Reading List | Books | Leadership

Books on Leadership

Best Books to Read in 2020

Ann Venkataraman
Jun 20 · 6 min read
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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Here is a must-read list for books to improve your leadership skills, and become world-class! Many are bestsellers for a reason, they provide solid practical tips for people in all stages of their careers.

Books are listed in random order; I love them all and find they have all contributed to my professional and personal success!

Whether you want to learn about leadership vs management, leadership in turbulent times, transformational leadership and other leadership styles, or looking for suggestions on leadership books for women, or simply want to increase your social influence skills, this list will help you out. Read these classics if you are participating in a reading challenge and just seeking new books to read this year.

1] “Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office”. Lois Frankel.

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Screenshot by the author — personal copy via Google PlayBooks

Brilliant book for any woman who wants to break the glass ceiling. Yes, it does exist although it remains invisible until you reach a certain stage of your career. The gist of the book is to play to your feminine strengths, while also becoming aware of common career mistakes that derail your career in subtle but concrete ways. Many of these mistakes are similar to “Death by a thousand cuts”. Just one or two won’t hurt you, but like compound interest, they make a huge and NEGATIVE difference. If possible, try the audiobook version, which is like having a candid conversation with your favorite aunt or a respected mentor.

2] “Sun Tzu — The Art of War for Managers”. Gerald & Steven Michaelson.

The Art of War is a classic book on leadership and strategy by ancient Chinese military theorist Sun Tzu. There are many books that translate the original into English. This book, however, is slightly different. Instead of strategies for “war”, this book teaches managers how to vanquish their competition (internal and external). It might feel a bit Machiavellian to some, however the book has some great examples using recent companies and written to match the twenty-first-century world of globalization. Honestly, even the best companies have internal politics and a few “power-hungry” executives, which will start to hinder you once you reach the mid-level manager stage or above. So it is good to be aware of what can be done, to ensure you are not being manipulated as an unwitting pawn into other people’s agendas!

3] “ Tools of the Titans”. Tim Ferris.

Not directly a book on leadership, but this book has tons of valuable advice on 3 main themes important for success — health, wealth, and happiness. The book features bite-sized chapters from industry leaders in multiple fields like movies, athletes, tech billionaires, politicians, YouTube stars, doctors, and every domain in between. A book to keep handy for regular referral, motivation, and advice, no matter your age/gender/career stage. I love recommending this book to everyone I know.

4] “Think Like a Rocket Scientist”. Ozan Varol.

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Image created using the writer’s personal book copy

Honestly, the term “rocket scientist” is a synonym for genius and innovation. The book lands true to its name and provides practical ideas on how to improve your critical thinking skills. Whether you are a student, entrepreneur, or mid-level executive, this book will help you emerge with new ways to innovate, recognize profitable patterns, and a fresh burst of creativity. Disruption and change are everywhere, and the recent pandemic has shown that businesses or people cannot afford to rely on “normal” forever. This book is the answer to avoid getting hurt badly when such situations arise, and how to use “out-of-the-box” thinking to overcome those situations.

5] “Forbes” Magazine.

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Image courtesy of the author — personal subscription.

Not a book per se, but this magazine is filled with amazing content! :) I love the unique perspectives on finance, technology, investing, and marketing. More than that, I enjoy reading about the world-class leaders and entrepreneurs who create those companies and the thinking process that led them there. The supplementary Forbes 100/ 400 editions are illuminating and worth every penny of my paid subscription.

6] “First, Break All the Rules”. Marcus Buckingham.

This book is a culmination of Gallup’s revolutionary study of 80,000+ managers to understand why some leaders take the company to new highs, while others remain mired in mediocrity. The book presents 12 simple traits that distinguish the best managers and how to cultivate those values. Good leadership relies directly on satisfied employees, high productivity, profit, customer satisfaction, and turnover rates. This book teaches you how to achieve an A+ on all those facets! A vital resource for managers at every level.

7] “Lost and Founder”. Rand Fishkin.

An honest, no-holds-barred guide to the real-life of a business owner and entrepreneur. Too many books list only the glamorous principles, the “rags-to-riches” overnight success stories, not the daily frustrations and hard decisions that leaders need to make! This book unveils the curtain on those scary nights and hard-won lessons. Witty, candid and interesting — must-read dose of reality!

8] “Lean In”. Sheryl Sandberg.

This book literally started a movement among women; so I really can’t recommend it enough! It will inspire you to take charge of your life, step out of your comfort zone without hiding your feminine side. The author is frank about her privileged background, but this does not take away from the solid advice presented in the book. As a female reader, no matter your domain or socio-economic background, you will face similar situations and hard decisions. So the book is great preparation for those tough moments.

9] “Good to Great”. Jim Collins.

Bestselling book describes why some companies thrive in recessions and bull markets, while others fizzle out in tough markets. For each chapter, the research study compares 2 companies from the same industry to show what works or not, and why. Leadership is identified as one of the most crucial components of success. If you want to be a great leader and leave your own positive legacy, then this not a book you would want to miss.

10] “Leadership Wisdom from the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”. Robin Sharma.

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Photo courtesy author — personal copy of the book

The first book “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” was about personal transformation. However, this book is a better tale of leadership since it teaches how to become a visionary and transformational leader. Become the eminent commander who navigates teams and companies through disruption, recession, and global competition, without compromising your integrity or quality.

For a condensed version of qualities that make a world-class leader, take a look at the article below:

Conclusion:

Ideally, you would want to read all of them, but if you are crunched on time read at least two from this list.

  1. If you want just one recommendation, try Tools of the Titans.
  2. If you are a woman, start with “Nice Girls Still…”
  3. If you just started a business, go with “Lost and Founder”.
  4. For a booster dose of inspiration, try “Leadership Wisdom..” by Robin Sharma.

ILLUMINATION

We curate outstanding articles from diverse domains and…

Ann Venkataraman

Written by

Author, blogger & DataScience manager. I write about Technology, Leadership, and Career Development.

ILLUMINATION

We curate and disseminate outstanding articles from diverse domains and disciplines to create fusion and synergy.

Ann Venkataraman

Written by

Author, blogger & DataScience manager. I write about Technology, Leadership, and Career Development.

ILLUMINATION

We curate and disseminate outstanding articles from diverse domains and disciplines to create fusion and synergy.

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