Following a recent conversation with a mentor I compiled a list of books that most profoundly influenced my career and leadership style. It’s interesting to look at this list holistically because there is a mix of business, technical, and “general life” books that have shaped who I am today.
- Radical Candor
Worth it’s weight in gold, this book taught me about caring personally with every business interaction. I realize now that I used to think I was just being “direct”, but in work relationships I was in fact , and sometimes disrespectful. This book taught me how to be direct while caring personally, which has greatly improved my working relationships (and the business outcomes!)
- Speaking as a Leader
Another mentor once suggested this book to me, and although it’s not as easy to read as some of the other books on this list, it did teach me to watch my words and to have intent with everything I say in meetings, on calls, etc. As a product manager what I say is often taken as gospel by R&D, marketing, sales, etc. so this was an important learning for me (whereas previously I would sometimes ‘vent’ in public forums, etc.)
- The Power of Habit
I do not strive in chaos; my leadership, and product management style, is to “set and forget” as much as I can. This is also how I manage my money, investment, etc. At work, this means defining a governance framework with agreed upon templates (project reporting), cadence (weekly meetings), and discipline (e.g. get out of email and add topics to the weekly meeting agenda for a proper discussion and review). These are examples of team habits that I’ve built into managing my teams and areas of business which I learned from this book! (Make a habit of it!)
- Managing Humans
I originally read this when I crossed over from being a web developer to managing web developers but the advice presented here can apply to any leadership role. I’m a big fan of the author’s leadership style, his blog and his podcast.
- Don’t Make Me Think
This is an old one from my web developer days and it’s mostly about web site usability. But, I would argue that the title alone is a great learning for anyone building products or a company that markets products to… anyone. I still refer to the idea of “don’t make the think” and insist on keeping all of my work as simple as possible.
Grit was a leadership principle at TELUS and the basis for their management training curriculum that I was lucky to have completed during my time at the company.
- Start With Why
I sometimes ask myself how practical Simon Sinek’s advise can be in real world companies at enterprise scale, but I think there are many good ideas in his teachings. The advice here, I find, can apply to both my work (why are we doing something, etc.) and my career (why am I doing what I’m doing, am I going where I want to go, etc.)
- Man’s Search for Meaning
A short but powerful read about one man’s memoir and survival of Auschwitz and other camps. This book has equally shaped my personal and work life, and I re-read it every five years when I feel I’m taking things for granted or just having a tough time in my (frankly) cushy and privileged life (and job/career for that matter).