Top 10 books a leader must read
We live in a world where there are so many books that are produced, that it can be hard to decide. I wrote an article recently about reading to lead, but didn’t include a list for reading! I have made it a little easier by providing a summary of a few great reads. Reads that will kick-start your leadership success. The challenge of some of the existing lists is that they often come from leadership gurus, and those people can offer great insights. However, it’s not the top 10 books from when they were young. It’s the top 10 books for leaders in the 21st century.
10. Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman.
Daniel Kahneman, the author of this text, won a Nobel prize in economic science for his work in psychology. In the world, we regularly get stuck with ineffective thinking. Kahneman’s work spans what many term ‘three phases’. The first, he looked at cognitive bias; those errors in judgment from flawed unconscious beliefs. Perhaps the reason he received an economic science Nobel, is his second phase, one which attacks economic modelling. The ‘maximum utility’ model, where individuals make decisions based on perceived benefit, he argues is not how society operates. Instead, they use ‘prospect theory’. The third phase is ‘hedonic’ (the science of happiness).
This book discusses each of these three phases. His intellectual nowess and understandability is not always expected from serious researchers. Yet, it is refreshing. This novel, is well worth taking the time to read.
9. Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell.
Malcolm Gladwell, a columnist from the New York Times, has a profound way of communicating complex ideas… simply. The Tipping Point analyses three rules of epidemics. These ‘epidemics’ are the points where businesses go from surviving to thriving. The moment in time that enables business to transcend global stages and succeed at immense heights. The emergence of Facebook, Snapchat, and similar are good examples.
Gladwell’s three rules are the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context. The law of the few is the idea that success is derived from the involvement of a couple of people with ‘rare sets of social gifts’. The stickiness factor is the memorableness of a message, how much people tend to resonate with content. The final part is context, where some business models arrive at the exact right moment. The right climate makes for a snowball effect. As a columnist, Gladwell has a writing gift and presents really strong ideas, in a way anyone could understand.
8. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.
The Alchemist is the only fiction text on my list, but it truly offers as much value as the rest. One of the sad parts about this novel is the simplification which occurs from translation. However, the story, in its simplicity is still as enchanting as it is great. Coelho tells the story of a shepherd boy, Santiago, travelling away from his home (Spain) in search of treasure.
In his search for the treasure, he is guided by key people, one of whom is the Alchemist. The treasure, Santiago’s Personal Legend, takes him on a journey of self-discovery. One which is so transformative for the reader. One which enables self-discovery in the reader… in the leader.
7. Strength Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath.
In my very short existence, I have learnt a couple of things about the way we think. The biggest one is that we always focus on the negative. To elaborate, in one of my workshops, I ask students to speak of something they either love or hate. The exercise is to demonstrate passion, but the pattern I saw was alarming. Australians, even in their relaxed ‘she’ll be right’ mentality, look to the negatives first. I doubt this is something unique to Australia.
This book is about looking to the positive. Asking the question about what are our strengths, and how we can capitalise on them. I’m not saying we should ignore our weaknesses. But we shouldn’t let them become the first thing we see. Rath shares my philosophy, and explores it more throughout Strength Finder.
6. Talk like TED, by Camine Gallo.
We often have great ideas to share. Or we need funding. Or we need to present something. But so often, we fall short in our delivery. The content could be great. But if the speech is under performing, it’ll never win the hearts and minds of our audience.
This one ranks in at number 6 on my top 10 books, because it really is a crucial skill of any leader: being able to speak, and speak well. Through the nine public-speaking secrets, this book is sure to deliver dividends in future presentations. I actually found that it was also comforting, and increased my confidence. I always thought I was an okay speaker, but taking a quick skim of this book when preparing for a speech gives me the edge. It could give you that same edge.
For the last five of my top 10 books, click here.
*Featured image by Sebastien Wiertz.