Pursue What Matters
Episode 68: The Leadership Books You Need on Your Bookshelf
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Last year there was an estimated 11,000 new business books published. That’s almost 1000 books every month. How do you wade through all of that? Well, good for you, you’ve got me because I have got the five types of leadership books you must have on your bookshelf. So join me, I’m gonna give you the down low on the books you need to have and then you can forget about the rest.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:51
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast; where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. Oh so many books, so little time, you’re busy, you don’t have time to read all the new books coming at you. But you know, of course, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest research trends and best practices. What is a person to do? Well, you know, this is where you listen to the podcast because I am here to help you out. And I even have a great resource for you. So I have the five leadership books you need on your bookshelf every leader needs on their bookshelf.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:35
So according to a study done by the Harvard Business Review back in 2015, there were more than 15,000 books on leadership in print, and articles on leadership number in the thousands each year. And then another study showed that in 2015, there were four leadership books published every single day. So that’s a lot And counting all formats, Amazon offers 57,000 books with the word leadership in the title. So you know, there’s a lot going on in leadership. So now let’s think about self help books. So when we think about self help books, book titles published, there were 31,000, published in 2013 and 85,000, published in 2019. Oh my goodness, that is the fastest growing genre of book sales. So tons of self help going on, or at least books published in self help. Whether the self help is really going on or not, is another question.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:47
So how do you know what’s worth your time though? That’s the real question. There’s lots of books. Not all of it is the same quality. So what’s worth your time and what are you better off leaving alone because, of course you are busy. And I know for me, I’ve definitely reached that point in my reading career that I will not continue reading a book if I do not find value in it. I used to slog through a book to the bitter end feeling like I, you know, like, I had to do it if I were to be a reader I had to slog through, or that it was some badge of honor to finish a book, but I am telling you that ship has sailed, I do not feel that way anymore. Time is our most precious commodity. And so if a book is not adding value to my life, it’s gone. So I usually give it about 100 pages and then if it hasn’t pulled me in, or if it’s not adding value, it’s gone and I just, I’m not wasting any more time on it.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:59
So I think that’s so interesting though that last year, there were 11,000 business books published. So that’s almost 1000 every month. That’s a ton. So today, I want to talk with you and share some of my top picks of leadership reads that I really think you should have on your bookshelf. And so I think these are worth your time and that they will add value both to you, personally and professionally. And so that’s what I’m really thinking about is both your personal and professional development because right, I want to help you pursue what matters. I want to really help you thrive in love and work and really thinking about work life integration. And so I hope this podcast can be helpful for you, and that you’ll use this as a guide for deciding whether you’d like to pick up some of these books and take a read or listen.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:53
And then of course, each week my goal is to help you pursue what matters and to strengthen your confidence to lead, and this week, that is primarily in the area of leading with curiosity. And when we think about curiosity, it’s all about self awareness. And so we want you to strengthen your skills as a leader, both professionally and personally. And so, you know, all of the books I’m going to talk about today. And the areas that I want to really focus on will help you strengthen your self awareness. They will help you strengthen your skills as a leader, and it’s all about leading with curiosity. And so, with that in mind, let’s jump in. And of course, I have a really great resource for you with the books that I’m recommending. So I hope that you will head to my website at the end of the podcast and that you’ll download this resource and then It will be a useful guide to you because obviously you’re busy. And you know, it will probably be a while before you get to all the books. And so this resource can be helpful for you so you can check back with it as a reference point for you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:17
So typically what I do each month is I review one book and recommend that to you, but I’m doing something a little different this month. I thought it could be kind of fun. So this month, I am sharing five types of leadership books that I think every leader should have on their bookshelf. So I’ve got lots of recommendations for you. So first of all, they’re not random books. The way that I approached the podcast was this way, so maybe you are a new leader. And you’re just getting started on building your leadership bookshelf, and you’re not quite sure where to start. So what types of books should you have? What category of books should you have? Right? I mean, 11,000 new business books every single year. That can be kind of overwhelming. So what category of books should you have to make sure you have a good foundation and leadership fundamentals? So that was, that might be one listener. Right. That’s, that’s one thought that I had. Maybe you’re a leader. And you set a goal to do more leadership reading this year, which I would love that if that’s one of your goals, because I’m such a geek about reading. But you don’t really know where to start. So this podcast can help give you some direction. So again, I’m going to give you some broad categories to give you a good foundation for your leadership, and I’m offering you some book recommendations in each category. So you have some good options to choose from to best meet your needs. And then maybe you’re a leader with a specific need and one of these categories. So go to that category, check out my recommendations and see if one of the book recommendations might be a good fit for you. So that’s kind of what I had in mind. And just thinking about creating a good foundation for you, as a leader for your leadership journey, like what, what are the categories of leadership books, if you are just building your, your leadership bookshelf, your leadership library, what are the categories? If you were saying like, I want to strengthen my reading effort, my leadership reading this year, what would you want to focus on to build that foundation?
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:00
So the resource will really help be a guide, it breaks down the categories, and then it gives you recommendations in each of those areas. And then you can kind of use it throughout the year to strengthen your skills and your confidence as a leader. And I will also link to the podcast that I did on readers are leaders and all the great research that shows how true this is. Because it’s true: committing to a regular practice of self development via reading is absolutely one of the best things you can do to strengthen your leadership. So I’m not going to cover all of that here. But I did cover that in the podcast, Readers are Leaders so I will link to that. And if you want to follow up on that research, you’re welcome to do so.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:54
Okay, so what are the five categories of leadership books you would ideally have on your bookshelf that would really set a good foundation for you to lead confidently? So I will name these five categories. And then I’m going to say a little bit more about each one. But let’s just get those listed for you first. So the first category is clarity of purpose and cultivating culture. The second category is self awareness. You know, I’m a fan of that one. The third category is productivity, motivation and leading change. The fourth category is the psychology of leadership. And the fifth category is creativity, innovation and business fundamentals.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:49
Okay, so now I’m going to go through each category. So those are the five categories that I just think if you have books in each of those categories, That is going to give you such a good foundation for your reader library. And yeah, and so I’ll give you some recommendations. Maybe this is something I’ll do once a year. I’ll make it an annual thing. That might be fun. But let’s start with the first category. And I will make my case for why each of these categories is important. And then I will give you just a brief listing of recommendations. Of course, I think, you know, I could probably spend days giving you book recommendations and this might be the fun thing, right? Like if I make this an annual thing, that we can just add more to each of these categories each year, which I think would be kind of fun.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:53
But let’s start with category one which is clarity of purpose and cultivating culture. So Peter Drucker famously said that, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. And of course, this is the idea that it doesn’t matter how great your strategic planning is, if you do not have a strong organizational culture, you will not be effective in implementing your strategy. And so often, often, often, nothing matters more than culture. And you as a leader have a unique position in cultivating and strengthening culture. There is so much research that testifies to this truth that culture will do more to to support the success of an organization and culture will also undermine an organization more quickly than any other single factor. And of course, culture isn’t just one factor. It’s a collection of factors. And this is why it is so incredibly important. And it is something that as a leader, you must constantly be attending to, I kind of think of culture as the water you’re swimming in. And so sometimes it can feel invisible. Sometimes it can feel very nebulous, but boy, you cannot ignore it. So it’s not your job alone as a leader of course, but you really need to clarify purpose and set vision and steer the ship. And of course, you know, you depending on your role in the organization, you might not be setting that vision. But don’t underestimate the role that you can play in strengthening organizational culture.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:03
So, you know briefly, culture is what your people believe and how they behave. And it really determines what will get lived out in the work every single day. So it’s all about the habits people have formed, how decisions get made, how your organization responds to challenges, to stress, to discomfort, and what your people believe is good and bad for success based on what’s incentivized, rewarded, reinforced or punished in the workplace. And that’s a definition that comes from an article from medium, which I will link to. So as a leader, you always must be attending to culture. And so I just think it’s always good to be dipping in to the readings and the research on culture because you cannot afford to take your eye off of cultivating culture. And so I have some book recommendations for you. The first one is Clarity First: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance by Karen Martin. The second book is Start With Why by Simon Sinek. That’s a very popular one. And then The Vision Driven Leader by Michael Hyatt, and that is a newer one. But that is that really kind of breaks down a whole process for creating vision and mission and values by Michael Hyatt. Okay, now on to the second category, which is self awareness. So as a leader, you must first get out of your own way if you’re going to be effective in leading others, and anyone who’s been led by an ineffective boss knows that this is so true. So this requires ongoing commitment to self awareness, self confrontation, and self direction and really like you owe it, not only to yourself, but you owe it to those you lead to do your own work first and foremost. So you’ve really got to be proactive and leading yourself to change, looking in the mirror and seeking feedback so you don’t become a stumbling block for those you lead. So see yourself clearly and see reality. Clearly, that’s really what we’re inviting you to do with self awareness. We want you to step out of drama and storytelling, and steer clear of it really, definitely not making the assumption that you are in drama or storytelling, that we all tend to get ourselves tripped up from time to time. So self development books are a really great place to start. So you know, you’re bright. And if you’re willing self development books are a really good place to start, because they will give you a roadmap for increasing your self awareness and addressing concerns you may be facing. So they’re also really good for pointing you in the right direction. If you find that you might need a bit more guided direction, such as a leadership coach, counseling, accountability groups, that sort of thing. And so, when you think about self awareness, I would just, you know, pay attention to, you know, are there specific areas that you in your life that you’re aware of that, you need some guided attention on. So, for example, if you know, like, okay, perfectionism is something that I struggle with, then maybe you would look at a self development book, focused on perfectionism, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:59
As I shared at the top of the podcast, there are so many self help books, which, you know, we think about self help self development. In 2019, there were 85,000 titles. And so there are a ton of self self development books out there. So first of all, what I would say is pay attention to whether there are specific areas in your life that, you know, aha, you know, what I need, I know I need to work on this, whether it’s like cognitive distortions or anxiety, that sort of thing, and use that as your first guidance. And then from there, I have some recommendations that I think are good general self awareness, book recommendations that I think would be good for any, anyone in a leadership role on there. leadership journey. Okay, so the first one is Great at Work by Morton T. Hansen. And this is a book that I did review in one of the podcasts. And it is just, Oh, it’s so good. It’s based on. So first of all, this would not be considered a self development, or self help book. So I do just want to put that out there. It can be used that way. It’s a very approachable book. But it is based on really great research about the most effective workers and what sets them apart. And it’s really focused on purpose. It’s really focused on passion and what do the What do the best workers do differently. And so it’s all about building this self awareness and I have found it, I have found it personally, really helpful. And I think it’s a it was It’d be a great foundational book, in this area of self awareness. So I really like it. But it wouldn’t be considered like a traditional self development book. That’s what I’m trying to say with it.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:14
Okay, and then the second recommendation that I have would be a general mindfulness book. Okay? So when we think about mindfulness, mindfulness keeps us out of drama. Mindfulness keeps us in the present moment, it keeps us out of the anxiety of future tripping. And it also keeps us out of the depression of, of the past of why did I do it that way? And so, in order to be most effective, we need to be able to stay in the present moment. So my favorite mindfulness books just personally, are you know, my my favorite book is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. But I’m just going to tell you totally can be hard for people. I will say I probably read a new earth about five times before, I felt like I was starting to grasp it. And now I’m at the point where I pretty much I’m always reading a new earth because it does help me to stay grounded. But if you’re new to mindfulness, and you’re new to Eckhart Tolle, you may want to start with Power of Now. That is, he wrote Power of Now before he wrote A New Earth. And so it’s a bit more approachable than a new earth. I prefer a new earth, but Power of Now is also really good. That there are other there are definitely other mindfulness books out there. Daniel Siegel has a new one aware. There’s lots of good mindfulness books. Let’s see, I think it’s Radical Acceptance by Tara Brock, is also very good. I’ve read that that would be a good one also to include here. But in general, we just want to think about a general mindfulness book. And that would be great. Okay. Another self awareness book that I think could be very helpful would be a general one to increase self awareness. And that has some foundation in research related to personality and or strengths. So one that is gaining some popularity in recent years and it does have some good research foundation would be about that enneagram so The Wisdom of the Enneagram: The Complete Guide to the Psychological and Spiritual Growth for the Nine Personality Types by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. And that can be useful. The let’s see the questionnaires for that are in the book. I think you can also complete them online. They do have some foundation and research. For some people, the combination or some of the foundation in spirituality might not be a great fit. So you know, you want to pay attention to that. But I think what that the enneagram does nicely, is it It helps people develop a nice way of thinking about some of their strengths and some of their potential red flags when it comes to personality. And when it comes to behaviors, and so in that way, I think it can be helpful. Of course, you kind of want to avoid going to extremes in terms of like, Oh, I’m just a nine or I’m just a two, you know, that sort of thing, which is sometimes the danger or the risk with these types of measures, which the author’s also absolutely caution against. But I think in general, and getting a more comprehensive picture of some of the personality dynamics can be useful for increasing self awareness. And if you’re not really comfortable with the enneagram, or that spiritual perspective, isn’t a good fit for you. The Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath may be a nice fit for you. That is very well researched, and you can just buy the book and you take the link or the link is in the book to take the questionnaire online.
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:10
And of course, it connects you to your strengths. And also I think, you know, that can be really helpful to kind of identify, okay, where are my strengths? Where do I focus my efforts? And again, like, I think that that can be a really useful tool related to self awareness. And so especially as you think about your leadership, journey, and so, that would be another another recommendation, but there are other tools out there, but in general, a book that can help increase self awareness related to some of the personality dynamics is what I would have in mind.
Dr. Melissa Smith 25:55
Okay, and then another book recommendation related to self awareness would be Mindset by Carol Dweck. It’s a small book, it’s an easy read. The research is really really good. The book is okay. So I’ll just I’ll just say that and it’s it’s really good research, having a thorough understanding of mindset. There are so many applications everywhere at home at work in every in every facet of life. Having a thorough understanding of mindset can be very helpful. I also did a book review of mindset, I believe, but that could be a good book to also review. The next book is Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. This is this is an excellent book for helping you to see some of the cognitive distortions and cognitive bias Thinking errors that we make as humans all the time. I’m just going to warn you, it’s a little bit dense, but it’s really, really good. And so this is a great book for increasing self awareness about where do we as humans get it wrong, because we do a lot. So really groundbreaking research. And it’s, it’s very good. But like I said, it’s a little dense. I listened to it. And so that was a really good way to digest that material.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:32
So, okay, another book is from HBR. So Harvard Business Review, and this is a collection of some of their best articles on managing yourself. So that’s the title of the book HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself, and so it’s not a book by one author, but it’s a collection of some of HBR’s classic articles from the Harvard Business Review on the topic of managing yourself and self awareness. It’s a really good book, it’s been around for a while, I would highly recommend it. So it’s some of those classic articles on managing yourself as a leader. And then the last book in the category of self awareness is Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. And this is really good, related to vulnerability and kind of getting out of your own way how shame shows up for us. I do recommend one of her other books in one of the other categories, so I would just choose one. If you can only choose one, I would do Dare to Lead not Daring Greatly. So if you’re only going to do one of Brené Brown’s, I wouldn’t do Daring Greatly. I would do Dare to Lead because they cover much of the same material, but Dare to Lead has more application to leadership. So both excellent books though, both really, really good. And Dare to Lead is more up to date. So, but both really good. I mean, you’d do great to read both of them, but that would be the only caveat that I would say.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:22
Okay, so now let’s talk about category three, which is productivity, motivation and leading change. Okay, so these types of books are so valuable, not only for helping you increase your personal effectiveness, but also driving the effectiveness and efficiency of those you lead because right, I mean, that’s an ongoing issue. And so the principle here is let’s do what works and forget about the rest. And too many leaders and organizations waste a ton of time, productivity and money doing what does not work and you don’t have time for that. So the focus on key principles related to motivation, the power of habit, how change actually happens.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:12
You know how change actually happens, can make a big difference, so that you’re not always pulling or pushing those, you lead. It’s such a hard way to lead. And so a really sound understanding of the principles of productivity, motivation and leading change can make a really big difference and can just make you personally much more effective. That can really make you such a better leader can can increase the effectiveness of the organization, it’s just, it’s it can make a huge difference, exponential difference. So the book recommendations here include Deep Work by Cal Newport I’ve reviewed this book, it’s really good. And then Clear, Closer, Better: How Successful People See the World by Emily Balcetis. Hopefully I pronounced that right. And then Essentialism by Greg McEwen. That’s one of my favorites. It’s really good. I put it in this category, productivity, motivation and leading change. But honestly, it could also be in self awareness. It’s, it’s bigger than productivity for sure. But it’s really, really good. And then Drive by Daniel Pink. And he really talks so much about motivation, and what you know, what’s the psychology of change, and it’s very, very applicable, very practical, and so it’s a really great book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 31:56
So that is the third category productivity, motivation and change. And then let’s move on to the fourth category, which is the psychology of leadership. So, you know, Google’s Aristotle project. So this was a project that Google undertook several years ago, and was a huge investigation and a huge investment into what made the most effective teams. So they wanted to figure out, you know, do we want teams where all the experts are together? Do we want teams where they’re the most diverse, right? Because we’ll do what’s most effective. And so they threw a ton of money, threw a ton of time and a ton of experts at this question, to find out what made the most effective teams and it was called the Aristotle project, and what they found and boiled down to psychological safety. So what they discovered is that it’s got to be okay to be vulnerable with your team to get things wrong and to trust those you work with, to know you won’t be shamed for having questions. And as you advance in your leadership, you get less and less training in the skills you need more and more of and these skills are the psychology of leadership. How do you lead people? How do you address team dynamics? How do you support and create psychological safety? Right? Unless you’re a psychologist, you haven’t gotten training on that. And so this fourth category is the psychology of leadership. How do you lead people? So when you’re challenged, and I’ve talked about this on on a recent podcast about asking for help, when you’re challenged, you fall back onto your deep knowledge of industry specific skills. When what you really need to do is harness the psychology of leadership skills. And so if you’re not actively developing these psychology of leadership skills, you’re going to undermine your leadership and those you lead. And what we know. And this is based both on the Aristotle project and also Brené Brown’s dare to lead research and others is that your organization will be less productive, less successful, less competitive in the marketplace. It really impacts everything. And so with this, we acknowledge that we bring our whole selves to work. And so some of those psychology of leadership skills include addressing communication boundaries, strategic decision making, accountability, shame and vulnerability, all those all those psychological safety issues. And so the books here that I would recommend include Dare to Lead by Brené Brown.
Dr. Melissa Smith 35:11
So Brené Brown has said that, you know, and this is not a direct quote, but leaders who fail to attend to the emotions of those they lead will spend an inordinate amount of time managing ineffective behaviors. And so as a leader of people, you have to attend to the psychology of leadership, you need to pay attention to psychological safety, you need to pay attention to emotional literacy, to shame to vulnerability to empathy, to the call to courage, and this is what will make your teams more effective. So that’s the first book recommendation. The second book recommendation is Radical Candor by Kim Scott. And that book is excellent as well. It’s about communication boundaries and accountability. And then the third book in this category is Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman. And of course Goleman is really the one that brought us the research. And, you know, really brought it to everyone about emotional intelligence and the value of emotional intelligence. And of course, we know emotional intelligence is positively correlated with the most effective leaders, the most effective and successful organizations and so emotional intelligence and doing some reading on that and looking at what are those skills and how do I strengthen those skills and how do I help develop those skills and those I lead could really be a very valuable focus in your reading and in your personal development.
Dr. Melissa Smith 37:05
Okay, and now we’re on to our last category, which is creativity, innovation and business fundamentals. And so every organization must be in the innovation business. And of course, every organization must consider itself a tech company at this stage in the game. If the if you don’t consider yourself a tech company, you’re going to be dead soon. You must keep learning in order to stay relevant. And so, you know, you’ve got to be willing to learn, innovate and grow. And so I would just say you’ve always got to be reading books about new. Let’s see new, new business and new business skills, creativity, innovation, and what I have here is business fundamentals right like the basics. What are the principles, because here’s the thing, right? Like, there’s always going to be a new shiny object. But you, right, like, understand the business fundamentals and put these new shiny objects up against the business fundamentals like you need to understand the principles. And so taking creativity innovation, up against business fundamentals, and that’s going to give you a pretty good foundation, as you look at the pace of change. Because here’s the thing, the pace of change is moving faster than ever, and so, you know, having some foundational principles to help you approach growth and innovation along with that sound understanding of business fundamentals will really be your best companion for managing the pace of change. And so the key is that you’ve got to keep learning and lean into the discomfort, especially around new technologies.
Dr. Melissa Smith 39:11
So you may not be reading books on new technologies, because this is the thing. It’s moving so quickly, there won’t be books, right? Like you’re going to be reading stuff online. But reading books about innovation, reading books about business fundamentals, reading about the principles that underlie strategy, and innovation, that is going to be really important because it will position you well, to take advantage of the changing landscape. So the principles and understanding the business fundamentals, understanding creativity, understanding the innovation process, that’s really going to position you well, and then of course, keeping abreast of all the technological changes. So right reading online. And making sure that you’re keeping up to date on what’s happening in the world will really be very, very helpful for you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 40:14
And so some of the book recommendations in this category include Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, by Richard Rumelt. Really good book on the issue on the topic of strategy. Originals by Adam Grant, which I think is really, really good in terms of how do we cultivate creativity and innovative thinking in our organizations, so we don’t shut it down. Because that can be a real problem. And then the Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, which is a classic. You know, there have been some challenges to Christensen’s perspective, but I think in general, there are some really good principles there to think about, especially if you’re in a large organization. And I think it’s, I think he has some really nice principles just in terms of how do we approach innovation, and new technologies and, you know, having this tolerance for failure, and a willingness to learn, and iterate. And so I think there’s a lot of value in that work. And then the last book recommendation, this is a newer book, relative to the ones I’ve just listed, but it’s Upstream by Dan Heath, and it’s a really great book on really taking a look at systems and, you know, taking a look at sometimes we can have a myopic view of some of the challenges that we might face and we are are only looking downstream at the problems. And so really training ourselves and our organizations to start looking upstream and taking more of a systems approach. So whether that is around prevention, whether that is around meeting pain points, or looking at how we can better serve potential customers, potential clients, I think it’s a nice paradigm shift for a lot of us and he’s just, he’s got some nice research and some nice challenges to some of the ways that you may be thinking about, about your work. So I think that it can be really valuable. So So there you go, there are five categories. So again, I’m just going to name those categories one more time.
Dr. Melissa Smith 43:00
Okay, so category one clarity of purpose and cultivating culture category two self awareness, category three, productivity, motivation and leading change, and category four psychology of leadership. And then category five, creativity, innovation and business fundamentals. And of course, remember I have a really great resource that includes all of these categories and all of the books that I recommend in each of the categories for you, so that you can have this handy little reading guide for you as you move through the rest of this year. So that you can start building your leadership library or you can add to your leadership library. And as you progress, so head on over to my website, check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-68 one more time, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-68 and of course, that’s where you can get your hands on that resource with the five leadership books you need on your bookshelf. So I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work or can love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai