New Year is always a time of resolutions and one of them is often to learn something new to read more. Below is a list of 12 books for the next 12 months ahead. I have read them all and I hope that you will find something for yourself in this mix. Whether you read them all, a few, or even only one, enjoy them and let me know their impact on you. And if you know great books that could benefit others, please let me know or recommend them in the comments section below.
Happy New Year, and happy reading!
“How Will You Measure Your Life” by Clayton M. Christensen. When my stepson was 20 and was trying to figure out what to do with his life, I gave him this book and it helped him find his own way. I recommend it to my Millennial clients , who love it so much that they give it as presents to their friends. The book looks at fundamental questions about life, and our own purpose, through a lens of business theories and business experience. Because of this, it is also very useful to leaders who want to leave a meaningful legacy. But it is mostly a great book for those who try to find answers to the universal life’s questions. It also looks at some of the biggest, typical traps in life and offers advice on how to avoid them. As professor Christensen said: “Look at it as a guidebook for your future. (…) It won’t offer simplistic answers. It won’t tell yo what to think. It won’t prescribe a set path for happiness. Instead, it will equip you to lead the type of life to which you truly aspire.”
“Difficult conversations: How To Discuss What Matters Most” by Sheila Heen, Douglas Stone and Bruce Patton. If I could recommend only one book today, this would be it. I’ve been recommending it for years to all my clients and to everybody who asks me for advice on how to have better relationships, manage conflicts more successfully, and live a better, more fulfilling life. I have read it 7 times, I took a course at the Harvard University with the authors, and I have run several communication courses based on it. Their participants have often described it as “revolutionary”, “life-changing”or “transforming”. Just do yourself a favor and get your hands on a copy today. And for maximum benefit, do not stop at reading – practice the principles every day! You can thank me later, when you notice how the quality of your relationships improves, how the conflicts in your life become less frequent and intense, and how you become more assertive, more respected, more effective in the way you communicate.
“Thanks for the Feedback – The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well” by Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone. This is the direct sequel to the “Difficult Conversations”. This time, Sheila and Doug focus on what they have identified as the most difficult conversation type: feedback. What is innovative in this book, is the focus on how to receive feedback. “Blending the latest insights from neuroscience and psychology with practical, hardheaded advice, this book fills an important gap in the literature on leadership, organizational behavior, and education”. And I agree with professor Adam Grant who said that this book: “is a roadmap to less defensiveness, more self-awareness, greater learning and richer relationships”.
“Extreme Ownership: How US Navy Seals Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Two retired U.S. Navy SEALs wrote a book about leadership and responsibility for all of us non-SEALs out there. And it’s good. They call their method “Extreme Ownership” because it’s exactly about that: taking complete responsibility for everything in your life and work that you can influence. They describe the leadership lessons which they learnt during their missions and offer a practical way to apply them in life and in business. What I love about this book is that it offers extremely powerful lessons in a simple, no-nonsense way. I recommend it to everybody who wants to stop going round in circles with their life or career and to those who want to understand what leadership is really about. If I could, I would make this book a mandatory reading for everybody with a leadership ambition.
“Ego Is The Enemy” by Ryan Holiday. This book has a clear message: there is no success, or good life, if your efforts ride on your ego. Using examples and stories from literature, history and philosophy this book shows the destructive powers of ego. Its message is especially relevant to leaders, because through their position of authority they can cause extensive damage to themselves and their organizations unless they learn to control this destructive force. It’s a cautionary tale, but one that also offers inspiration and guidance to dealing with this deep psychological challenge. It’s also a reminder that hard work, and humility, not ambition, are the cornerstones of success.
“Our Iceberg Is Melting” by John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber and “Who Moved my Cheese” by Spencer Johnson, M.D. Ok, so these are two books but they are related both by the topic (managing change) and the style (fable). Written in a very entertaining way (a story about animals) and nicely illustrated, both books look at what change is. They also look at the importance of facing the facts before and during change, at the importance of taking risks and at the typical resistance issues. Then, they offer a simple roadmap to a successful change management. These books are a must-read for anyone dealing with, or managing change.
“Men at Arms”, a Discworld novel. For July I recommend a light read by the inimitable Terry Pratchett. This is the 14th novel in his Discworld series. Go ahead and read them all! But if you read only one, read this one. It’s a hilariously written detective story, but one that also looks quite closely at the issues of true vs. fake leadership, tolerance, charisma, friendship, calling vs. career, duty vs. ego, love and marriage, and last but not least, at how the politics are made. A great book for those long beach days.
“Biography of Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson. August is another “lazy” summer month. What better thing to do with all the time you have on those long evenings than to read this fascinating biography of a fascinating person by a fascinating author? “Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur (…) and the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination”. Another perfect read (all 656 pages) for those lazy summer days.
“Agatha Christie, An Autobiography”. Agatha Christie, the undisputed queen of detective stories, was born on 15th September, and her autobiography makes a perfect recommendation for this month. You will learn, in her own words, about her formative early years, about her creative routine, about making big life mistakes and taking big risks, about success and disappointment, about the unhappy marriage to Archibald Christie and her happy marriage to Max Mallowan, about creating the most famous detective of all times, and about a silly bet with her sister that changed absolutely everything. Enjoy!
“Poised for Success”. This book is for anyone who is serious about building their personal brand and making the best possible first impression on everyone they meet. Written by my mentor Jacqueline Whitmore, it explores what she calls the four “P” qualities of success: Presence, Polish, Professionalism, and Passion. It’s basically a guide to packaging yourself for success by refining and maintaining your professional and personal brand. In the highly competitive world today, this book helps you stand out in a positive and memorable way.
“Grit” by Angela Duckworth. What is more important for success: talent, intelligence, and luck or: hard work, commitment and discipline? Why some people succeed in life, despite limitations and adversity, and some fail, despite having everything they need to succeed? And why some people always get up and try again, and others don’t recover from failures? In a gripping combination of hard scientific research and compelling stories, professor Angela Duckworth answers these questions and provides a roadmap to living and working better, to raising resilient kids and to creating more success. If you want to understand psychology of achievement and harness it for your own success, read this book. And if you are impatient, watch her TED talk.
“The Difference: When Good Enough Isn’t Enough” by Subir Chowdhury. In our recent discussion, my mentor Desiree Steinman observed that “Humanity has all but left big corporations”. Based on my experience and what I see in the world, sadly, she might be right. However, this book offers hope and a roadmap for the humanity to find its way back to the big corporations. In this powerful guide to living a successful life and career, the management consultant Subir Chowdhury explains how the “caring mindset”: the ability to nurture the skills, loyalty and passion of the people who make up an organization, and creating a culture built on straightforwardness, thoughtfulness, accountability and resolve make the difference between successful and unsuccessful organizations. Basically, this book is a business case for what Charles Dickens described so compellingly in his “Christmas Carol”. Two hundred years later we are still struggling with the same issues. This is the modern book about the anti-Mr. Scrooge approach, and so, a perfect book for December.