What to Read As a Brand New Leader

There are so many books out there on leadership that it can be easy to feel lost on which are the most helpful, especially for a new leader. Over the last 8 or so years, I’ve read a variety of books on leadership. Those you’ll find below are the ones that have been most foundational to my personal leadership as well as those I believe could be applicable for any leader who’s just starting out. I’ve read each of the below books at minimum 3 times each and still get something out of them each time I read them. I specifically listed them in the order I’d suggest reading them as I think they can build on each other as you grow in your leadership experience.

#1 The Ideal Team Player

This book is considered a fable that illustrates the points of what makes a great team player through three qualities written by Patrick Lencioni. The fable does a great job illustrating what happens when individuals do not possess these qualities and how they can be detrimental to a team or company. An ideal team player is someone who shows the three qualities of being hungry (driven), humble, and smart (emotionally intelligent). The book shares how to identify these qualities, how to hire for these qualities, and how to improve these on an individual level to be more of an ideal team player. I find this book helpful for a new leader because 1) you can hire for people who will be an ideal team player 2) you can identify those who may not show these who are already on your team and coach coach them to develop these skills. Knowing this information ahead of time will save you time in the long run.

#2 – 5 Dysfunctions of a Team

This book also happens to be written by the same author as The Ideal Team Player. It is also written as a leadership fable and again shows what an effective verses ineffective team looks like and what it takes to get there. Lencioni illustrates the 5 Levels a team must go through to get the best results. First, the team must build trust. That has to happen before anything else and it must be genuine. From there, level two is establishing healthy conflict. Teams that don’t disagree are artificially harmonious. People don’t always all agree. From there, the next level is to make sure the team buys in and is committed to decisions together. Then they can move to holding each other accountable to those decisions and finally, can get the results they desire. What I appreciate most about this book and why I think it’s great for a new leader is that it focuses on the most important thing first – building trust. If you don’t have trust on a team, you don’t have anything. People won’t follow you, they’ll question you, they may undermine you, and you won’t get where you want to go. By knowing each stage and working through them as a team, your ability to have a clear path toward results is far greater.

#3 – Multipliers

This book by Liz Wiseman explores how to get the most out of the people on your team and make them better performers. She dives into the model of Diminishers and Multipliers and explains that a Diminishers believe people can’t figure things out without the leader and in contrast, a multiplier believes people are smart and will figure things out. She explains the 5 common diminisher tendencies and then their opposite, the 5 multiplier tendencies. One example is the Know It All vs. The Challenger. A Know It All is someone who wants to establish just how much they know in a situation. The Challenger focuses on defining an opportunity that causes people to stretch in a good way. The diminisher is ego driven, and the challenger knows that other people have great things to offer and gives an opportunity to have their team show that. In addition to the multipliers mentioned, there’s also a set of what Wiseman calls “accidental diminishers“. They are areas that someone unintentionally shuts down those around them. For a new leader, these can happen much more often than we think. By being aware of the various diminisher, accidental diminisher, and multiplier tendencies, a new leader can intentionally lean into being more of a multiplier and having less occasions of diminishing.

#4 – Extreme Ownership

This is my personal favorite leadership book and has been for the last five years since it came out. It is written by two Navy Seals who share their learnings on leadership through their time in the military. Each chapter has a principle to learn and it’s broken down into a story from combat, then an explanation of the principle being taught, followed by the application to business. They cover topics like Cover and Move, Simple, Prioritize and Execute, and Decentralized Command. This book is so much more than a military tactic book. It’s been the most foundational piece in my own leadership, and one I come back to again and again.

That’s it. Those are the 4 books I’d recommend for a new leader. I was initially going to share a podcast or book summary for someone who may want to get a brief version of these, but I think that would be doing you a disservice. I believe each of these books in their entirety is worth the read. The fables are shorter which is why I’d recommend starting with them and then moving to the other two. I personally have listened to both Multipliers and Extreme Ownership on Audible since I like being able to listen while I’m driving or exercising so I would highly recommend that if you enjoy listening to your books. I also own copies of them both that are covered in highlights.

If you liked this book recommendation post, I have some others that will be coming up in future posts including recommendations on mindset, building habits, training your brain, and leveling up your leadership. So stay tuned for those!

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