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20 management books to read

Laura Binder 12 min read
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It is no secret that the world’s highly effective people and great leaders share similar traits, whether it’s years of experience, emotional intelligence, or unique leadership styles they swear by.

Taking a page out of their books is a longtime best practice to shaping your own management approach, as reading the words of others, engages you with new ways of thinking and exposes you to alternate perspectives.

With an ever-growing number of business and management books appearing, seemingly every day, it’s difficult to know where to begin. To get you started, we’ve compiled a shortlist of our 20 Must-Read Books For Successful Managers.

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management books: The Making of a ManagerThe Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You – By Julie Zhuo

Julie Zhuo, Facebook’s first intern, was made a manager at the age of 25. With no management experience to speak of and the enormous weight of her staff’s expectations, Zhuo had no choice but to learn on the fly.

Many years and plenty of teams later Zhuo has written The Making Of A Manager, specifically to aid new managers by providing clear direction and practical advice for the newly promoted.

management books: silo effectThe Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers – By Gillian Tett

In The Silo Effect, Tett asks the question “Why do humans working in modern institutions collectively act in ways that sometimes seem stupid?” and goes on to discuss how the traditional corporate structure of departments can lead to decision-making that would appear to otherwise be counter-intuitive.

If you are a newly minted department manager, this is a must-read. Not only does Tett share stories of disastrous decisions made because of this silo effect form of thinking, but she also discusses examples of where managers and the institutions in which they work, have been able to overcome the silo effect.

management books: measure what mattersMeasure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World With OKRs – By John Doerr

In Measure What Matters, John Doerr, the legendary venture capitalist shares how the goal-setting system of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) has helped some of the world’s most successful organizations achieve greatness, and how it can help you, and your organization flourish.

Through a series of case studies, Doerr walks you through the OKR system explaining how objectives define what you want to achieve while key results are the steps that will take you there. To know whether you are attaining those key results, you will set specific, measurable actions that have to be achieved within a specific timeframe.

Developing an OKR system not only provides you with a way to manage your team and their work, but it also makes your expectations clear to your team members allowing them to see how their success or otherwise will be measured.

management books: dare to leadDare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts – By Brene Brown

Defining the title of a manager can be tricky. Are people given the title of manager, automatically adept at motivating their teams, showing empathy to team members, recognizing the potential in others, and being brave enough to develop that potential?

In Dare To Lead Brown uses research, stories, case studies, and other examples to explain how braver, more daring managers who are willing to share their power instead of hoarding it, can build organizations that prosper.

management books: Now, Discover Your StrengthsNow, Discover Your Strengths: How To Develop Your Talents And Those Of The People You Manage – By Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton

Marcus Buckingham writes about how we are taught to identify our weaknesses and focus on overcoming them. He argues that this “fault first” approach is one that leads us to ignore our strengths, or at the very least under-utilize them.

Discover Your Strengths includes a unique access code that allows you to complete an online interview to “discover your five greatest strengths.”

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management books: IndistractableIndistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life – By Nir Eyal

Much has been said and written about how we are becoming increasingly distracted and the potential impact this has in the workplace for both managers and the people they manage.

Stanford lecturer, and behavioral design expert, Nir Eyal, looks at the psychology of electronic distraction and what we can do to overcome it with a four-step research-backed model of how you can live with technology without developing a Pavlovian response to your notification ping.

management books: Talking To StrangersTalking To Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know – By Malcolm Gladwell

While not written explicitly for managers or even those in business, Talking To Strangers examines how most of us are predisposed to believing other people are being honest and transparent. Gladwell moves from this belief to the fact that when someone behaves in a way that is seen as outside of the norm, we usually have an automatically suspicious or negative response.

Through the examination of high-profile interactions such as the traffic stop of Sandra Brand and her subsequent death, the financial fraud of Bernie Madoff, Sylvia Plath’s suicide, and the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia scandal Gladwell challenges the tools and strategies we use to speak with others. Not only that, he discusses how the ways in which we interact can lead to misunderstanding, conflict, and potentially catastrophic consequences.

management books: HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2020HBR’s 10 Must Reads 2020: The Definitive Management Ideas of the Year from Harvard Business Review (with bonus article “How CEOs Manage Time” by Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria)

Each of The Harvard Business School Must Reads series is an anthology of articles written by leading experts and previously published in The Harvard Business Review.

While there are many Must Reads available, some specifically tailored to a particular role or industry, this specific example is for every manager.

With articles as diverse as “Collaborative Intelligence: Humans and AI Are Joining Forces,” by H. James Wilson and Paul R. Daugherty, “How CEOs Manage Time,” by Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria, and “Strategy for Start-Ups,” by Joshua Gans, Erin L. Scott, and Scott Stern, there are relevant business conversations from which we can all learn.

As a bonus, this one is also available as an audiobook, so listen during your commute and arrive at work inspired.

management books: The Harvard Business Review Manager’s HandbookThe Harvard Business Review Manager’s Handbook: The 17 Skills Leaders Need to Stand Out

The HBR Manager’s Handbook is an excellent choice for those who prefer resources offering specific step-by-step guidance for a task this handbook is split into five parts covering how to develop a leadership mindset; manage yourself; manage individuals; manage teams, and manage the business.

It would be difficult to read this cover to cover, but you should take the time to read part one, “The Transition To Leadership.” This section talks about the role of a manager, the differences between management and leadership, and a slew of other critical points for the new manager, including dispelling some common manager myths.

The layout makes it easy to grab hold of and dip into when you are experiencing a particular challenge. So, for example, if you’ll be going through financial statements for the first time, there is a chapter that explains how to understand them.

management books: Helping People ChangeHelping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth – By Richard Boyatzis, Melvin L. Smith, Ellen Van Oosten

Many managers mistakenly believe that teaching their team consists of pointing out the things people have done wrong and telling them to do it right next time. Unfortunately, this approach is neither helpful nor constructive and in the long-term can lead to strained personal and professional relationships and a hemorrhaging of staff.

Boyatzis, Smith, and Van Oosten tell us that we should focus on identifying a person’s hopes, dreams, goals, or the positive aspects of their self-image. Then, once we know what drives a person, we can find ways to coach them that will lead to sustained, positive results.

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management books: Creative CallingCreative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life – By Chase Jarvis

It doesn’t matter if you are a creative or not because Creative Calling is said to unlock your potential via Jarvis’s memorable “IDEA” system:

○ Imagine your big dream, whatever you want to create—or become—in this world.

○ Design a daily practice that supports that dream—and a life of expression and transformation.

○ Execute your ambitious plans and make your vision real.

○ Amplify your impact through a supportive community; you’ll learn to grow and nurture.

management books: Permission to Screw UpPermission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong – By Kristen Hadeed

Not every teaching moment has to come from a handbook or a how-to manual and Permission To Screw Up is the perfect example of how you can learn just as much through the experiences of others.

In her first book Hadeed recounts how she founded her company, Student Maid, by accident, and how, before becoming an incredibly successful and sought-after CEO, if there was a wrong way to do something, she did it.

An excellent choice for those who find it difficult to plow through the more traditional, instructional type of management book, Permission To Screw Up is as entertaining as it is educational.

management books: Brave New WorkBrave New Work: Are You Ready to Reinvent Your Organization? -By Aaron Dignan

In this book, Dignan shares his strategies for cutting through the traditional corporate structures and operating systems to rediscover what’s important to the success of your organization.

Dignan’s strategies are shared in radical, successful case studies of his clients.

If you are ready to work outside of the commonly accepted norms, go grab yourself a copy of Brave New Work.

management books: Creating an Effective Management SystemCreating an Effective Management System: Integrating Policy Deployment, TWI, and Kata – By Patrick Graupp, Skip Steward, Brad Parsons

If you ever find yourself in a position where you’re a new manager, and part, or all of your role involves management systems, then this book is an absolute must.

Graupp, Steward, and Parsons not only outline how an organization can identify what an effective management system should look like for them, but the trio of experts describe how the critical elements of a system should work together to achieve organizational success.

management books: The First-Time ManagerThe First-Time Manager – By Jim McCormick

The First Time Manager is a combination of a pep talk, explanatory text, how-to’s, and checklists, written by an unconventional author. McCormick is the founder of The Research Institute for Risk Intelligence, has worked in both the private and public sectors.

As a consequence, The First Time manager does not focus on one industry, or even on the business sector; instead, it provides candid advice to new managers in any type of organization.

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management books: first, Break All The RulesFirst, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently – By Gallup with a foreword by James K. Harter

Gallup set out to find what it is that the world’s great managers have in common, and they did so by interviewing 80,000 managers.

It examines managers and employee performance from Fortune 500 companies to small entrepreneurial enterprises, CEOs to supervisors, and how they have all helped to propel their employees, and consequently their organizations to the next level.

Break All The Rules also comes with online access to Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement survey and reporting.

management books: The Ordinary Leader The Ordinary Leader: 10 Key Insights for Building and Leading a Thriving Organization – By Randy Grieser

In The Ordinary Leader, Randy Grieser shares his ten key insights for building and leading an organization that will flourish. Each of these insights translates to one of 10 key principles that Grieser sees as essential to achieving success as a leader.

The stories and perspectives used are those of 10 ordinary leaders, and this is a refreshing change from the many, many, leadership and management books which use Fortune 500 companies or ultra-successful entrepreneurs as their examples.

management books: Radical CandorRadical Candor: Fully Revised & Updated Edition: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity Hardcover – by Kim Scott

One of the hardest things for new managers to achieve is finding the sweet spot between doormat and dictator. Newbies usually want to be liked by their team and make the mistake of thinking they cannot be forceful, or they want to assert their authority and end up alienated from their unhappy, dissatisfied team.

In Radical Candor, Scott shares how you can care about your people without being afraid to speak your mind, as well as how not to become overbearing or a bully in the process. She also discusses how you can provide and solicit constructive criticism to ensure continual cultural improvement.

management books: That’s What She Said That’s What She Said – By Joanne Lipman

That’s What She Said provides practical advice for managers who want to work towards greater gender parity in the workplace.

Through a combination of case studies and personal experience, Lipman asks how managers in a post #MeToo movement world can ensure their workplace is an equitable and professionally fulfilling environment for all.

Most useful for new managers may be the “positive action now” cheat sheet— useful for ALL managers who want to narrow the divide between genders at work but are fearful of making mistakes.

management books: Start Finishing Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done- By Charlie Gilkey

We’ve all been there. A bright shiny new project that you can’t wait to get started on has suddenly devolved into something you’d be happy to run away from. If you have a lifetime’s worth of “maybe one-day” ideas or have left a series of unfinished projects, plans, and tasks in your wake then Start Finishing is the book for you.

Gilkey will guide you through the essential steps that will help you to take ideas through to completion without too much pain on the way.

So, there you have it. Our 20 Must-Read Books For Successful Managers. Go ahead, grab yourself a copy of one of these fabulous books, but don’t blame us if you end up buying them all.

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