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5 Must-Reads For New Leaders

My twin sons are entering their 3rd year in the Army, and as a result, they are receiving their first glimpse of leadership. If they both properly prepare, they should both be selected for promotion to Sergeant within the following year. The Army first promoted me to Sergeant in the Army over 20 years ago, and now ten ranks later, I look back at all the experiences and lessons I chose to learn the hard way. Specifically, I think about how I can save my sons and other new leaders some bumps and bruises along the way.  

If I were to give my younger self a critical piece of advice, it would be to start reading early and often. In an article for Harvard Business Review, John Coleman discusses how reading can make you a more effective leader by increasing verbal intelligence, improving empathy, and understanding social cues. Though I’m an avid reader, I didn’t begin reading for business and personal development until after I had already bumped my head from experiential learning. As I read more, I naturally became a better leader because I could use the experiences of others to help me navigate through some of the more challenging leadership obstacles.

For the new leader, figuring out where to start, choosing the right books can be daunting. Luckily, gone are the days when you needed to navigate the Dewey Decimal System at your public library or search through the countless aisles in your local bookstore. The availability of books online from free and paid sources such as Kindle, Project Gutenburg, and Google bookstore is plentiful. So, in an attempt to help my new leaders wade the waters a little, I’ve created my list of the top 5 books every new leader should read.

  • Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
  • The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey
  • Mastering Communication at Work, Second Edition: How to Lead, Manage, and Influence by Ethan F. Becker

Reading is one of the most efficient ways to acquire information, and leaders need a lot of general information to keep perspective and seize opportunities. 

John Coleman

New Leader Must-Reads

I have 5 great books on the list. If the new leader is motivated he or she should get through 4 of these books with a couple of days in the month to start the 5th. This list is by no means exhaustive. The goal is that these suggestions will provide the new leader a sound base. I am hopeful this list will motivate new leaders to start researching and choosing books that align with their interests and professional goals.

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Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute

If I had to choose just one book from this list to provide the new leader, Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute would be the book. First off, it is an easy read. New leaders and new readers alike will quickly find themselves enjoying this book just as you would your favorite genre. I read half the book the first night I picked it up. Next, the book does a great job of providing relatable examples from both work and home perspectives to keep the new leader engaged.

The authors break down personal and organizational self-deception, explicitly describing the self-deception gap in organizations and the keys to closing this gap. Finally, and probably most importantly, the new leader will finish the book with an understanding of how to assess the in-the-box and out-of-the-box mindsets of themselves and others within their workplace and home. This book is a must-read for both new and no so new leaders.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

This book is a staple for many new leaders, with over 30 million copies sold worldwide. Unfortunately, I didn’t read this book until much later in life. I struggled with leading a diverse team and reached out to a friend who suggested I read Dale Carnegie’s book. The book was a game-changer, and I quickly appreciated why the book was so popular.

In the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People “, Carnegie talks about working with people. Specifically, Carnegie focuses on how to make people like you, win people over to your way of thinking, and how to change people without resentment. To understand their perspective and how to get your thoughts across to them. There are some incredible lessons in this book that have stood the test of time. This book will provide a solid foundation for the new leader that will give you all the necessary tips and tricks to be a better leader.

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier

Experienced leaders understand that coaching and mentoring employees, peers, and sometimes leaders is a critical component of leadership. Unfortunately, as leaders gain more responsibility and time becomes a premium, coaching employees fall by the wayside. However, if new leaders could learn how to integrate coaching into their everyday schedules early, it will become a habit and less likely to take a backseat as they progress in their careers.

Popular coaching expert and a keynote speaker, Michael Bungay Stanier, made a career out of teaching more than 10,000 managers worldwide. His book, The Coaching Habit, talks about the essential skills and characteristics needed to help a leader make coaching an informal but regular part of the workday. Coaching is a critical skill in new leaders if they want to maximize their team’s potential truly. For this reason, The Coaching Habit made my list for new leaders because Stanier discusses his tips on unlocking your team members’ potential.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey

I remember the first real leadership class I attended during my early days in the military. The Army had assigned me to a DoD office that supported the White House Military Office, and the military gad placed me in charge of a small joint military team of Air Force and Army personnel. My Captain signed me up for a leadership class to help develop my leadership skills. When I arrived at the course, the instructor had placed a copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People on each student’s desk.

This book changed my life and started me on a journey to consistently develop and improve my leadership skills. This book remains one of the bestselling leadership books to date, with over 25 million copies sold. The author, Stephen R. Covey, talks about how leaders can solve several challenges and hurdles by applying his 7 habits, focusing on achieving independence and interdependence and maintaining both. It comprises several detailed accounts of promising leaders of the corporate world and how they progressed to the top of their respective organizations.

New leaders, if you want to learn the most from an incredible leadership book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has got you covered.

Mastering Communication at Work, Second Edition: How to Lead, Manage, and Influence by Ethan F. Becker

If you’ve ever searched for leadership traits, you will see a typical quality on every single list – communication. Communication is such a fundamental yet complex skill that every aspiring leader needs to understand that he or she will need to work to hone and improve this skill consistently. However, there are some tips and tricks out there that can provide the new leader with an advantage.

Ethan Becker provides a plethora of advice based on 45 years of research on mastering communication. Despite the title, Beckers’s tips are relevant to many situations in and out of the workplace. New leaders, if you want to establish a solid foundation in communication, this book will pay dividends.

New Leaders must make a habit of reading consistently

As a new leader, you may believe that you don’t have time to integrate reading into your daily schedule. However, I hate to break the bad news to you, but time only gets more scarce as you gain more experience and additional responsibility. Therefore, you must establish a consistent routine of reading for professional development, now!. Don’t wait! If you are struggling with consistency, check out my article on how to be consistent.

Final Note 

As I mentioned in the introduction, my list of must-reads for new leaders is by no means exhaustive. However, this is list covers a few different topics that will help new leaders discover their strengths and weaknesses and serve as a launching pad for further reading and professional development. I hope the article and suggestions are helpful to both new and experienced leaders alike. If you have any suggestions or recommendations for this list, please feel free to let me know through your feedback below. Also, If you are interested in more additional reading suggestions, check out my 8 must-reads for the emotionally intelligent leader.


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