Congratulations, you’ve just become a manager or you’re already a manager and are looking to improve your leadership skills! On the one hand, you’re excited to have finally reached this echelon of business . . . but on the other, you’re terrified, right? Not to worry. Management theories abound and a lot has been written about it however getting your hands on the best management books will prove to be quite useful.
You have no idea what you’re doing. There’s so much of a learning curve, and you know that people are nipping at your heels and hoping to take your position as soon as you make a big mistake.
Becoming a manager can put you under a lot of pressure, but there are ways to combat that pressure. You don’t have to let yourself crumble—in fact, there are ways to thrive.
One of the ways is to look at the people who came before you. Look into managers who succeeded and managers who failed, and then learn from their actions.
Thus, this article compiles a list of management books you should consider reading to be the best manager possible.
The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson M.D.
As you can tell from the title, this book is all about becoming a good manager. But what do they mean by “one minute?”
According to Blanchard and Spencer, they claim that the most effective managers are those who can manage themselves first and then manage the people they work for second. This way, once the manager manages both aspects of a business, the organization will profit from their presence and the customers will benefit from increased quality and efficiency.
Throughout this book, Blanchard and Johnson focus on leaders and how they must set up clear expectations for the organization to flourish and grow alongside its people.
Once you have a clear vision, as a leader, you must distill this vision and idea to your staff so that they can understand exactly where you’re coming from and what you want.
This book also explores the idea of a one-minute reprimand and one-minute praise. This allows you to be concise and to the point without overwhelming your employees with positives or negatives. By this model, everything you do is done fast and clearly.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This book is the book when it comes to being a good manager. It’s sold millions of copies and continues to inspire and educate new and experienced managers the world over.
In fact, of all the books on this list, this is likely the one you’ve heard of. The reason for that is that this book has taught generations of managers and seen them through successes and failures.
Carnegie’s masterpiece delivers timeless advice on the myriad soft skills that make a truly effective leader. Skills such as making people feel important and appreciated.
So long as you follow the messages in this book, you’ll find yourself slowly becoming a better manager, effective motivator, and persuasive negotiator.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
This may seem like an odd one to put on this list, but in fact, it’s one of the most important ones when it comes to being a manager. One might think that the methods within The Art of War are outdated—since these methods were recorded over 2,000 years ago—but that could not be furthest from the truth.
Sun Tzu was one of the most famous military leaders to ever exist on the planet. As such, he had a lot to say about being a good leader and manager. Despite his lessons being made on the battlefield, many of them apply to the corporate business world today.
His lessons are meant to teach you how to be a fearless leader. Top leaders around the world point out The Art of War as a must-have to learn some great ways to achieve effective leadership, strategizing, logistics, conflict resolution, and resource management.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
Another classic to make this list. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People provides you with the exact information you can see in the title. The author, Stephen Covey was a world-famous leadership expert.
Through his experience and education, he wrote this book to focus on both personal and professional effectiveness. In this masterpiece, Covey posits that true leadership starts from within. Because of this, his book works on teaching readers how to manage their inner well-being, create a personal vision, and cultivate self-control.
The belief that follows is that only once you manage yourself can you manage other people. Another must-read when it comes to being a good manager. Reading this book will help you learn how to inspire and motivate others.
Typically, it comes down to two types of businesses. Some succeed and some fail. The ones that succeed tend to work like well-oiled machines, with employees who go above and beyond the call of duty and truly believe in the company’s mission.
The other type tends to have uninspired and unmotivated workers, as well as those who care little for what they’re doing.
As a manager, you’re going to want your team to succeed, rather than fail, of course. But how do you do that? How come some teams gel like old friends and others implode on day two?
Sinek tackles this question in Leaders Eat Last. The premise for his book was inspired after he noticed something interesting during a dinner with a Marine Corps general. Sinek noticed that all the junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines were all at the back of the line.
According to the Marine Corps general, he explained that “leaders eat last” because what was symbolic in the chow hall was deadly serious in war. To put it more plainly, this general claimed—rightly so—that leaders need to sacrifice their comfort and even their lives for the good of the team they lead.
Although the corporate world tends to be less dire than the active battlefield, the principles and examples Sinek illustrates in his book go a long way towards helping you to become a great manager.
Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
Goleman was a famous psychologist and behavior scientist who focused his research on the idea of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is being able to relate to, understand, and express emotions in their true form.
When it comes to business, being in touch with your emotions can go a long way towards helping you achieve success. Goleman details his insights into the role of emotion in the workplace and the most effective ways to inspire others.
The rationale behind his work is that, if you—as the manager—are not in touch with your emotions, you’re not going to be able to connect with the emotions of your team. If you can’t connect with your team, there’s going to be an automatic disconnect between all of you, and you won’t be able to get things done efficiently and effectively.
Additionally, Goleman posits that if you’re able to understand emotions and use them to your advantage, you can use your understanding to motivate and inspire your employees, as well. You can get your employees to want to work for you and to want to produce their best work on your behalf.
Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute
One of the worst parts of being a manager is knowing that if something fails, it can be easily pinpointed back to you. Maybe you didn’t do your due diligence with training your employees. Maybe you failed to correctly explain the task. Maybe you forgot a key element in the middle of a product.
Whatever the failing element, it’s not hard for the pointed finger to eventually land on you.
This book delves into that experience, which can make it a hard read. It’s not that the concept or the language is particularly difficult, but it’s because this book forces the reader to confront their responsibility for problems.
Especially once you’ve ended up in a position of power, it can feel like the most natural thing to blame those under you for the failure. Many of us outside of positions of power like to blame things outside of us for the problems we have.
However, there are many downsides to operating your business like this. Not only will it embitter your employees to you, but it will also force them to lose trust in your abilities, honesty, and business practices.
After that, it’s a short journey from ending up with a dysfunctional team that refuses to trust anyone, including you. Before it reaches that point, make sure to understand, realize, and accept what role you played in the existence of whatever problem you’re struggling with.
Only once you understand your role in the issue can you come up with a solution to the problem.
Other Books to Check Out
If you want to whet your whistle even further to make yourself an A+ manager, here are some additional books to check out.
- Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman
- Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
- Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less by Robert Sutton & Huggy Lao
- Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet
- Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott