Super Charge Your Leadership Journey With These 10 Books In 2019

These are my favorite reads of the year, and I think you’ll enjoy them too.

Adam Thomas
Dec 30, 2018 · 6 min read
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Photo by Jason Wong on Unsplash

I love books.

For a low cost(~$20) and a few hours of your time, you can shift your whole perspective.

That’s not even the best part.

The best part of reading — what makes it awesome, is that it compounds. Everything your read builds on something else. There is an idea that you read 20 books ago that will add to something you just read and really change your life.

I’ll use myself as an example. In 2015 I was really into consciousness, and 2016 I focused on executing. Last year, I went a little all over the place, taking what I learned in 2015 and 2016 to explore new territory.

As Tom Peters recalled when he read this list:

Thank you, Tom!

Every year since I’ve taken reading seriously (since 2015) I’ve seen growth, and it’s led me to my ten favorite reads below.

This year, I got a little more focus — As I found myself taking on leadership positions, I wanted to become a better leader. This led me to some other topics, such as negotiation and even the mob :-).

Without further ado, here are ten reads to get your mind going in 2019. If you read any of these, please leave a comment with your thoughts!

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Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work That Wows and Jobs That Last

WOW. MWBA. Excellence. This is the leadership bible. Tom gave me his highest praise, and I am returning the favor this year. If you are a leader in any organization, pick this book up today. I mean today. The minute I got this tome I couldn’t put it down. Why am I so excited? Because it works. With this book and patience, I’ve seen my team turn from barely formed into a pretty good unit in six months with a lot of potential to get even better.

Keep it by your desk, reference it often, and remember, excellence NOW.

Use: leadership

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It

Stop compromising, start listening. Chris Voss’s book puts you in the world of high stakes negotiation, where you realize most of the things you’ve heard are completely WRONG about negotiation. Use this book to help you frame a negotiation and help both parties walk out feeling good because as this book makes clear when someone feels screwed, they are going to find a way to screw you back.

LISTEN first. Negotiate second. And when it works, drink after :-).

Use: negotiation, emotional intelligence

Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People

Everything is chunkable. When I first opened this tiny book, I thought, meh, what can it teach me, and within 45 minutes I had realized I needed to change my HOW and big time. Use this book to build a promising toolkit to help you solve the complex problems that life throws your way, because unless you are in school, there is no answer key, and everything is different.

Get a toolkit for solving problems

Use: problem-solving

The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels

Execute well. This is a classic, and I finally understood why (especially since I had to do this a couple of times this year). When I got a chance to apply what I learned with ramping up entirely, I was able to take the team I was on and become the director — in a few weeks. Use this to learn how to ramp up like a professional and not overextend yourself so your true genius can shine through.

Use: onboarding

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

We all live on a cadence — all of us. Whenever we deviate from that cadence, we open the door for mediocre work. Dan Pink, as usual, delivers a book that helps you understand yourself and schedule, and then gives you tools to help adjust so that you can maximize the time you spend. Use this to stop fighting against yourself so you can get great work done.

Use: timing, scheduling

Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need

Stop hiding. When you become the leader, it’s not time for you to make stuff, its time for you to make things happen. This is an entirely different way of thinking from when you were an individual contributor. Great leadership requires you to be up front and trust your team to make things happen. Protect them and push them, and you’ll see beautiful things happen.

Use: leadership, growth

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are

Google knows all. Every time you search something, that query is recorded and kept. Singularly, that means nothing much, but in the aggregate, we can understand a lot about human behavior. This book sheds a lot of light on how we operate because as this book notes, we lie to everyone except that search box. Read this to get an understanding of the story of who we are, and why certain stories seem not to match up.

Use: AI, Big Data

The Artist’s Journey: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the Lifelong Pursuit of Meaning

You are always on the clock and resistance is out to get you. Just because you’ve become a hero doesn’t mean the quest is done, it means you are just getting started. If you know me you know, I love Steven Pressfield (he makes this list every year). He produces work that is what I need at the time, even if I don’t know it. The Artist Journey is no exception. Use this to see how to take the next meaningful step in your career, after you’ve got your foot in the door because the music doesn’t stop.

Use: Artistic vision, creativity

It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work

Enough! Seriously, I’ve worked in environments where people keep the heat on (both actively and passively), and it leads to people breaking. No one wins when everyone is burned out. No one! Work is work, and it doesn’t have to be crazy. This book functions as a beautiful toolkit to change your office culture into a place where people feel safer and can get stuff done.

Use: Work culture

The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture

Making stuff is hard. Sometimes, it’s so hard we don’t even realize how hard it is when we look back. This reason is why I love this book; it reminds me of some of my journey into tech and some of the tough choices I’ve had to make as a founder and now as a director in helping build someone else’s vision. Every chapter is full of both actionable advice and things to think about. I’ve referenced it over a dozen times for work-related queries already (I received it in October), and I can see myself doing it for the foreseeable future.

Use: Tactics, vision

Bonus for Medium

Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America’s Most Powerful Mafia Empires

Wow, finding a historical mafia book is hard. Most are either poorly written, filled with inaccuracies, or act as a PR job for mobsters ( and if you are Philip Costa, all three). Selwyn Rabb wrote a thoughtful book detailing the mafia that avoids all the traps that most books suffer through and make it a point to show you just who the mob was and is, even today. If you are curious about what the Mob does and who they are, strap in, because this book will educate you. Consider this the gold standard for La Cosa Nostra.

Adam Thomas is a product strategist, startup founder, and leadership researcher with over ten years experience in the intersection of tech, creative, and nonprofit space. He can currently be found writing daily at his blog, Life as Usual. Click here to sign up for his newsletter.

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