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Top 9 Book Recommendations for Managers and Leaders

Whether you're a first-time manager or an experienced leader, these 9 management books will help you lead with confidence and advance in your career.

By Aydin Mirzaee  •   March 23, 2020  •   7 min read

As the CEO of Fellow.app, one of the questions that I get asked all the time is: “What are your favourite management books?”

So I answered that question and included some information about those books in this post.

Whether you’re a first-time manager or an experienced leader, these 9 management books will help you lead with confidence and advance in your career.

1 The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo

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The first book on our list of top books for managers and leaders is called The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo.

Julie was a manager at a very young age. Starting out as an individual contributor, she got promoted to a management position and didn’t know what to do or how to approach leading a team. After some years, she got better and better at her craft and eventually became the VP of Design at Facebook.

The Making of a Manager describes her experience and is probably the best book that I’ve read for new managers out there.

Now, don’t let the new manager concept fool you. This is actually a really good book for all managers, regardless of years of experience, for a number of different reasons:

  1. It’s always nice to get a refresher about a lot of these topics.
  2. It’s very interesting and instructive to see some of the ways in which the more modern tech companies out there (such as Facebook) are applying different practices, including one-on-one meetings with direct reports and so forth.

2 High Output Management by Andrew Grove

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The second book on our recommendations list is called High Output Management and this one is by Andrew S. Grove – who was the CEO of Intel.

This was a thought-leading book at the time, partially because nobody had really written a book like this. Andrew talks about a lot of different things, including the concept of having one-on-ones and OKRs (objectives and key results).

Andrew Grove was one of the first leaders to popularize some of these concepts amongst the tech industry as a whole, and his book is still referred to as one of the top books that all managers and leaders out there should definitely read.

3 Radical Candor by Kim Scott

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Kim Scott led YouTube, AdSense, and Doubleclick at Google and then joined Apple to develop and teach a leadership seminar. She has worked with a lot of other people who are now working in the management space, such as Sheryl Sandberg.

This is an incredible book for a number of reasons. As the title suggests, it starts out by talking about feedback – how to give proper feedback and how feedback can actually be a game-changer… the secret weapon that managers can use in driving an effective team. But the book is a lot more than that.

Radical Candor talks about one-on-ones, all-hands meetings, and all the different things that managers should do with their teams. This book can be used as a handy sidekick that you can carry around with you and reference from time to time as you’re accomplishing new things in the world of management.

4 First, Break All The Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

Our next recommendation is First, Break All the Rules – a leadership book by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

This book consolidates the research results from hundreds of different Gallup surveys into one text that gives you all the best information to run your team.

One of the concepts that the book talks about is the idea of leading by strengths, as opposed to managing by weakness. A lot of people think that leadership is all about understanding what your team’s weaknesses are and then trying to eliminate those weaknesses. However, this book explains that it’s not about that. It’s actually about finding out what people’s strengths are, and then shaping the team so that you can actually use those strengths more than anything else.

5 Mindset by Carol Dweck

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Mindset is a book written by Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. The primary focus is the concept of having a growth mindset – as opposed to having a fixed mindset.

With a growth mindset, you always believe that you’re constantly growing – you don’t have a fixed set of abilities. With that kind of mindset, all of a sudden things like taking risks and learning new things can come naturally to you, versus thinking that you should just focus on the things that you’re already good at.

This is a particularly important book because – not only do we believe that all managers out there should have a growth mindset – but you actually have a big role in helping your team develop that way of thinking.

This has been a game-changing book for me – and a lot of the people that I know also put this at the top of their list for the books that you should read.

6 The Manager’s Handbook by Alex McCaw

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The Manager’s Handbook is a brand new book written by Alex McCaw, who is the CEO at Clearbit – one of the hot startups in Silicon Valley.

What’s really interesting about this book is that Alex believes in the concept of building one of the best-managed companies in the world. He’s done something that’s somewhat uncharacteristic of other CEOs out there, by taking a personal interest in ensuring that managers in his company are working on their management craft on a daily basis.

Alex compiled all the different things that they do at Clearbit into this handbook and he graciously just made it available to everybody.

The book is filled with best practices that Clearbit execs have taken from all walks of life and from different places, and what’s nice about it is that you only have to read this one book to learn them!

7 Who by Geoff Smart

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You can’t really have a list of books that managers should read unless you also have a book about hiring. This is that book.

In Who, Geoff Smart goes through everything that you need to know about hiring – everything from creating that original job description, to how you should evaluate candidates, and after they’re at your company, what kind of things you should do to continue to nurture that talent.

There are so many great concepts in this book, but one of my favourite lessons is that the best people, the people who are best at hiring, are always hiring. It doesn’t matter if you have open positions or how many open positions you have, you should always be meeting people and evaluating candidates. You should also always have in mind how you can expand your current team. So again, if you’re going to read one book on hiring, this is that book.

8 Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

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Lean In is a book written by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and the founder of Leanin.org) – and it’s one of my favourite books.

One of the things that makes this book particularly important – and this is a book that I’m going to recommend for all my male colleagues out there – is that this is not a book that only half of the population needs to read. This is an ‘everybody book’.

Lean In frames a lot of inclusion and diversity concepts in a very practical sense from someone who’s been a thought leader in this space.

In today’s modern age, you can’t operate without reading this book. It’s so instructive and it will surface many of the biases that you think that you don’t have – but when you start to read this book, you start to realize that there’s so much more to management.

9 Smarter, Better, Faster by Charles Duhigg

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Last but not least is this book called Smarter, Better, Faster by Charles Duhigg.

One of the top roles of any manager is to make their teams run better – and this book takes a productivity spin on teams in general.

What’s great about this book is it goes through various aspects of how to improve productivity in teams and describes different studies from many different companies.

One of the concepts that it describes is psychological safety within teams. It’s really important for teams to have this so that people are willing to take risks. If you don’t promote that kind of safety within your teams, then people won’t take risks and you won’t get those outsized returns and outcomes. People will also just play it safe and do the minimum necessary to just get by.

This is a great book if you’re looking for exponential performance on your teams.

. . .

That wraps up the 9 books that we think should make your list of leadership and management resources!

This is the year to do it. If you want to be a better manager, you have to invest in growth and this is a really good place to start.

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