stack of books at champlain college career fair

Leadership Books to Know About

by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17

In part one of this blog series about leadership, I discussed generational differences and how these and a changing economy affect millennials in the work place. In this post, I’ll be focusing on different career books you should read when you get a chance. These books form the basis of leadership and career success theory, plus reading them would make you look impressive to your coworkers. Everything you read in this post is based on Lindsey Pollak’s book, Becoming the Boss.

Books on Leadership You Should Read

The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Pollak recommends this book, written in the 2nd BC, because it has advice that military professionals and others have used for centuries. Surprisingly, a lot of what applies to military strategy also applies to your career. Besides, it’s a classic.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This is one of the first self-help books ever written. It contains advice like, “Be genuinely interested in other people.” Or, “A person’s favorite word is his or her own name.” Though this was written in 1936, a lot of the advice is still incredibly relevant.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This is the only novel on Pollak’s list, and it was published in 1957. The book’s plot focuses on what happens when the profit motivation disappears, and how it would ruin society. Before this book was published, it was common for business leaders to feel apologetic for their wealth. After this book, they started feeling like they were heroes.

Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy. Ogilvy was the father of modern advertising, and his book, published in 1963, is full of his wisdom. Though not everything in the book is still applicable, most of it is. He’s important to at least know about because his name is dropped frequently in the business world.

The Effective Executive and The Essential Drucker by Peter F. Drucker. The first book listed here was published in 1967, and the second in 2008. Peter Drucker is the father of modern management, and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, asks all his top executives to read it. Business professionals quote Drucker frequently, according to Pollak, even if they don’t realize they are.

Servant Leadership by Robert K. GreenleafPublished in 1977, this book explores the idea of servant leadership, or sharing power rather than accumulating it. This is an important book because it reminds us that the best leaders are not those who are power-hungry, but are instead hungry to help others.

The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. Pollak found this book to be the favorite to most people she talked to in creating this list. Published in 1982, it focuses on one-minute management tips, such as setting one minute goals and doling out one minute praises or criticisms. It’s a quick read, so this may be a good option if you’re pressed for time.

In Search of Excellence by Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman Jr. These two authors studied 43 top companies at the time (1982) and shared their eight key factors to good leadership. This is one of the best-selling books about business of all time.

The E-Myth and The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. Champlain College loves entrepreneurship, and that’s exactly what these books are about. Gerber bases his book on the idea that you have to work on your business, not just in it. You have to pay more attention to the structures and operations of your business than you do to the final product (whatever you’re selling). These books were published in 1986 and 1995, respectively.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. CoveyIf you’ve never heard of this book, it’s possible you’ve been living under a rock! It’s exactly what it sounds like: the seven habits you should have if you want to be like other successful people. Published in 1989, Pollak has seen this book on the shelves of most successful people she knows.

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goldman. EQ, which measures how emotionally intelligent you are, is arguably even more important than your IQ. Goleman argues in his book, published in 1995, that soft skills like communication and relationship building are more important than technical skills.

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. This book from 1998 is the best-selling business book EVER! The book has two main lessons. One: The quicker you let go of old cheese (an idea) the sooner you find new cheese. Two:Your fear of a situation is always worse than the actual situation. Spencer Johnson was the first person to ask, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. This book is based on Buckingham’s career spent with Gallup, the polling organization. During his time there, he helped conduct massive surveys of managers in leadership roles and what makes them succeed. He found that it’s harder to improve on your weaknesses than it is to play to your strengths. He also found that the key to business is playing to your employee’s strengths, giving them tasks they are well-suited for.

The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell. A “tipping point” is the point when an idea becomes a fad, and people known as “connectors” speed up the process of its diffusion. Gladwell has written several other books about social phenomena like this, and though his books aren’t as business-y as others, they are fascinating.

Good the Great by Jim Collins. Collin’s book is a reboot of In Search of Excellence (included earlier in the list), written twenty years later in 2001. He studied great companies and what set them apart from just good ones. One of his famous concepts is to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals, or BHAGs. An organization’s leadership is also crucial!

Getting Things Done by David Allen. Allen writes all about productivity and how to maximize your time. I’ve even watched some of his videos on the professional learning site, Lynda.com. One of his famous ideas is the two-minute rule. If something can be done in two minutes, do it right then because you’ll waste more time by putting it off than you will by simply doing it.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz. Networking is critical to your career, and here’s a good place to look for advice. Published in 2005, this book is about building genuine relationships and providing mutual benefit to other people. Next time you’re in the dining hall, consider taking the time to sit with someone new. You never know what might come from it!

A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink. Here is a book that champions creativity as the key for businesses today. Even though outsourcing is a trend and more businesses are trying to do with fewer employees, Pink argues that creative thinking is the most valuable asset a business has.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. This book focuses on outsourcing as much work as possible so that you can work fewer hours every week. This may sound like fantasy at work, but Ferriss swears by it. He defines happiness as having control of your time, and I have to agree that he’s onto something with that theory. I know I’m certainly happier when I get to choose what I do with my time!

The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. Christensen, a Harvard professor, tackles the idea that no business is immune to failure, even those who are models of efficiency at the moment. Needs change over time, and business have to be tuned into those changes and prepared to shift their business models. If you end up working for someone who graduated from Harvard, mentioning Christensen will earn you some respect.

Quiet by Susan Cain. I have this book about the power of introverts upstairs in my room, though I haven’t been able to read it yet. Cain writes about how introverts are untapped resources in the work place and in leadership roles, and how introverts can communicate better. If you’re an introvert or just want to learn more about this large sector of society, read this book.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. If you didn’t know, Sandberg wrote this book while she was the COO of Facebook (2013). She writes to empower women business leaders, even if her book lacks diversity. She has advice for both men and women on how we can reach equality in the workplace.

Though this list is incomplete, it’s a great place to start learning about leadership. You can find other professional books on topics you’re interested in online. Education is the key to everything in life, so seize it. You have an opportunity that not everyone has.

In part three of this blog series, I’ll be writing about Lindsey Pollak’s five keys to becoming leaders on the inside so you’re prepped and ready to become a leader out in the professional world, too.

Sources: Becoming the Boss by Lindsey Pollak; find more information about Pollak here.

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