By Bill Yeargin
Reading dozens of books a year is typical for me, and while not all of them are business-oriented, many are. Apparently, this is not unusual, as a Fast Company survey of CEOs found that the typical CEO reads 60 books a year. As President Harry S. Truman said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”
I love to read so asking me to name my favorite books is like asking me to pick my favorite daughter. However, while I don’t have a favorite daughter (they are both amazing and I love them equally, as any parent will understand) I do sometimes take a shot at picking books.
There are hundreds of great leadership books, so pruning the list down to 12 was almost impossible. However, after taking my best shot at narrowing the list, below are the “must-read” books I believe any current or inspiring leader should read. If you invest the time to absorb these 12, I guarantee it will make you a better leader.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey – In his classic mega-selling book Covey skips popular psychology and focuses on timeless principles that will make anyone more effective. I have both read and taught through this book several times and it always feels fresh. Outside the Bible, Covey’s book is at the top of life-changing books. Any leader who has not read Covey’s book should put this article down and go order it; it’s that good.
The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni – Lencioni has written many great books and they could all be on this list. Fortunately for us, his book The Advantage summarizes them. In it, Lencioni combines many of his ideas into a cohesive strategy of organizational health and it is powerful. After The Advantage, Lencioni wrote The Motive which is another powerful book that explains why the best leaders are looking out for their organization and team, not themselves. And, if you’re counting, The Motive is thrown in for free and doesn’t count against the 12!
Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz – Schulz tackles, head-on, the issue that is the biggest problem for most leaders, and that is self-deception. Schulz helps us understand why it is so easy to feel 100% right when we are actually 100% wrong. After reading this book a leader will better appreciate the need to get different perspectives when making decisions.
Mindset by Carol Dweck – Dweck does a great job describing how most leaders have a “fixed mindset,” but the best leaders have a “growth mindset.” In college, I read a book, Psycho-Cybernetics, that helped me understand how impactful my thoughts are on both my success and happiness and it has impacted my thinking ever since. Dweck builds on the idea that how we view our circumstances has a bigger impact on us than our circumstances themselves. Another great book on this topic is Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.
Derailed by Tim Irwin – In Irwin’s excellent book he shares his research on why great leaders self-destruct. Spoiler alert; it’s pride. Every leader should be required to read Derailed. If you are a leader, the less you think you need to read this book; the more you actually do need to read it.
Start With Why by Simon Sinek – In this powerful book, Sinek shares the importance of every organization knowing its “Why.” Start With Why was that catalyst that inspired our “Making Life Better” culture at Correct Craft. It has had a powerful impact on both my thinking and our organization during the past decade.
Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke – Duke, a world champion poker player explains how to make good decisions. Often leaders attribute success to themselves and failures to circumstances; frequently neither is true. Duke explains how probabilities impact our results.
Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono – Originally published in 1985, I have been using the Six Thinking Hats in decision-making for over 30 years. de Bono provides both an easy-to-understand and use-tool to make sure all sides of a situation are considered before making a decision.
The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb – When something unexpected happens, like for instance a pandemic, we are surprised; it is what Taleb calls a “Black Swan.” Looking back at the last 100 years, it is clear to see that we get at least one “Black Swan” a decade. Taleb demonstrates that while we may not know what it is going to be, we should always be prepared for the next “Black Swan.”
Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud – In this powerful book, Cloud explains that while our inclination is to avoid endings, often they are necessary and even beneficial. For most leaders, Necessary Endings will provide a formidable and valuable paradigm shift.
Contagious by Jonah Berger – The most effective way to market, including brand building, is by getting others to share your stories. Berger explains how to do that in Contagious. And if you like Contagious, check out Catalyst, also by Berger. In Catalyst Berger explains how to manage people who are resistant to change; it too is excellent.
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen – Harvard professor Christensen has been the world’s foremost thought leader on the topic of innovation. A few years ago, before he passed away, a couple of my teammates and I were fortunate to take a class with Christensen and he dramatically impacted our company’s innovation culture.
At Correct Craft, we talk a lot about our desire to be “learners,” and there are few better ways to learn than by reading. That’s why reading is a big part of our culture.
If picking up a book seems difficult, try an app like Audible and you can have the book read to you. How ever you do it, consuming books will dramatically impact your career and entire life in a positive way.
Many people say they just don’t like reading, but as Mark Twain said, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”
Bill Yeargin is President and CEO of Correct Craft and author of Education of a CEO.