When I look at the business leaders I admire most, they have all uniquely defined what leadership means to their teams.
I, for one, am a big fan of positive disruption — bringing together a diverse team with a wildly varying range of opinions and experiences while creating an environment that engages, challenges and rewards everyone in the pursuit of common goals.
The economic, social and political impact on every business is ever-evolving; it creates enormous challenges and brings amazing opportunities. More than ever, organizations are looking to their leadership to help them thrive and inspire them. Here are a few books that have become part of my tool kit.
“Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? What It Takes To Be An Authentic Leader,” by Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones
This book gets to the core of what authentic leadership means. Authentic, by now an overused word, is never more important to the challenges leadership faces today. Goffee and Jones invite the reader to really understand how we can leverage our truly authentic self to provide meaningful, engaging and inspirational leadership for an organization.
“Managing Up: How to Move Up, Win at Work, and Succeed with Any Type of Boss,” by Mary Abbajay
This book serves a dual purpose. The title reminds leaders that managing up is important at every stage in their career, and it can be a helpful resource for members of their teams. It also reminds leaders of an employee’s experience and perspective by providing a lens to reflect on their leadership style and how that style affects the team.
You can’t help but read it and ask, “How am I showing up? Am I that type of boss?” It provides a great framework for leaders and teams to discuss work style preferences, priorities and things we should leave behind.
“Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People,” by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald
At times, “Blindspot” sheds an uncomfortable light on our own perception of others. Psychologists Banaji and Greenwald use the Implicit Association Test to uncover the hidden bias we may have developed after years of exposure around social class, race, sexual identity, disability, religious beliefs and more. “Blindspot” also discusses how bias can manifest itself as microaggressions we may not be consciously aware of.
The book provides insight on how to counteract this in ourselves and serves as an invaluable tool to guide your team.
“Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins
A critical tool in my early career (and one I re-read every now and then), “Good to Great” is an essential read that explores winning formulas proven to design companies built to last. This book delves into the characteristics of a “Level 5 leader” — channeling your ego away from yourself and into the larger goal of the company, ferocious resolve and stoic determination.
“Good to Great” outlines how to become the type of leader people want to work for. Collins instructs on creating a climate of change, a culture of discipline and the secret to motivating employees. Spoiler alert: Most companies are doing it wrong, as trying only to incentivize people is the wrong approach. Instead, focus on finding the right people. If you have the right people and create the right environment, they will be self-driven and don’t need outside motivation.
“Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions,” by Ben Mezrich
Ben Mezrich’s novel was a sensation on its release and was the inspiration for the hit film “21.” While I may not endorse the protagonists’ behavior, their story does serve as an entertaining and unexpected backdrop to explore lessons in leadership, strategy and teamwork.
The book challenges the reader to think differently about rules of engagement, explore the technical skills required to execute a plan, question perceived norms in an organization and test the ability to stay true to a vision.
“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable,” by Patrick Lencioni
Patrick Lencioni has written a series of leadership books as modern fables. He creates archetype characters and situations that feel remarkably familiar, no matter the industry. I was fortunate to discover this book early in my career, and it has always served me well, particularly when taking on a leadership role with an existing team.
The structured approach examines barriers that impede a team from being truly aligned. This book challenges leaders to unlock an individual’s potential, understand the importance of diverse teams and work with the group as a whole to become its most effective.
“Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable … About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business,” by Patrick Lencioni
Another in the modern fable series by Lencioni, and a most-relatable title, “Death by Meeting” should be required reading no matter where you are in the organizational structure. Meetings have the power to align a team, but they can also become highly charged and political, ultimately working against the goals of the organization. The seemingly simple structure outlined in the book helps leaders make sense of what’s important, who needs to be in the room and how to set ground rules for all participants.
One of biggest learnings: Cut the time you think you need for a meeting in half. It’s amazing what can be achieved.
“Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” by Michael Lewis
A revered nonfiction sports story about Billy Beane, general manager of the Oakland A’s, the book is also a study in what true leadership looks like. This includes the power to take risks, break convention and develop a strategy by asking the right questions and putting together the right team, especially when you have far fewer resources than the competition. “Moneyball” serves those who are not bound by convention and are looking for inspiration outside of traditional corporate culture.
Michael Klein is the CEO of Miraculo, a venture-backed integrated data and media company that addresses the needs of underserved audiences in the medical cannabis and CBD market. The company has launched several verticals including cannabisMD.com, askCMD.com and GodsGreenery.com. Over the course of his career, Klein has held several senior leadership roles with MTV, Condé Nast, SundanceTV and Discovery Inc.
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