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Leadership Lessons: Top Books on Management

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Page from a textbook on management with the word management highlighted with a green highlighter.

“People leave managers, not companies.” – Marcus Buckingham 

Marcus Buckingham made the above statement in the 1990s when he worked for Gallup, Inc. Gallup’s dataset on management is the largest and most comprehensive in the world. It is a research, analytics, and advisory firm. Gallup’s statements related to management are evidence-based, meaning they provide evidence based on the heels of research. 

I read Buckingham’s book First, Break all the Rules in 2001. Based on Gallup research, it remained the finest book on management that I had ever read until 2019, when Gallup’s book, It’s the Manager, was published. It’s an update to First, Break all the Rules in many respects. 

 Gallup states: 

“…the quality of managers and team leaders is the single biggest factor in your organization’s long-term success,“ and “managers account for 70% of the variance in team engagement.” 

 Think about it: have you ever left a company because of a manager’s behavior? 

 The bottom line? Develop your managers! And, if you’re a manager reading this, embrace these resources. 

 The following are some of my top books on management.   

It’s the Manager by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter: A comprehensive management guide where the authors argue the case for coaching over managing. Gallup places great emphasis on employees using their strengths. The authors include a free code to access their Clifton Strengths assessment tool Clifton is a former Gallup CEO and Harter is Gallup’s Chief Scientist of Workplace and Wellbeing. 

Culture Shock by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter: Published in 2023, this book updates management in the workplace in a post-COVID-19 world. It doesn’t replace It’s the Manager; it’s a companion. 

Wellbeing at Work by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter: Also published in a post-COVID-19 world; this book is a guide to building resilient and thriving teams in the workplace. 

How to Know a Person by David Brooks: One of the most vital messages from Gallup over the last decade has been to have coaching conversations with your coworkers. The most important conversation is the weekly check-in. Brooks’ book helps to facilitate these coaching conversations. 

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz: This book is about managing your energy over managing your time. To be an effective manager, you need to be healthy and energized. 

Drive by Dan Pink: If you’ve ever asked, “How do I motivate my coworkers?,” you need this book. Written on evidenced-based research, Pink dispels common notions of external rewards like money for motivation. 

Give and Take by Adam Grant: Grant, an organizational psychologist, argues that how we interact with others determines our success more than passion, hard work, talent, and luck. 

Grit by Angela Duckworth: It’s about the passion and perseverance to accomplish long-term goals – the grit to get stuff done. 

The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer: By way of research, the authors identify how making progress is highly motivational to employees. An excellent companion book to Drive. 

Intentional Living by John Maxwell: A must-read for those who want their lives to be significant, to matter, and to make a difference in the lives of others. 

It’s Go-Time by Ben Stark, Chris Hunter, and David E. Rothacker: Written for the home service industry, we devote a chapter to the art of management, listing over 40 topics to train managers on. 

Build by Tony Fadell: This isn’t a how-to-manage type of book. It involves Fadell’s extensive management and leadership experience. The not-so-common, common-sense advice leaps off the page.  

 I often find that when reading books like Build, which isn’t a comprehensive how-to-do-something type of book, our mind has the freedom to wander, think, and relate. Biographies serve the same purpose. 

 Don’t end up the subject of Marcus Buckingham’s quote above. Develop and grow your managers! 

Dave Rothacker
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Posted In: Leadership & Planning, Leadership Development, Uncategorized

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