6 Books to Develop Modern Leadership Skills

(That you won’t learn in school)

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1. “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” — Dan Coyle

The single most important aspect of leadership in the 21st century is creating a culture that people want to belong to. Culture is what creates the happiest and most productive workplaces, but it’s often undervalued or completely overlooked by leaders. But younger generations are paying more and more attention to a company’s culture when choosing their next leader.

In fact, as pointed out in a Forbes article,

“millennials desire a strong company culture (in one dimension or another) more than anything else when deciding who to work for. If you don’t have a strong or appealing company culture, you’re going to start losing the recruiting war — and fast.”

In order to lead a successful organization, leaders must foster a workplace culture that values and respects the differences of all employees and also creates a strong team bond among all employees.

A strong culture is one in which everyone feels safe to be open, honest and vulnerable with each other. The only way to create this type of atmosphere starts at the top, with a leader who intentionally models and acts to support these qualities.

“High-purpose environments are filled with small, vivid signals designed to create a link between the present moment and a future ideal.”

2. “Dare to Lead “— Brené Brown

Modeling honesty, transparency and vulnerability is no easy feat for a leader. It takes incredible emotional wherewithal that most business schools don’t teach.

Luckily, Brené Brown is a world-renown professor and researcher of these topics and how to lead with them. In her book, she discusses how to gain the courage to overcome fear, shame, and personal biases in order to become a strong and confident leader.

“Daring leaders work to make sure people can be themselves and feel a sense of belonging.”

3. “The Innovator’s Method” — Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer

The incredible rate of technological change means ever-increasing pressure on leaders to adapt and evolve. It takes an agile mindset and the need for constant innovation in order to not be outpaced or replaced by a competitor.

So how do you bring an entrepreneurial spirit no matter the size of the organization? That’s the questions that Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer answer in their book by outlining a path for how to become a more innovative thinker and stay one step ahead of the competition.

“In the age of uncertainty, leaders are no longer chief decision makers. Instead, they’re chief experimenters who formulate hypotheses with their team, conduct experiments, and let the data speak for themselves.”

4. “Leaders Eat Last” — Simon Sinek

It’s no secret that Simon Sinek is one of the foremost authors on leadership and has written several great books on the topic. In Leaders Eat Last, Sinek shows many examples of how the best leaders put their people first in order to create the most well-bonded and successful teams.

This is the foundation of servant leadership, a leadership style demonstrated to promote growth and teamwork.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

5. “Humble Inquiry” — Edgar Schein

Communication is another skill becoming more and more important for leaders. How leaders engage and motivate their people to succeed and propel the organization forward is no small task.

In an increasingly diverse and interconnected world, leaders must learn the art of what Edgar Schein calls humble inquiry. It’s the art of building meaningful relationships with people through genuine and curious questioning.

Humble inquiry is a book that helps leaders become the kind of servant leaders who build strong cultures, as outline in the other books above. This book is a practical how-to guide with examples and ways to actually develop the skill.

“The world is becoming more technologically complex, interdependent, and culturally diverse, which makes the building of relationships more and more necessary to get things accomplished and, at the same time, more difficult. Relationships are the key to good communication; good communication is the key to successful task accomplishment; and Humble Inquiry, based on Here-and-now Humility, is the key to good relationships.”

6. “Better Than Before” — Gretchen Rubin

To be the best leader means having strong habits and knowing how to be efficient with one’s time.

Gretchen Rubin experimented with and chronicled her own experiences building better habits and what she discovers is truly insightful. In her book, she breaks down habit building into an almost science and offers practical tips to readers for figuring out ways to better their own habits.

“For a happy life, it’s important to cultivate an atmosphere of growth — the sense that we’re learning new things, getting stronger, forging new relationships, making things better, helping other people. Habits have a tremendous role to play in creating an atmosphere of growth, because they help us make consistent, reliable progress.”

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Stories of a former high school teacher, now business consultant. Husband. Travel fanatic. Obsessed coffee drinker. And all-around nerd.

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