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10 Books to Read That Will Change The Way You Think Forever

10 Books to Read That Will Change The Way You Think Forever

Sometimes it’s a lecture. Sometimes it’s a particular teacher’s words. Sometimes it’s a lesson from a parent or a friend, or even a life experience that explodes your conception of what’s possible in the world orwhat’s possible in you. And sometimes it’s a book (or ten) that changes how you think forever.

To live is to learn, and to read is to learn fast from the insight and experience of others. This list of ten books by best-selling authors and thinkers in every field from psychology to economics will change how you think about the world, work, other people, and yourself.

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Books that will change your ideas on the world

Fooled by Randomness – The Hidden Role of Chance

We gravely overestimate the impact of luck and random events on our lives, using terms like “skills,” and “determinism,” when “luck” and “randomness” are the elements actually at play. In this book, Nassim Nicholas Teleb cites real-world examples to whip the veil of certainty from our eyes and explains that life is mostly governed by chance. Read this one for an enlightened view on why life is non-linear and not always fair.

The Wisdom of Crowds

Sure, groupthink can be dangerous, but under the right circumstances crowds can make surprisingly intelligent decisions and even produce better results than the experts or the smartest individuals in those groups. If the group is full of independent thinkers who have no problem pooling intelligence for the common good, you’ve reached the apogee of collective brilliance. In this book, James Surowiecki summons examples from popular culture, psychology, biology, and more to illustrate this idea’s implications on how we vote, decide, do business, and move through the world.

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Books that will change your mind about work

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Successful stories, advertising campaigns, and ideas with staying power share the same recognizable characteristics: they’re simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, and emotional –and they tell a unified story. In this book, Chip & Dan Heath explore why some ideas stick and others don’t, and how you can make yours more velcro than slip ‘n slide.

A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future

Right brain aptitudes have been historically undervalued and dismissed, but as we move from the Information Age into the Conceptual Age, they’re becoming the future’s superpowers. What business is increasingly discovering is that while analytical, left-brain thinking is still important, it isn’t insufficient on its own. Being innovative, creative and empathetic are traits that help us succeed professionally, while also increasing our personal well-being. In this book, bestselling author Daniel Pink takes you along on a journey that details the capacities of the two hemispheres and why appreciation for the right side, with all its inveterate skills in design, empathy, and humor, is growing.

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Weird Ideas That Work: How to Build a Creative Company

Routine work and innovative work are both important to a company’s success. But truly recognizing the differences between the two and understanding where each is most useful? That is invaluable. Stanford professor Robert I. Sutton offers insight on the nature of innovation and experimentation, failure, and creative freedom. It’ll blow up everything you thought you knew about creativity and offers ways to put more innovation back into your business via expectation setting, hiring choices, and strategies for dealing with both failure and success.

Drive -The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Let’s talk for a second about extrinsic motivation: based primarily on rewards and sanctions that come from outside the self, extrinsic motivation is useful on a short term basis. In the long run, though, it’s passion and dedication that characterizes intrinsic motivation and truly fuels the search for meaning and success. The second on this list from Daniel Pink, Drive teaches you about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, what influences each sort, and how you can build awareness of intrinsic motivation to improve your productivity and inspire others in kind.

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Books that will change how you think about other people

Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

Both introverts and extroverts have qualities that can be extremely valuable to the people in their environments, but these personalities need different spaces and treatments to bloom to their full potential. In Quiet, writer and researcher Susan Cain reveals the differences between introverts and extroverts, how the “extroversion ideal” of the last 150 years has transformed the workplace into an extrovert’s dream, and how the talents of the two personality types can be combined for a stunning degree of success. Read this one to get in touch with your inner introvert and learn how to honor it in others

Nudge – Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Look at acid washed jeans, the atom bomb, and Miley Cyrus and it becomes woefully apparent: we as humans make the wrong decisions all the time. We don’t always do what’s best for us. Why? Sometimes, we have too little or overly complex information, or we act on gut feelings rather than reasoned plans. Sometimes we succumb to temptation, and sometimes we’re manipulated by external forces. Thaler, leading behavioral economist and advisor to Barack Obama, shows how nudges, or subtle changes in context that make it more difficult to make a poor decision, can help us achieve our goals.

Books that will change how you think of yourself

Mindset – How You Can Fulfill Your Potential

As little children we adopt a mindset, fixed or growth. Shockingly enough, this one selection defines how we’ll feel, what we believe ourselves capable of achieving, and what we’ll risk for the rest of our lives. Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, teaches us about how to identify our mindset, confront our own attitudes and ideas, and develop a growth mindset to realize our potential to the fullest. Read it to have your ideas about who you are and your own potential changed forever.

The Righteous Mind – Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Where does moral judgment come from? If you answered something like “firm rationale,” you’re wrong. Moral judgment actually springs from our ephemeral friend, intuition. Intuition works rather like a lawyer, justifying moral judgments to others and ourselves, supporting our reputation and self interest. InThe Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidtexposes how it is emotion and intuition, not reasoning, that drives moral judgment, showing us how understanding the moral foundations on which our interests are based can benefit us in decision making.

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Sebastian Klein

Sebastian is the co-founder of Blinkist, a serial entrepreneur, consultant, speaker and writer with a passion for management-free organizations.

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Last Updated on October 21, 2019

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

How to Be a Good Leader and Lead Effectively

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a contender for the 2020 Democratic nomination, is a reminder of why I am so drawn to leadership as a topic. Whenever I think it is impossible for me to be more impressed with her, she proves me wrong.

Earlier this week, a former marine suggested that he had been in a long-term sexual relationship with the Senator. She flipped the narrative and used the term “Cougar,” a term used to describe older women who date younger men, to reference her alma mater.

Rather than calling the young man a liar, or responding to the accusations in kind, she re-focused the conversation back to her message of college affordability and lifted up that “Cougar” was the mascot for her alma mater. She went on to note that tuition at her school was just $50 per semester when she was a student. Class act.

But by the end of the week, news broke that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, another contender for the presidency, had a heart attack. Warren not only wished Sanders a speedy recovery but her campaign sent a meal to his staff. She knew that the hopes of staff, donors and supporters were with the Senator from Vermont and showed genuine compassion and empathy.

To me, she has proven time and time again that she is more than a presidential candidate: she belongs in a leadership hall of fame.

What makes some people excel as leaders is fascinating. You can read about leadership, research it and talk about it, yet the interest in leadership alone will not make you a better leader.

You will have more information than the average person, but becoming a good leader is lifelong work. It requires experience – and lots of it. Most importantly, it requires observation and a commitment to action. Warren observed what was happening with Sen. Sanders, empathized with his team and then took action. Regardless of the outcome of this election, Sanders’ staff will likely never forget her gesture.

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You would have had to work on a political campaign in order to appreciate the stress and anxiety that comes with it. In this moment, staff may not remember everything that Warren said throughout the lengthy campaign, but they will remember what she did during an unforgettable time during the campaign.

If this model of leadership is appealing, and if you are searching for how to up your own leadership game, read on for six characteristics that good leaders share:

1. Good leaders are devoted to the success of the people around them.

Good leaders are not self-interested. Sure, they want to succeed, but they also want others to succeed.

Good leaders see investing in others just as important as they see investing in themselves. They understand that their success is closely tied to the people around them, and they work to ensure that their peers, employees, friends and family have paths for growth and development.

While the leaders may be the people in the spotlight, they are quick to point to the people around them who helped them (the leaders) enter that spotlight. Their willingness to lift others inspires their colleagues’ and friends’ devotion and loyalty.

2. Good leaders are not overly dependent on others’ approval.

It is important for managers to express their support for their teams; good leaders must be independent of the approval of others. I explained in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, that:[1]

“While a desire to be loved is natural, managers who prioritize approval from subordinates will become ineffective supervisors who may do employees harm. For example, a manager driven by a need for approval may shy away from delivering constructive feedback that could help an employee improve. A manager fearful of upsetting someone may tolerate behavior that degrades the work environment and culture.”

In yet another example, a manager who is dependent on the approval of others may not make decisions that could be deemed unpopular in the short run but necessary in the long run.

Think of the coaches who integrated their sporting teams. Their decision to do so, may have seemed odd, and even wrong, in the moment, but time has proven that those leaders were on the right side of history.

3. Good leaders have the capacity to share the spotlight.

Attention is nice, but it is not the prime motivator for good leaders. Doing a good job is.

For this reason, good leaders are willing to share the spotlight. They aren’t threatened by a lack of attention, and they do not need credit for every accomplishment. They are too focused on their goal and too focused on the urgency of their work.

4. Good leaders are students.

In the same way that human beings are constantly evolving, so too are leaders. As long as you are living, you have the potential to learn. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you think you have; you can always learn something new.

I have the experience of thinking I was doing everything right as a manager, only to receive conflicting feedback from my team. Perhaps my approach was not working for my team, and I had to be willing to hear their feedback to improve.

Good leaders understand that their secret sauce is their willingness to keep receiving information and keep learning. They aren’t intimidated by what they do not know: As long as they maintain a willingness to keep growing, they believe they can overcome any obstacle they face.

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As both masters and students, good leaders read, listen and study to grow. They consume content for information, not just entertainment purposes. They aren’t impressed with their knowledge; they are impressed with the learning journey.

5. Good leaders view vulnerability as a superpower.

It means “replacing ‘professional distance and cool,’ with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” said Emma Sappala in a Dec. 11, 2014, article, “What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable” for Harvard Business Journal.[2] She went on to note the importance of human connection, which she asserts is often missing at work.

“As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.”

This rings so true for me as a woman leader. I was raised believing that any show of emotion in the workplace could be used against me. I was raised believing that it was best for women leaders to be stoic and to “never let ‘em see you sweat.” This may have prevented me from connecting with employees and colleagues on a deeper, more personal level.

6. Good leaders understand themselves.

I am a huge fan of life coach and spiritual teacher Iyanla Vanzant. In addition to her hit show on the OWN network, Vanzant has authored dozens of books. In her books and teachings, she underscores the importance of knowing ourselves fully. She argues that we must know what makes us tick, what makes us happy and what makes us angry.

Self-awareness enables us to put ourselves in situations where we can thrive, and it also enables us to have compassion when we fall short of the goals and expectations we have for ourselves. Relatedly, understanding ourselves will allow us to know our strength. When we know our strengths, we will be able to put people around us who compliment our strengths and fill the gaps in our leadership.

Final Thoughts

Being a good leader, first and foremost, is an inside job. You must focus on growing as a person regardless of the leadership title that you hold. You cannot take others where you yourself have not been. So focusing on yourself, regardless of your time or where you are in your career will have long term benefits for you and the people around you.

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Further, if you want to become a good leader, you should start by setting the intention to do so. What you focus on grows. If you focus on becoming a better leader, you will research and invest in things that help you to fulfill this intention. You will also view the good and bad leadership experiences as steppingstones that hone your character and help you improve.

After you set the intention, get really clear on what a good leader looks like to you. Each of us has a different understanding of leadership. Is a good leader someone who takes risk? Is a good leader, in your estimation, someone who develops other leaders? Whatever it is, know what you’re shooting for. Once you define what it means to be a good leader, look for people who exemplify your vision. Watch and engage with them if you can.

Finally, understand that becoming a good leader doesn’t happen overnight. You must continually work at improving, investing in yourself and reflecting on what is going well and what you must improve. In this way, every experience is an opportunity to grow and a chance to ask: ‘What is this experience trying to teach me?’ or ‘what action is necessary based on this situation?’

If you are committed to questioning, evaluating and acting, you are that much closer to becoming a better leader.

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Featured photo credit: Sam Power via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Chronicle of Philanthropy: Why Good Managers Overcome the Desire to Be Liked
[2] Harvard Business Journal: What Bosses Gain by being Vulnerable

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