#Happy2019: 12 Books Expert Recommends Leaders Should Read
Has it ever occurred to you that what differentiates the rich from the poor often lies in the knowledge that each individual has and the application of same?
Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and those leading the rich lists read books as a habit.
There is nothing new under the sun, but those who have read documented strategies that worked, have been inspired to make new things using old tricks.
This is why Robert Sutton, a Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford, is recommending 12 books that you should read in this new year, 2019.
One of them per month will not be a bad idea.
In the article published on LinkedIn, Professor Sutton said many on the list are research based, others tell detailed stories, and only two are quick reads (Orbiting the Giant Hairball and Parkinson’s Law).
That reflects my bias. I lean toward books that have real substance beneath them.
This runs counter to the belief in the business book world that people will only buy and read books that are very short and simple – and have just one idea.
1. The Progress principle: By Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.
A masterpiece of evidence-based management -- the strongest argument I know that "the big things are the little things.
2. Influence: By Robert Cialdini.
The classic book about how to persuade people to do things, how to defend against persuasion attempts, and the underlying evidence. I have been using this in class at Stanford for over 25 years, and I have had dozens of students say to me years later "I don't remember much else about your class, but I still use and think about that Cialdini book".
I also am impressed with Cialdini's 2016 bestseller, Pre-Suasion, which adds wonderful new evidence-based twists.
And while some of the examples in the original book are getting a bit dated, I suggest starting with the classic and then reading the new one.
3. Made To Stick: By Chip and Dan Heath.
A modern masterpiece, already a classic after just a few years.
The book talks about how to design ideas that people will remember and act on.
4. Thinking, Fast and Slow: By Daniel Kahneman.
The book is about how we humans really think, and although it isn't designed to do this, Kahneman also shows how and why so much of the stuff you read in the business press is crap.
5. Quiet: By Susan Cain.
I have long been a fan of this book. The blend of storytelling, Cain's writing voice, and evidence is something to behold.
A paragraph in the book read: “Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality—the “north and south of temperament,” as one scientist puts it—is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Our place on this continuum influences our choice of friends and mates, and how we make conversation, resolve differences, and show love”.
You should read the book.
6. Orbiting The Giant Hairball: By Gordon MacKenzie.
It is hard to explain, sort of like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll, as the old song goes. But it is one of the two best creativity books ever written, and one of the best business books of any kind – even though it is nearly an anti-business book. Gordon's voice and love creativity and self-expression -- and how to make it happen despite the obstacles that unwittingly heartless organizations put in the way -- make this book a joy.
7. Creativity, Inc: By Ed Catmull.
One of the best business/leadership/organisation design books ever written – this and Hairball are a great pair. I wrote a more detailed review of Ed’s wonderful book here. As I wrote in my blurb, and this is no B.S.
“This is the best book ever written on what it takes to build a creative organisation.
It is the best because Catmull’s wisdom, modesty, and self-awareness fill every page. He shows how Pixar’s greatness results from connecting the specific little things they do (mostly things that anyone can do in any organisation) to the big goal that drives everyone in the company: making films that make them feel proud of one another.
I read this book from cover to cover again about a month ago – there is so much there as Ed brings in so much of his amazing life and gleans so many lessons about leadership and life
8. Leading Team: By the late J. Richard Hackman.
When it comes to the topic of groups or teams, there is Hackman and there is everyone else. If you want a light feel good romp that isn't very evidence-based, read The Wisdom of Teams. If want to know how teams really work and what it really takes to build, sustain, and lead them from a man who was immersed in the problem as a researcher, coach, consultant, and designer for over 40 years, this is the book for you.
9. Give And Take: By Adam Grant.
Professor Sutton wrote: “Give and Take just might be the most important book of this young century. As insightful and entertaining as Malcolm Gladwell at his best, this book has profound implications for how we manage our careers, deal with our friends and relatives, raise our children, and design our institutions. This gem is a joy to read, and it shatters the myth that greed is the path to success”. In other words, Adam shows how and why you don't need to be a selfish asshole to succeed in this life.
10. Parkinson's Law: By the late C. Northcote Parkinson.
You’ve probably heard of Parkinson’s Law, which he first proposed in The Economist in 1955: “It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” I had as well, but I never knew much about C. Northcote Parkinson, nor had I read his 1958 gem of the same name (I didn't even know it existed) until Huggy Rao and I started writing Scaling Up Excellence and my well-read co-author pointed me to this collection of essays. Parkinson was quite a guy -- a scholar of public administration, naval historian, and author of over 60 books. For our scaling book, I was especially taken with his arguments, evidence, and delightfully polite English sarcasm about the negative and predictable effects of group size and administrative bloat. I am also a big fan of The Peter Principle, which is similar in some ways, (I wrote the forward to the 40 Anniversary Edition), but Parkinson’s Law is an even better book.
11. To Sell Is Human: By Dan Pink.
You might ask, what does this have to do with management and leadership? Read the book. Dan does a masterful job of showing how, to lead and motivate others, to protect and enhance of the reputations of the people, teams, and organizations we care about, and to have successful careers as well, we all need to be able to sell people our ideas, products, solutions, and yes, ourselves. Dan’s ability as a storyteller is what makes this book stand above so many others -- his stories are not only compelling, they make evidence-based principles come alive.
12. The Path Between The Seas: By historian David McCullough.
On building the Panama Canal. This is a great story of how creativity happens at a really big scale. It is messy. Things go wrong. People get hurt. But they also triumph and do astounding things. I also like this book because it is the antidote to those who believe that great innovations all come from start-ups and little companies (although there are some wild examples of entrepreneurship in the story -- especially the French guy who designs Panama's revolution -- including a new flag and declaration of independence as I recall -- from his suite in the Waldorf Astoria in New York, and successfully sells the idea to Teddy Roosevelt).
Readers are leaders.
If you enjoyed reading this and our other stories, please, share with friends and loved ones.