Six Best Leadership Books You Should Read this Summer

“What books are you reading this summer?” “Can you recommend some of your favorites?” I get these questions a LOT! If you want to the definitive list every leader should read, check out this LIST.

In the meantime, let me share six books my virtual mentor Daniel Pink suggests in his last newsletter.

Daniel asked 6 authors of 6 new nonfiction books to describe succinctly one key idea takeaway from the book and one useful action-oriented takeaway. Enjoy the summer read!

1. Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces That Shape Behavior 

by Jonah Berger

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IDEA: Peers are a powerful motivating force.  Trying to push yourself to achieve something? Or encourage others to hit an important goal?   Comparison to others, particularly those slightly ahead, increases motivation and performance.  Even others’ mere presence can make us work faster and harder.  Never exercise alone.

ACTION: Want to have more influence?  Next time you’re trying to persuade someone, be a chameleon.  Subtly mimicking others—their body language, mannerisms, and accents—increases liking and trust and facilitates interactions.  It makes negotiators 5 times more successful and nets wait staff 70% higher tips. So don’t just listen, emulate.

2. Peak: New Secrets from the Science of Expertise 

by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool

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IDEA: Great skill in any area, from playing the piano to brain surgery, depends upon highly developed mental representations and (in fields with a physical component) extensive physiological adaptations — both of which require many years of purposeful practice to acquire. There is no free lunch.

ACTION:  It is a waste of time to try this and that, looking for something you are “good at.” Find something you can commit yourself to, seek out a good teacher, and practice. You will become good at it, and the experience will teach you how to approach developing other skills in the future.

3. The Inner Lives of Markets: How People Shape Them — and How They Shape Us 

by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan

inner lives of markets

IDEA: Economists have moved beyond studying markets to helping to shape them. Their insights help make sense of many of the markets and market-like mechanisms that we encounter with ever-greater frequency – from the business model behind the iPhone to Amazon to kidney exchange and school choice.

ACTION: Become a “multi-homer”: The next time you summon a ride from Uber, or buy a book on Amazon, think about how it affects the parties to your transaction – and the market itself. Are you unwittingly handing too much market power or information to the market-maker, and in the process leaving too little for everyone else? Do the calculus before you make the purchase.

4. The Inevitable: Understanding the Twelve Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future 

by Kevin Kelly

the inevitable

IDEA: We are rapidly cognifying — adding intelligence — to everything that bits touch. We can’t stop this trend. In fact, it is only by engaging it, by using this technology, do we have any hope of steering it.

ACTION: Imagine what you might do with 500 very simple minds working for you for next to nothing but 24/7/365 over the cloud. Describe what you’d sell.

5. Negotiating The Impossible: How to Break Deadlocks and Resolve Ugly Conflicts (without Muscle or Money)

by Deepak Malhotra

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IDEA: Never force someone to choose between doing what’s smart and doing what helps them save face. It’s not always enough that your proposal was fair or generous.  Ask yourself: How will they say ‘Yes’ to what I’m proposing and still be able to declare victory to their constituents (or to themselves)?
 
ACTION: The one essential trait of a great negotiator is empathy. Lots of people talk too much in negotiations, but almost no one asks enough questions.  In your next negotiation, conflict, or disagreement, come up with 3-5 additional questions to ask that might help you better understand the other side’s interests, constraints, and perspective.

6.Performance Breakthrough: A Radical Approach to Success at Work

by Cathy Salit

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IDEA: As adults—in the workplace and elsewhere—when we have to do something we’ve never done before, or feel stuck in a role we don’t like, or need to grow beyond our current capabilities, we can tap into what we naturally did as children, and perform our way to who we’re becoming.

ACTION: You can have performance breakthroughs as a listener. Pick two meetings and a one-on-one conversation and make listening your priority performance: Don’t assume you know what’s coming. Pause longer than normal before you speak. Ask questions. Improvise and perform interest and curiosity. Let yourself be impacted by what you hear.

Question: Which books would you like to read here?


  • Thanks for this list, Paul. I’ve been thinking this week about what books I would recommend leaders read. Here is my list –

    The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
    by Patrick Lencioni

    The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

    21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by
    John Maxwell

    The Five Levels of Leadership by John
    Maxwell

    Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard

    Good to Great by Jim Collins

    The Conviction to Lead by Albert Mohler

    Start with Why by Simon Sinek

    The Mentor Leader by Tony Dungy

    Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanley

  • Most of these I haven’t heard of, awesome list!

    I just finished “What got you here won’t get you there.”

    It talks about leadership habits that might have been strengths at one point of your career can become barriers to you moving forward.

    Thanks Paul!!

  • Richard H

    Since I don’t have the budget (or bookcases) for these, & live in a small town with a minuscule library, I’ve downloaded podcasts with these authors talking about their work. Fits my current lifestyle, too.