8 books I recommend for management/leadership
I'm basing my management/leadership journey on them.
After publishing 5 books I recommend to developers, people asked if I had something similar for management/leadership. So… there’s it! 😄
🔔 Disclosure! Meanwhile I feel more confident with the development books, with this recommendations I’m more prudent. Be cautious that management/leadership has huge implications on people, do not apply what books says without double checking the context and situation at hand.
Leadership/Management… the books cannot tell you that much if you miss the experience, and the real experience will be always more than a book can explain to you.
In this topic, I find in those books about leadership/management to help me to not make already known mistakes in the industry and somehow avoid them by being aware of them, but, still, you will make mistakes and you shouldn’t be blocked by fearing to make them. Just be honest with yourself and your peers and let them know when you made one. People tend to understand. #empthy
My recommendations are quite biased on the kind of person I’m, so they might not apply to the kind of leader/manager you want to be. I would say that I’m:
Introvert. Even though I need to talk with a lot of people, I need to be conscious about how to use my energy in a meaningful way so that I don’t get exhausted after each day.
People first. I put the people in the center of my decisions.
Special focus on learning. The best way to lead/manage is by providing the best learning support so people can grow and be autonomous.
Engineer. I have an engineering background in software. That creates a huge impact on the way to think about my leadership/management style.
Pragmatic. I don’t tend to build cathedrals, I’m more alike to build bazaars. See reference here.
Not OK with babysitting. I want to work with people that are adult and responsible, I don’t want to be babysitting anyone, it’s not my job to do so. Therefore I need to be or create an environment that people feel empowered to do stuff and not waiting anyone to babysit them.
One last thing you need to know, I consider that:
A manager does not need to be a leader.
A leader needs to have great management skills.
Management is a title
Leadership isn’t a title
Management is a role that can be given to you
Being a leader is recognition of your peers
Elastic Leadership. Growing self-organizing teams
This is my 100% recommended book to any leader. If I had to use want sentence to summarise what the book says, it would be:
The leadership needs to be fluid and adaptative to what’s required in the moment and situation at hand, to help teams to grow to become self-organizing.
My goal as a leader is to achieve what this book says. The only problem is that requires a lot of experience and practice, and you need to be patient to see the outcomes.
The book identifies three stages of a team, product, or individual, and the leadership style that’s required for each situation:
Survival mode (no time to learn) with a Comand and Control leadership style
Learning mode (learning to solve your own problems) with a coaching leadership style
Self-organization mode (facilitate, experiment) as a facilitator leadership style
So, as a leader, you need to identify in which situation you’re in, and then adapt yourself to the needs of the team, product, or individual.
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life
I would say the first book that really helped me to improve my communication. I didn’t appreciate it enough yet the person recommended it to me in the first place.
This book gives you a guide about how to communicate in a meaningful way, respecting each other needs in the way. It will show you the four components of NVC:
The concrete actions we observe that affect our well-being
How we feel in relation to what we observe
The needs, values, desires, etc. that create our feelings
The concrete actions we request in order to enrich our lives
How I’m communicating today is totally different partially thanks to this book. In does a strong focus on empathy as well, and how to be assertive.
By reading this book, you will also improve on conflict management. A key skill to have as a leader/manager.
The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You
This is the book I wished I had before starting my management journey.
When I was reading the book, I just had some thoughts like:
“I did this mistake”
“If I knew this before, I didn’t lose 3 months on something that simple”
“Damn! that’s what I was looking for!”
If you’re in the early beginning of your manager journey, this book is the 101 masterclass.
The five dysfunctions of a team a leadership fable
As a manager or leader, you need to build a team, not a group of individuals. This is the book to build it.
I found in this book a super great way to understand why we don’t work well as a team, and how to build a team that works well together.
The book will tell you about:
It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work
Around 2019 I read this book, and it just shifted how I work. It just helped me to challenge the way I was working, which wasn’t healthy. I was working on startups since the beginning of my career, and I bought the “entrepreneurs dream” that meant do long hours to achieve your dreams.
Today, I just want to work efficiently, that’s why I stopped:
Working more than 40h
Wanting to change the world
Do everything for the company
After this book, I just started balancing better my work-life balance, and it just how affects the people around me. I don’t expect to sacrifice for the company and neither I ask the people that are around me to do the same.
Today, I might not apply everything the book says, but back then it helped me to challenge the way I was thinking about work. Worth it.
The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance
I would say that my leadership style has been heavy influenced by this book.
This book was written by the CEO (now chair of the board) of Red Hat, Jim Whitehurst. Red Hat is a company that provides Open Source Software at the enterprise level.
The leadership style to lead the company is super different from what I was familiar with. It helped me to add a new way of thinking about the organizations and how to lead them.
Even though you’re probably not doing OSS, I think the ideas behind this leadership style were in the cutting edge of leading organizations when the book was written. Today, they are becoming more common in the different companies, but still, we are far from getting there.
Empowered: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products
🔔 I’m still reading it, but I would recommend it anyway.
So far, I feel like Empowered covers what’s needed to create a great team and product. It tells you what matters, and how the leadership takes a role in getting there.
It talks about a lot of stuff, not in-depth, but enough to help you get a sense of what matters so you can later get more informed about the topic if you feel you need to.
To me, this book has been a discovery.
Emotionary: Say what you feel
At 27, I wasn’t able to identify some emotions and some of them I even didn’t know existed even though I felt them. I just didn’t know that there was a name for that feeling. Yes, at my 27.
Being able to identify what you’re feeling is crucial for meaningful conversations and relationships. So, later, you can also empathize with other people's feelings.
Last recommendation: Therapy
I got to a conclusion, you can lead if you don’t understand yourself, your feelings, your emotions, your needs, and you are able to communicate them effectively. Difficult to be able to emphasize with others if you cannot emphasize with yourself.
None of the books were really that powerful as going to therapy.
To lead others, start understanding yourself.
I made a huuuuuge step ahead by being honest with myself and asking for help. Yes, it impacted my career, but the most impact has been in my life, regardless it’s career, family, partner, or self-being.
I’m better with myself by attending to my needs first (and knowing which are those needs, that’s super difficult), and then I can help others.
Today, I can say I’m leading from within without forgetting myself when I’m with others.
Still, I’m aware that being able to go to therapy is a privilege nowadays that not everyone can afford.
Find leaders you admire and ask for mentorship
I ask for a lot of advice and opinions from people I admire. They don’t actually need to be managers or leaders in my organization, they are friends, family, members of the community.
When I ask for mentorship, I allow myself to be vulnerable and admit that I don’t know everything.
It’s mind-blowing how much you can learn from others when you don’t need to look like you know everything. 🤯
Long journey ahead! Be patient! and enjoy it! Yes, it has its ups and downs, but it’s OK to have them 😄
Just do not try to force the universe to go in the way you thought it would be. Just do your best, and accept the reality as it is.