By Rami Shapov
Memoirs of business icons, war heroes, political figures and even science fiction epics like Dune can provide us with valuable leadership lessons. While these stories skew toward understanding the mindset of a leader, it’s just as important to be versed in the specific capabilities expected of a well-rounded executive. Here are my recommendations from my own reading: seven pragmatic books by topic that will help elevate your leadership game.
Vision And Purpose: The Meaning Revolution: The Power of Transcendent Leadership by Fred Kofman
“Hearts and minds are won by worthy missions and trustworthy leaders.”
Fred Kofman is the vice president of leadership development at Google (and formerly LinkedIn). He puts forth the concept of transcendent leadership in The Meaning Revolution: The Power of Transcendent Leadership. Transcendent leaders carry out projects that leave a mark in the world and infuse people’s lives with meaning and significance.
While the concept of transcendent leadership will be aspirational for most, even small steps in that direction will make a big difference.
Strategy: Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin
“Strategy needn’t be mysterious. Conceptually, it is simple and straightforward.”
A.G. Lafley was at the helm of P&G for more than a decade and has been credited with revitalizing the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) stalwart. His take on strategy with coauthor Roger Martin in Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works is remarkably clear with great examples.
Strategy is about determining where to play and how to win; the rest is noise. Too often, we get caught spinning in tools, tactics and spreadsheets because the initial strategy has set us in the wrong direction.
Culture: What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture by Ben Horowitz
“There’s a saying in the military that if you see something below standard and do nothing, then you’ve set a new standard.”
Ben Horowitz is a tech icon and the cofounder of venture capital firm a16z. Through personal anecdotes and the large portfolio of companies on his radar, in his book What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture, he distills the key leadership actions that influence culture using some unique and unexpected examples (including Genghis Khan!).
The title alone is the most important lesson: Culture is ultimately driven by the actions of senior leaders — that means you.
Communication: Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
“The first problem of communication is getting people’s attention.”
Brothers Chip and Dan Heath have collaborated to write a number of fun and accessible books on human behavior. Their book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die reveals the secret ingredients that make ideas “sticky” and resonant with audiences.
These ingredients can be applied to all mass communications. Communications should not be entirely delegated to comms departments; every leader should spend time on becoming an expert.
Motivation: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”
Daniel Pink, the multiple-times New York Times bestseller and former speechwriter for Al Gore gives us a simple framework to understand what really motivates us at work in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.
Autonomy, mastery and purpose are the big three factors that all leaders should consider when developing careers. Having a simple framework to proactively engage with top talent will inspire and motivate.
Effective Teams: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
“The enemy of accountability is ambiguity.”
If I could leave one book in the top drawer of every executive’s desk, it would be Lencioni’s. In opening this classic, you will immediately see where your team may be coming up short. Google has also published its own take, which is well worth a read. It’s no secret now that trust is the bedrock of all high-performing teams.
Driving Change: Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey
“We all know that change is hard, but we don’t know enough about why.”
Whether it’s changing yourself, your team or your entire organization, Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey outline the barriers and dynamics that make change so hard in their book Immunity to Change. They propose a simple step-by-step model to examine and overcome some of these hidden forces.
Understanding your own resistance to change will equip you with the empathy to better drive change and transformation in others.
This article originally appeared at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/07/06/seven-books-to-sharpen-your-leadership-game/#5ecca91e2768