In the last ten years I’ve gone from a having no idea what I wanted to do, to a trusted project manager in charge of the productivity of over a dozen people, and a leader of the web operations of one of the largest global electronics companies in the world.
I don’t say this to brag or boast. I say this to let you know that wherever you are in your life, you can grow yourself and do something similar.
With the transformation I went through to be who I am today came an evolution of knowledge, skills, and leadership ability that I’ve acquired through various methods, the top of which is books.
This is a trait you’ll notice for virtually any successful person you’ll ever meet. They’re dedicated readers and learners, and that fact is the same for me.
You Don’t Have to Be a Speed Reader
I get around a lot in the personal development space, and hear all sorts of stories from people who claim to read a book a week, 2-3 books a week, or even a book a day.
To each their own, but I’m not one of those dudes who reads dozens of books a year. I’ve never had the patience for that to be honest. So don’t think you have to do that in order to grow yourself either.
I firmly believe if you read 10, or even just 5 books a year (a book every 2 months basically), you can dramatically influence the way you think, feel, and act in a very significant way.
I’m proof of that.
I actually never started reading until after I graduated college. For me, this started with an experiment of reading just 10 minutes each night before going to sleep on a subject I was interested in.
I did this for 30 days and it just evolved from there.
I don’t always partake in this ritual, but when I do, I can tell you that those are always periods of disproportionate growth for me.
To experience the same sort of growth with your own leadership skills, there are several books I seem to recommend over and over, so I thought it would be cool to post them here for you. If you have any other recommendations, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.
These books are centered around a few key skills and pieces of knowledge to understand that pertain to leadership:
- Managing time effectively (yours and other people’s)
- Influencing people and building relationships
- Motivating and inspiring others
- Building effective and efficient processes
- Understanding rational and emotional behavior
The Four Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss – This book is written for entrepreneurs mainly, but it has a lot of great “out-of-the-box” lessons that can be applied to any productive situation about how to manage time effectively. The concepts in this book are a normal part of my life. If you lead people, you’re going to need to know how to manage productivity for yourself and others effectively.
The Goal – Eli Goldratt – This is another business classic that tells the story of a struggling manufacturing facility and their road back to profitability. It uses lean manufacturing and continuous improvement concepts that have now been adapted to software development. It talks a lot about how to identify and eliminate bottlenecks, and also digs into process improvement quite a bit.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey – This one is more about helping you establish highly effective traits and think like a top performer. It’s a great organization and time management type of book. It’s a classic, a pretty quick read, and extremely effective. It’s in my top 10 I’ve ever read.
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie – This book is virtually 100 years old, but it will never die. It’s all about building meaningful relationships and making use of emotions to guide and influence actions. The Dale Carnegie Skills for leadership class is one of the most impactful I’ve ever taken. These are awesome skills for leading and building a team, and overall just being a better person.
Drive – Daniel Pink – This one talks about motivation on a level much higher than just how much we get paid, etc. It goes into emotional satisfaction, happiness, feeling needed, etc. It does a good job of contrasting how a lot of businesses try to motivate people and why that often fails. This is a really good playbook for making sure others are motivated beyond the basic levels of “You work. I pay you.”
Good to Great – Jim Collins – This is a classic business book that analyzes some of the large companies of the past 20 years and what kind of leadership got them to where they are now. All of them have a high level of leadership and common, and this book tells you how to develop the same traits. Highly recommended.
Influence – Robert Cialdini – This is more of a psychology book than a direct leadership book, but it’s really interesting to read how some of these sociological concepts can apply to becoming a leader. Read this if you like to understand what makes people tick, and if you’re a bit of a science nerd like me.
Switch – Chip and Dan Heath – Switch dives into the rational and emotional systems in our brain, uncovers the differences between the two, and helps you understand how people use these areas to make decisions. I can’t tell you how many light bulb moments I had about people when I was reading this one. There are some really cool real life examples in this one as well.
Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely – Another one on human behavior. This one talks about the irrational decisions that people make and the way they behave and why. You won’t believe some of the stuff you find out in this book, even about yourself.