10 must-read books for leaders: Expand your mind


As summer draws to a close, maybe your summer reading list still needs a little work. Or maybe you think of fall as the perfect time to recharge your brain, just like you did when you were a full-time student. Either way, this collection of books won’t let you down: Get ready to broaden your mind and expand your leadership skill set.

We’re talking about leading teams and individuals, analyzing technology and trends with a critical eye, and applying your emotional intelligence. EQ skills have never been in higher demand, thanks to the popularity of cross-functional teams and agile methodologies. Let’s dig into 10 books that will help you build competency in these areas:

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact

By: Chip and Dan Heath

Book descriptionWhile human lives are endlessly variable, our most memorable positive moments are dominated by four elements: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. If we embrace these elements, we can conjure more moments that matter. Many of the defining moments in our lives are the result of accident or luck – but why would we leave our most meaningful, memorable moments to chance when we can create them? The Power of Moments shows us how to be the author of richer experiences.

Why you should read it: “If life is a series of moments, the Heath brothers have transformed how I plan to spend mine,” writes author Adam Grant in his review of this book. This book explores not only the why behind some of the most meaningful moments of our lives, but also the how. In doing so, the authors provide a recipe for companies to cook up their own powerful moments to engage employees and win over customers.

Build an A-Team: Play to Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve

By: Whitney Johnson

Book descriptionWhat’s the secret to having an engaged and productive team? It’s having a plan for developing all employees – no matter where they are on their personal learning curves. Better morale and higher performance happen through learning, argues Whitney Johnson. The best bosses know this, and they know how to make it happen by thoughtfully designing people’s jobs around the skills they have today as well as the skills they’ll need to be even more valuable tomorrow. In this book, Johnson explains how to become one of those bosses and how to build your A-team.

Why you should read it:  Johnson has had a front-row seat to what makes employees tick after spending more than 20 years coaching, investing, and consulting. With no end in sight to the struggles of finding top technical talent, you can’t afford to lose the talent you already have. This book will help you be a better leader and build a team that thrives despite continuous change.


Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World 

By: Tim Ferriss

Book descriptionWe all need mentors, particularly when the odds seem stacked against us. To find his own, four-time #1 best-selling author Tim Ferriss tracked down more than 100 eclectic experts to help him, and you, navigate life. Through short, action-packed profiles, he shares their secrets for success, happiness, meaning, and more. No matter the challenge or opportunity, something in these pages can help.

Why you should read it: One of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People,” Ferriss offers lessons and life advice on a variety of topics from a wide range of experts and celebrities. Leaders will find tidbits that they can apply to their careers – like how to say no, and how to see obstacles as opportunities. As one reviewer said, “Take notes, because you’ll want to revisit these nuggets of wisdom often.”

[ Are you getting the most from mentoring? Read also : 7 habits of highly effective mentors. ]

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

By: Daniel H. Pink

Book description (via Amazon): Drawing on a rich trove of research from psychology, biology, and economics, Pink reveals how best to live, work, and succeed. In “When,” Pink distills cutting-edge research and data on timing and synthesizes them into a fascinating, readable narrative packed with irresistible stories and practical takeaways that give readers compelling insights into how we can live richer, more engaged lives.

Why you should read it: We all know the saying “timing is everything.” In this book, Pink dives into the science behind this idea and explores why there truly is a good time and a bad time for everything – from when to make big life decisions, to when to hold the most productive meetings, to when to have your morning cup of coffee.

Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley

By: Emily Chang

Book description (via Amazon)In this powerful exposé, Bloomberg TV journalist Emily Chang reveals how Silicon Valley got so sexist despite its utopian ideals, why bro culture endures despite decades of companies claiming the moral high ground (Don’t Be Evil! Connect the World!) – and how women are finally starting to speak out and fight back.

Why you should read it: Peter Weis, CIO of Matson Navigation says, “I’m not just a CIO. I’m also a father of two daughters, one of whom works in Silicon Valley, and I’ve been in enough meetings with start-ups and venture capitalists to see the male-dominated culture first-hand. This important book provides an unflinching view into this systemic failure but also provides hope for a brighter, more inclusive future for women in technology. It’s a must read for any technology leader who seeks to be a change agent. Both business and society overall will benefit as this new future unfolds.”

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

By: Patty McCord

Book description (via Amazon): When it comes to recruiting, motivating, and creating great teams, Patty McCord says most companies have it all wrong. Her road-tested advice, offered with humor and irreverence, provides readers a different path for creating a culture of high performance and profitability. “Powerful” will change how you think about work and the way a business should be run.

Why you should read it: McCord, formerly the Chief Talent Officer for Netflix, shares her lessons learned around creating high-performance teams and culture. She co-created the Netflix Culture Deck, which Sheryl Sandberg called, “the most important document ever to come out of Silicon Valley.» McCord’s book makes the case for trading in traditional HR practices for “radical honesty” in the workplace.

Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI

By: Paul Daugherty and H. James Wilson

Book description (via Amazon): AI is changing all the rules of how companies operate. Based on the authors’ experience and research with 1,500 organizations, the book reveals how companies are using the new rules of AI to leap ahead on innovation and profitability, as well as what you can do to achieve similar results.

Why you should read it: Fresh off the presses, this book from HBR offers readers “six entirely new types of hybrid human + machine roles that every company must develop, and it includes a ‘leader’s guide’ with the five crucial principles required to become an AI-fueled business.” If you have plans to do more with AI this year, this book might be a good jumping off point.

The EQ Leader: Instilling Passion, Creating Shared Goals, and Building Meaningful Organizations through Emotional Intelligence

By: Steven J. Stein

Book descriptionAn organization’s success rests on the backs of its leadership. At all levels, true leadership is about much more than management and task distribution – it’s about commitment, collaboration, nurturing talent, developing skills, fostering relationships, and so much more. The EQ Leader integrates the essential factors of successful leadership into a concrete blueprint for the future’s leaders.

Why you should read it: Emotional intelligence is increasingly seen as a must-have for today’s leaders, and this book can help CIOs work on theirs in the new year. One reviewer said, “What I loved about this book was the amount of research that had been gained from thousands of leaders all over the world providing strong evidence of what makes a successful leader. I really liked how it pulled on neurological aspects of what makes good leaders and the future of leadership in general.”

The Age of Agile: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done

By: Stephen Denning

Book description (via Amazon)Filled with examples from every sector, “The Age of Agile” helps readers: Master the three laws of Agile Management (team, customer, network); Embrace the new mindset; Overcome constraints; Employ meaningful metrics; Make the entire organization Agile; and more. With this breakthrough approach, even global giants can learn to act entrepreneurially. Their future depends on it.

Why you should read it: If you are incorporating more agile practices into your organization, check out this book for inspiring examples of agile in action and clear, practical advice.

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

By: Daniel Coyle

Book description (via Amazon): Culture is not something you are – it’s something you do. “The Culture Code” puts the power in your hands. No matter the size of your group or your goal, this book can teach you the principles of cultural chemistry that transform individuals into teams that can accomplish amazing things together.

Why you should read it: What makes some of the best teams in the world successful? Coyle aims to uncover their secrets in this book. Through his research, Coyle reveals the three key skills that bring a culture together and enable them to operate with “one mind.”



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