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  • Published Dec 25, 2023

Management Books for Effective Leadership: Essential Reads for Managing People at Work

Discover a curated selection of the best management books to guide you through various workplace scenarios with expert advice.

James Lawrence
James Lawrence

Happy CEO & CoFounder

Top 10 management book covers

Great leaders know that knowledge is not a destination; it is a continuous journey. They stay curious and understand that learning and growth never stop. It is that curiosity that keeps them adaptable and forward-thinking. We can always learn from others, and reading is one of the most accessible ways to invest in self-improvement. If you are on your leadership journey, picking up the books of those who have helped forge the path is a great place to start.

These ten books are game-changers when it comes to managing people. You will find a blend of timeless wisdom and practical advice for modern management challenges. Each book offers a unique perspective on inspiring, motivating, and leading teams effectively. From Kim Scott's approach to candor with kindness to Simon Sinek's visionary approach to leadership, these management books are an excellent resource for any leader aspiring to master the art of people management. Whether you're a seasoned executive, a new manager, or simply someone interested in personal and professional growth - there is something on this list for you.

Think of these book recommendations as personal letters, each with an "Open When..." message designed to provide guidance exactly when needed. From the moments when your team seeks inspiration to when you're charting new goals, these books are thoughtfully curated to address the diverse challenges and significant milestones every manager faces.

Book Cover of "Radical Candor" by Kim Scott

OPEN WHEN - You need to have a tough conversation with an employee but want to do it with empathy and respect.

In 'Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity' by Kim Scott, we learn the importance of balancing personal care with direct challenges. Scott's rich experience at companies like Apple and Dropbox reveals how creating a feedback-rich culture is key to team success. Radical candor is about guiding your team with both praise and constructive criticism, recognizing their human needs alongside their professional aspirations.

Book Cover of "The Making of a Manager" by Julie Zhuo

OPEN WHEN - You've just stepped into a managerial role and feel uncertain about where to begin.

Julie Zhuo's 'The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You' tackles the often unspoken truth: many new managers feel out of their depth. Zhuo's book is a treasure trove of practical advice, from day-to-day management tasks to the nuances of nurturing your team's career paths. It's a hands-on guide to becoming the manager your team needs.

Book Cover of "Drive" by Daniel Pink

OPEN WHEN - You want to understand what truly motivates your team beyond just salary and perks.

Daniel Pink's 'Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us' challenges traditional notions about what motivates employees. Pink argues that autonomy and the desire to make an impact are often more motivating than financial incentives. This book is a guide to understanding and harnessing these deeper drives to propel your team forward.

Book Cover of "Grit" by Angela Duckworth

OPEN WHEN - You or your team are facing challenges and need inspiration to persevere and stay committed.

'Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance' by Angela Duckworth moves beyond talent to focus on the power of persistence. Duckworth's insights are crucial for managers aiming to foster a culture of resilience and dedication within their teams. This book is about unlocking the true potential of grit in yourself and your team.

Book Cover of "Atomic Habits" by James Clear

OPEN WHEN - You want to develop positive habits for yourself and your team to enhance productivity and wellbeing.

James Clear's 'Atomic Habits' emphasizes the transformative power of small, daily habits. Clear's book is a practical guide to reshaping your life and leadership style through incremental changes. It's an insightful read for managers seeking to develop positive habits that lead to big results.

Book Cover of "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek

OPEN WHEN - You need a reminder of the importance of putting your team’s needs before your own.

'Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek is a thought-provoking exploration of leadership in crisis. Sinek calls for a new generation of leaders who prioritize the well-being of their team. This book is a deep dive into the philosophy of servant leadership and its transformative impact.

Book Cover of "First, Break All The Rules" by Gallup

OPEN WHEN - You’re looking for innovative management strategies that have been proven effective in various industries.

In 'First, Break All The Rules' by Gallup with James K. Harter, insights from thousands of managers are distilled into a groundbreaking study of leadership success. This book explores how exceptional managers inspire their teams and drive organizational growth, offering access to Gallup's renowned engagement survey.

Book Cover of "Permission to Screw Up" by Kristen Hadeed

OPEN WHEN - You’re feeling down about a mistake and need reassurance that failure is part of the learning process.

Kristen Hadeed's 'Permission to Screw Up' shares the unvarnished truth of learning through mistakes. This relatable account of Hadeed's journey to successful leadership is both educational and entertaining, proving that wisdom often comes from unexpected places.

Book Cover of "Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown

OPEN WHEN - You want to inspire your team through authentic, courageous leadership.

In 'Dare to Lead' by Brené Brown, the emphasis is on courage and vulnerability in leadership. Brown's book is a compelling call for managers to embrace empathy and shared power, fostering an environment where teams can thrive.

Book Cover of "Measure What Matters" by John Doerr

OPEN WHEN - You’re setting new goals for your team and want to ensure they are meaningful and achievable.

Finally, 'Measure What Matters' by John Doerr reveals how the OKR system has propelled some of the world's most successful organizations to greatness. Doerr's case studies and practical guidance make this book an essential tool for managers aiming to align their team's efforts with clear, measurable goals.

From Reading to Leading

Each book on this list was chosen to help in a specific milestone on the path to great leadership, offering guidance, mentorship, and the companionship of like minds and shared experiences. The variety of topics covered in just that short list makes it clear that growing as leaders and managers is an ongoing and ever-evolving process.

At Happy, we are dedicated to empowering people and improving how teams work together, in part by focusing relentlessly on improving team productivity, communication, and collaboration at scale. I think these books are a great complement to our mission, and I hope they can be a roadmap to help you navigate managing people, both through the challenges and the triumphs.

Happy reading!

With Love,

James Lawrence // Cofounder & CEO

Signature of James Lawrence, Cofounder & CEO at Happy Companies

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