualities that have made Pixar so successful.

                              Readers can find many great ideas in this book such as, “Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better,” and “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”.

                              Get the book here.

                              15. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott

                                Kim Scott was an executive at Google and later Apple. In this insightful book about leadership and management, she shares her years of knowledge about how to be an effective leader.

                                Her fundamental belief is that a leader must truly care while still challenging employees directly. If you don’t really care, it’s authoritarian. If you don’t challenge, it’s bad for the company. And if you do neither, it’s just manipulative.

                                Get the book here.

                                16. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

                                  Another New York Times bestseller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us crushes the notion of the carrot and stick method of management.

                                  In this book, Pink examines the difference between what science knows motivates us and what most businesses do. He postulates that people are motivated by three things, autonomy, mastery, and purpose. So, if you can provide them those things you will have a productive and efficient team.

                                  Get the book here.

                                  17. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee

                                    What’s the most important attribute of a leader? Intelligence, motivation, vision?

                                    The authors of this book put forth the argument that “emotional intelligence” is the critical factor for leadership. for them, qualities like enthusiasm, empathy, relationship management, intuitive understanding are qualities possessed by great leaders.

                                    Using many real-world examples, the authors try to define and explain those key qualities. Good leaders bring out “resonance” among a team, while poor ones create “dissonance.”

                                    Get the book here.

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                                    18. The Truth About Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

                                      In this book, the authors spell out ten “truths” about leadership. One of these is credibility, which is the foundation of leadership. A leader values and drives commitment, and the best leaders are the best learners.

                                      According to the authors, you either lead by example or you don’t lead at all. All of these truths must be understood by any great leader and you neglect them at your own peril.

                                      Get the book here.

                                      19. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

                                        Tony Hsieh is the founder of Zappos, an online retailer that does over one billion dollars in sales annually.

                                        In this book, he explains his secrets to success. Some of the strategies he outlined include giving you employees control over their jobs (autonomy), acknowledging and encouraging progress both professionally and personally, connecting with your team personally, and being someone people would want to work for, among many others.

                                        If you are interested in having your own business or just in managing people, this is a great read.

                                        Get the book here.

                                        20. The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James Kouzes and Posner

                                          Last but not the least, we have The Leadership Challenge, which is one of the best management books ever written.

                                          Considered the “gold standard” of leadership manuals, The Leadership Challenge explores the difference between good leaders and great leaders. The authors outlined 5 practices of exemplary leadership: model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart.

                                          Anyone looking for great management and leadership books has to add this to their list.

                                          Get the book here.

                                          The Bottom Line

                                          Leadership is both an art and a skill. And while you can’t teach the art part of leadership, you can acquire the skills of a leader.

                                          This list of 20 best management books is by no means exhaustive, but by gaining the insights that they possess, you will be better equipped to lead.

                                          In effect, the knowledge you can acquire from these books will have you standing on the shoulders of giants.

                                          More Books About Leadership

                                          Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

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                                          Last Updated on June 3, 2020

                                          How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

                                          How to Give Constructive Feedback in the Workplace

                                          We all crave constructive feedback. We want to know not just what we’re doing well but also what we could be doing better.

                                          However, giving and getting constructive feedback isn’t just some feel-good exercise. In the workplace, it’s part and parcel of how companies grow.

                                          Let’s take a closer look.

                                          Why Constructive Feedback Is Critical

                                          A culture of feedback benefits individuals on a team and the team itself. Constructive feedback has the following effects:

                                          Builds Workers’ Skills

                                          Think about the last time you made a mistake. Did you come away from it feeling attacked—a key marker of destructive feedback—or did you feel like you learned something new?

                                          Every time a team member learns something, they become more valuable to the business. The range of tasks they can tackle increases. Over time, they make fewer mistakes, require less supervision, and become more willing to ask for help.

                                          Boosts Employee Loyalty

                                          Constructive feedback is a two-way street. Employees want to receive it, but they also want the feedback they give to be taken seriously.

                                          If employees see their constructive feedback ignored, they may take it to mean they aren’t a valued part of the team. Nine in ten employees say they’d be more likely to stick with a company that takes and acts on their feedback.[1]

                                          Strengthens Team Bonds

                                          Without trust, teams cannot function. Constructive feedback builds trust because it shows that the giver of the feedback cares about the success of the recipient.

                                          However, for constructive feedback to work its magic, both sides have to assume good intentions. Those giving the feedback must genuinely want to help, and those getting it has to assume that the goal is to build them up rather than to tear them down.

                                          Promotes Mentorship

                                          There’s nothing wrong with a single round of constructive feedback. But when it really makes a difference is when it’s repeated—continuous, constructive feedback is the bread and butter of mentorship.

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                                          Be the change you want to see on your team. Give constructive feedback often and authentically, and others will naturally start to see you as a mentor.

                                          Clearly, constructive feedback is something most teams could use more of. But how do you actually give it?

                                          How to Give Constructive Feedback

                                          Giving constructive feedback is tricky. Get it wrong, and your message might fall on deaf ears. Get it really wrong, and you could sow distrust or create tension across the entire team.

                                          Here are ways to give constructive feedback properly:

                                          1. Listen First

                                          Often, what you perceive as a mistake is a decision someone made for a good reason. Listening is the key to effective communication.

                                          Seek to understand: how did the other person arrive at her choice or action?

                                          You could say:

                                          • “Help me understand your thought process.”
                                          • “What led you to take that step?”
                                          • “What’s your perspective?”

                                          2. Lead With a Compliment

                                          In school, you might have heard it called the “sandwich method”: Before (and ideally, after) giving difficult feedback, share a compliment. That signals to the recipient that you value their work.

                                          You could say:

                                          • “Great design. Can we see it with a different font?”
                                          • “Good thinking. What if we tried this?”

                                          3. Address the Wider Team

                                          Sometimes, constructive feedback is best given indirectly. If your comment could benefit others on the team, or if the person whom you’re really speaking to might take it the wrong way, try communicating your feedback in a group setting.

                                          You could say:

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                                          • “Let’s think through this together.”
                                          • “I want everyone to see . . .”

                                          4. Ask How You Can Help

                                          When you’re on a team, you’re all in it together. When a mistake happens, you have to realize that everyone—not just the person who made it—has a role in fixing it. Give constructive feedback in a way that recognizes this dynamic.

                                          You could say:

                                          • “What can I do to support you?”
                                          • “How can I make your life easier?
                                          • “Is there something I could do better?”

                                          5. Give Examples

                                          To be useful, constructive feedback needs to be concrete. Illustrate your advice by pointing to an ideal.

                                          What should the end result look like? Who has the process down pat?

                                          You could say:

                                          • “I wanted to show you . . .”
                                          • “This is what I’d like yours to look like.”
                                          • “This is a perfect example.”
                                          • “My ideal is . . .”

                                          6. Be Empathetic

                                          Even when there’s trust in a team, mistakes can be embarrassing. Lessons can be hard to swallow. Constructive feedback is more likely to be taken to heart when it’s accompanied by empathy.

                                          You could say:

                                          • “I know it’s hard to hear.”
                                          • “I understand.”
                                          • “I’m sorry.”

                                          7. Smile

                                          Management consultancies like Credera teach that communication is a combination of the content, delivery, and presentation.[2] When giving constructive feedback, make sure your body language is as positive as your message. Your smile is one of your best tools for getting constructive feedback to connect.

                                          8. Be Grateful

                                          When you’re frustrated about a mistake, it can be tough to see the silver lining. But you don’t have to look that hard. Every constructive feedback session is a chance for the team to get better and grow closer.

                                          You could say:

                                          • “I’m glad you brought this up.”
                                          • “We all learned an important lesson.”
                                          • “I love improving as a team.”

                                          9. Avoid Accusations

                                          Giving tough feedback without losing your cool is one of the toughest parts of working with others. Great leaders and project managers get upset at the mistake, not the person who made it.[3]

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                                          You could say:

                                          • “We all make mistakes.”
                                          • “I know you did your best.”
                                          • “I don’t hold it against you.”

                                          10. Take Responsibility

                                          More often than not, mistakes are made because of miscommunications Recognize your own role in them.

                                          Could you have been clearer in your directions? Did you set the other person up for success?

                                          You could say:

                                          • “I should have . . .”
                                          • “Next time, I’ll . . .”

                                          11. Time it Right

                                          Constructive feedback shouldn’t catch people off guard. Don’t give it while everyone is packing up to leave work. Don’t interrupt a good lunch conversation.

                                          If in doubt, ask the person to whom you’re giving feedback to schedule the session themselves. Encourage them to choose a time when they’ll be able to focus on the conversation rather than their next task.

                                          12. Use Their Name

                                          When you hear your name, your ears naturally perk up. Use that when giving constructive feedback. Just remember that constructive feedback should be personalized, not personal.

                                          You could say:

                                          • “Bob, I wanted to chat through . . .”
                                          • “Does that make sense, Jesse?”

                                          13. Suggest, Don’t Order

                                          When you give constructive feedback, it’s important not to be adversarial. The very act of giving feedback recognizes that the person who made the mistake had a choice—and when the situation comes up again, they’ll be able to choose differently.

                                          You could say:

                                          • “Next time, I suggest . . .”
                                          • “Try it this way.”
                                          • “Are you on board with that?”

                                          14. Be Brief

                                          Even when given empathetically, constructive feedback can be uncomfortable to receive. Get your message across, make sure there are no hard feelings, and move on.

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                                          One exception? If the feedback isn’t understood, make clear that you have plenty of time for questions. Rushing through what’s clearly an open conversation is disrespectful and discouraging.

                                          15. Follow Up

                                          Not all lessons are learned immediately. After giving a member of your team constructive feedback, follow it up with an email. Make sure you’re just as respectful and helpful in your written feedback as you are on your verbal communication.

                                          You could say:

                                          • “I wanted to recap . . .”
                                          • “Thanks for chatting with me about . . .”
                                          • “Did that make sense?”

                                          16. Expect Improvement

                                          Although you should always deliver constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you should also expect to see it implemented. If it’s a long-term issue, set milestones.

                                          By what date would you like to see what sort of improvement? How will you measure that improvement?

                                          You could say:

                                          • “I’d like to see you . . .”
                                          • “Let’s check back in after . . .”
                                          • “I’m expecting you to . . .”
                                          • “Let’s make a dent in that by . . .”

                                          17. Give Second Chances

                                          Giving feedback, no matter how constructive, is a waste of time if you don’t provide an opportunity to implement it. Don’t set up a “gotcha” moment, but do tap the recipient of your feedback next time a similar task comes up.

                                          You could say:

                                          • “I know you’ll rock it next time.”
                                          • “I’d love to see you try again.”
                                          • “Let’s give it another go.”

                                          Final Thoughts

                                          Constructive feedback is not an easy nut to crack. If you don’t give it well, then maybe it’s time to get some. Never be afraid to ask.

                                          More on Constructive Feedback

                                          Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

                                          Reference

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