By Sarah Vermunt
A friend of mine took on her first management job this year. Within a few weeks she was heavy under the weight of providing instruction, support, and vision for her team. “Basically, I feel like I’m paddling in circles,” she said.
It reminded me of my own first crack at being a manager. I had no idea what I was doing. I often felt incompetent, and I felt like I was constantly making mistakes. I now know it was all part of the learning curve, but it was harrowing at the time.
The truth is, management looks very different once you’re a member of the club. What once seemed like a cushy delegation role quickly reveals itself as a complicated and delicate juggling act. If you have new leaders on your Christmas list, consider giving them a book that will help them perform their new leadership duties without dropping the ball.
Under the Radar Picks
A quick Google search will yield a number of lists for the best management books, so let’s not waste our time on the undisputed classics. Here are a few recommendations that are a little less obvious:
The Manager’s Bookshelf: A Mosaic of Contemporary Views by Jon L. Pierce, John W. Newstrom
This book reads like an exquisite tasting menu – with excerpts from 48 management best sellers woven together in sections on motivation, teamwork, change, and decision-making. If you want quick and broad exposure to the best of the best, start here. It’s also a great place to start if you’re building a business library and want to know which books to pick up first.
Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin
Written by Fortune Magazine’s Senior Editor at Large, this book is a gold mine. Colvin distills the pervasive myth that great leadership requires inborn talent. Focus on chapters 4-8, which discuss ‘deliberate practice’ – one of the best tools for any manager at any level.
Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell
This is a truly unique book that reveals leadership lessons through the telling of the true-life story of Shackleton’s expeditions to Antarctica 100 years ago. It is captivating and enthralling, and I recommend it to everyone. You’ll enjoy it so much you’ll forget you’re learning.
The First-Time Manager by Loren B. Belker, Jim McCormick and Gary S. Topchik
Complex issues are boiled down in this beginner book, which makes it a good choice for a newbie. It provides no-nonsense advice on how to find your management style, hire, motivate staff, lead meetings, manage performance, and stay balanced.
Picks for Personal and Professional Growth
The following books are designed for personal growth, but the lessons learned apply just as well to work as they do to life:
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
Managers, like everyone else, have hang-ups. Hang-ups like needing to be liked or needing to be ‘right’ all the time can get managers into trouble (or is it just me?). This isn’t a management book, but you’ll find yourself becoming a better leader as you settle into your own skin.
Steering by Starlight: The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny by Martha Beck
Authenticity is one of the marks of a great leader. Both deep and surprisingly funny, this book will help you reconnect with your authentic self. Apply what you learn to develop your own authentic management style and you’ll find yourself a happier and more effective leader. I use principles from this book in my coaching practice all the time.
Tried and True Classics
I said we shouldn’t waste time talking about the undisputed classics. I take it back. These two books are simply too good not to mention. Read them. Immediately, if possible:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons In Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
This book addresses the human side of management. Covey discusses the importance of fairness, integrity, honesty, and dignity, and argues that the habits of successful leaders take place where knowledge, skill and desire intersect. This book will help you add self-awareness and strategy to your leadership toolkit.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This management book stands the test of time like no other (the first edition was published in 1936!). While the title may suggest that management means manipulation, Carnegie’s real message is that people need to feel important and appreciated – simple advice that rings as true today as it did 80 years ago.
Sarah Vermunt is a career and entrepreneur coach, and the Founder of Toronto-basedCareergasm. She teaches at the School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University. Sarah is a PhD Candidate in Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management, and has a Master’s degree in Leadership Studies. She studied executive management coaching at the graduate level, and life coaching under Dr. Martha Beck, Harvard-educated coaching expert of O Magazine and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Follow Sarah at www.careergasm.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, andTwitter @careergasm.