10 Leadership Books for the Holidays

Josh Hay

woman drinking cup of coffee reading book at fireplace. young black girl with hot beverage relaxing heating warming up. autumn at home.

The holidays are a great time to rejuvenate through diving into a book. As you head into the holiday season, here is a list of my favourite leadership and management books. These books have inspired me to think differently and grow as a leader and manager.

You will find a range of styles and topics here. I have summarized why I like the book and what style of writing to expect. Enjoy (and let me know if you have any others to recommend)!

Top 10

In no particular order, here are my top 10:

The Ordinary Leader: 10 Key Insights for Building and Leading a Thriving Organization

by Randy Grieser

Simple to read and packed full of content and good stories, this book delivers on insights.  I had the good fortune of reading this book during its publishing phase, and have implemented ideas and practices I found in the book to good effect.  I particularly enjoyed the “ordinary leader” interviews that were included with each chapter and the practical resources in the appendix.

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

by Dave Logan, John King, & Halee Fischer-Wright

Ever wonder how to develop and grow your organizational culture towards one of maturity and high performance? This book will show you how. It breaks down the stages of group development and shows you how to identify where each member of your team is at in their development and how to coach them towards becoming their best. I enjoyed their use of real stories to illustrate their points. If you are short on time, read the “Tribal Leader’s Cheat Sheet” in Appendix A.

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently

by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

This is the best book I have ever read about how to hire and manage a great team. Based on 25 years of research by the Gallup Organization, the book delivers practical and research tested advice. While other books may be easier to read, this book will grab you because the research and ideas are so compelling. We have implemented the strategies from this book at ACHIEVE, and I have found them to be very helpful.

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business

by Patrick Lencioni

If you haven’t read Lencioni before, then you won’t realize this book departs from his usual style (see The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, below). In this book, Patrick takes his most important insights from his other books and puts them all in one place. He gives very practical advice and tools for working with and building the health of your team.

Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time

by Howard Schultz and Dori Jones Yang

I thought I knew Starbucks until I read this book. This book fascinated me because it tells the story of the development of a cultural icon, both the missteps and the glories. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, tells the story in his voice, which gives it the compelling edge that I enjoyed. I came away with a much deeper appreciation for Starbucks as a company. In the process I also found inspiration for my role as a leader here at ACHIEVE. I’m now reading book two: Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul.

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works—A True Story

by Dan Harris

This book isn’t directly about leadership or management. I have included it because of the focus on how we think. It is a first-person account by Dan Harris, ABC news anchor and correspondent. Dan writes about his personal struggles with “the voice in his head,” and his pathway to creating calmer and clearer ways of thinking. I found myself grinning frequently as I read this book; it’s funny, wry and compelling.

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job

by Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni writes leadership fables. He uses fictional stories to illustrate his insights for his readers and then summarizes his thinking in the final chapter. What I love about this particular book is its focus on ending workplace misery. If more managers and leaders implemented his suggestions, we would have much happier and more engaged workplaces.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box

by the Arbinger Institute

You may not have heard of this book, but it’s sold more than a million copies since it was published in 2010. This book will challenge you to think more clearly about your relationships and interactions with the people around you. Like The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, the authors of this book deliver their content through a story about a fictional set of characters. For those who enjoy stories, this book will be an easy read.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

by Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos, tells the story Zappos.com in this compelling account of building a billion-dollar online shoe sales company. I enjoyed the focus on building a corporate culture that values people and relationships. This book is inspiring for leaders and those who are interested in how to do customer service at a very high level.

The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us about Human Relationships

by Clifford Nass, with Corina Yen

I included this book in my list because it is a fascinating read. The lessons that Nass learned while working with machine-to-human interfaces (think the voice of your GPS) can teach us much about what is effective in our human interactions. He touches on subjects like how to build a team, how to inspire growth, and how to get people to talk about their struggles.

Happy Reading!

Eric Stutzman, Managing Director
ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership & Workplace Performance

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