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The 5 (Leadership) Books We’d Be Lost Without

We read a lot around here. Because as the saying goes, when you have to write, you start by reading. Well, that’s not the exact saying but you catch my drift. Lucky for us, we have loads of smart friends and colleagues who write books on leadership, business, careers and HR, who send us copies so we can really dive in and get inspired any old time we want.

The 5 @RedBranch approved #leadership books you need to read ASAP: Click To Tweet

Books on leadership are hard to fit into a busy CEO’s lifestyle but it’s so pertinent to read them to grow as a leader and as a business owner. Here are 5 leadership books that have shaped my journey. I hope these tomes on business leadership help you!

Title: Traction. Get a Grip on Your Business

leadership resource book by gino wickman coverAuthor: Gino Wickman

Why: I loved this book so much I’ve gotten several copies. I stumbled across a conversation in my YEC group about EOS and once I got over myself to ask what it WAS (Entrepreneurial Operating System), I was hooked. Now my whole leadership team is reading the books and I’m devouring every bit of wisdom I can glean from the pages.

Review: This is a great step-by-step plan to layout and maintain a strong business model that can withstand a lot of the common pitfalls running a business can encounter. It makes things very “black and white,” allowing for smart decision making.

Fave (favorite) Line: “No one has ever died from being open about issues.” With the RBM commitment to brutal honesty and transparency (which hinges on confrontation), this was music to my ears!

Who should read it: Anyone who is tired of 110% of the leadership decisions falling on their own shoulders. For someone with control issues (so I’ve heard, no one has proven this scientifically), the process makes it easier to share some of the load without feeling out of control or frightened.

@DLBrouwer, @CyWakeman, @BruceTulgan & more on our top #leadership reads list. See them all here: Click To Tweet

Title: The Return on Leadership

cover of book by d l brouwerAuthor: D.L. Brouwer

Why: We had a PR firm send us an early copy of this book and boy am I glad they did! This is written just for ME, and of course, other leaders. While it does dive deep into leadership profiles, it expounds upon the old saw that “talent is a competitive advantage”, which while true, is even more granular when you realize there is an ROI on the leaders themselves.

Review: I have been waiting with great expectation to read this book. I was not disappointed. The book offers great insight into leadership principles that can be immediately implemented and developed in order to improve team engagement and execution in a way to lifts everyone up. Dennis’ background and experience(s) are uniquely suited to have laid the groundwork for this insightful look at leadership and what that means to the individual and the team.

Fave Line: “Being named as a leader doesn’t make you one. Leadership, at its core, is a voluntary transaction built around two decisions.” Finding people to follow you into battle is no easy thing and Brouwer makes sure to never lose sight of the “follower” half of the equation.

Who should read it: If you have a Midwestern work ethic and a healthy suspicion that leadership means MORE than just hiring people to get the work done for you, this book is for you. Chock full of accountability, it’s a balm that proves what leaders know, which is that it’s really hard work, not all of which can be done from behind.

Title: Reality-Based Leadership

cover of book by cy wakemanAuthor: Cy Wakeman

Why: Cy Wakeman has been a client, and an inspiration. Having heard her speak several times and working with her, she is NO JOKE. Of course, I HAD to read the book to learn more about what I”ve heard her extol so compellingly from countless SHRM stages across the country. I love the book but I HATE THIS BOOK because while it will make you a better leader and person, change is NO FUN 🙂

Review: I’m an avid fan of Cy Wakeman and believe this is the best business book ever written. This copy was a gift for a professional associate and is not the first copy I have shared. She just cuts to the heart of things and, if you want to be a better leader, you will apply her writing and research to your team and to yourself.

Fave Line: “What is missing from a situation is that which you are not giving.” This turns any situation you can complain about back on YOU, which is not ideal at first, but once you learn the habit of questioning yourself first, you can then train your next crop of leaders to be better than you were (faster.)

Who should read it: If you started a small company and struggle constantly with the fact that no one loves or appreciates all your sacrifices, this book will tell you (gently) to get bent. And you will be a better leader for it. Leadership is NOT EASY and if you operate from a place where you need appreciation and approval, you will be sorely disappointed…also a shitty leader.

Title: Leadership and Self-Deception

cover of book by the arbinger instituteAuthor: The Arbinger Institute

Why: Although the title seems a little namby-pamby and the author is a whole institute when Stephen Covey writes a review of a book, you should read that book! I believe we received this book from another PR firm (good job PR firms BTW!) and as it’s a slim little tome that combines business AND psychology (heart emoji) I decided to curl up with it one night.

Review: A must-read for every professional out there, in any field or industry and position. Actually, I would just recommend this book across the board. The concept that people live inside “the box” and that once you see their “box”, you can feel empathetic instead of resentful has transformed my life. Probably one of the few books I could read over and over again.

Fave Line: “Identify someone with a problem and you’ll be identifying someone who resists the suggestion that he has a problem.” Profound in its simplicity, this basically explains how most problem employees have no idea they are a problem! You have to move past this to address the issues.

Who should read it: This is another book, that at its core, recommends empathy as a crucial skill for burgeoning (or existing) leaders. If you are struggling with seeing employees, clients and partners as “problems”… chances are you need to read this book.

Title: The 27 Challenges Managers Face

cover of book by bruce tulganAuthor: Bruce Tulgan

Why: I am pretty sure I got this book in a conference swag bag and I took to it immediately. In the last few years, a lotta folks have been bagging on “managers” as lesser than and inferior to “leaders”…the result in my mind has been to associate “leaders” with folks who inspire and “managers” as the more pragmatic function that has to deal with like…real life. I could be wrong but probs not.

Review: “The 27 Challenges Managers Face” is an excellent, comprehensive, solutions-based management handbook. Bruce Tulgan is able to capture the essence of management issues and give action plans for resolution. This book will serve as a valuable resource. Having implemented Bruce Tulgan’s recommendations in the past, I can say, they really work! This is a must-have book for anyone in business

Fave Line: “Yes you CAN require good attitudes at work.” While this seems a little weird out of context, it makes sense combined with many of his other ideas.

Who should read it: Almost any manager. Even if you’re not in top-level leadership at your company, this book will help you manage front-line employees or even get you to the place where you can be tapped for leadership material. Of all these books, this one can be read first to get practical ideas on solving “right-now” issues while you plot your leadership course to the skies 🙂

So what leadership books have shaped your leadership or management practices? Do you put much stock in business books? Honestly, for quite a long time, I didn’t “have time” to read books about business. Of course, I had time to see revenue wave goodbye, get upset about employee behavior, freak out about client perception and more. If only I’d read one of these beauties long ago!