There are so many leadership and management books out there, offering up advice on productivity, profitability, hard skills, soft skills and all things lean and in-between.
There are the classic masters, like Drucker and Covey, and newer voices like Godin and Sandberg. There are emerging millenial voices and new research into how the brain operates. Then there are trends in collaboration, creativity and cultures of transparency brought about by the end of siloed working styles and new productivity tools that also have implications for leadership and management practices.
With such rapid changes in technology and culture and the way we work, it can be downright hard to get a handle on what truly makes the grade as the best management and leadership books of all time.
Nevertheless, we thought we’d try.
Our list makes a few distinctions by category, breaking the lines between management and leadership, for example, as well as dedicated sections on new releases, project management, productivity and collaboration. And no list would be complete without a special call-out of books by our regular contributors.
So welcome to our inaugural ultimate list of books on management and leadership! We hope to make this an annual tradition, and we look forward to your thoughts, as well, on what books should (or should not!) make the list.
New Releases (2015)
Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman (Harper, 2015)
Penned by the renowned psychiatrist and journalist whose book Emotional Intelligence reshaped the way many business leaders managed their teams, Goleman here shifts his focus to, well, the act of focus itself. Goleman explains attention is like a muscle and you have to exercise it or it will whither away.
The Scrumban [R]Evolution: Getting the Most Out of Agile, Scrum, and Lean Kanban (Agile Software Development Series, 2015) by Ajay Reddy
Scrumban is a hybrid methodology that helps you apply Lean/Agile methods using Kanban as a catalyst to increase the value of your processes, with some Scrum added for good measure.
Millennials Who Manage: How to Overcome Workplace Perceptions and Become a Great Leader by Chip Espinoza and Joel Schwarzbart (Pearson FT Press, 2015)
Unlike other books on this list, this speaks with the millennials who have risen to managerial positions and helps them hone their skills and improve the quality of their work.
Improving Agile Teams: Using Constraints to Unlock Creativity by Paul Goddard (Agilify, 2015)
Apply improvisational practices in developing teamwork for the success of Agile methods and building high-performing software development teams.
Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration–Lessons from The Second City by Kelly Leonard (HarperBusiness, 2015)
If improvisation and thinking fast on your feet are skills every manager needs, then where better to look for honing them than the nimble comic minds at Chicago’s famous Second City? The stage is a launching pad for talent and can help make you a more creative leader.
Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (HarperBusiness, 2014)
A leadership pro offers readers a way to identify their core strengths and apply them to becoming better leaders in a business environment.
Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce by Chip Espinoza, Mike Ukleja and Craig Rusch (Wiley, 2010)
A practical guide for charting the waters of a new generation and its unique attitudes in the workplace.
Millennials & Management: The Essential Guide to Making It Work at Work by Lee Caraher (Bibliomotion, 2014)
Offers ways to motivate, collaborate with and manage the millennial generation as they become ever more impactful in the workforce, specifically geared towards changing the boomer generation’s negative attitude.
Focusing on “disruptive technology,” the book explains how companies can do everything right and still go wrong by missing out on important innovations.
The Project Management Answer Book – Second Edition by Jeff Furman (Management Concepts, 2011 & 2014)
Easy format and clear language takes you through the methodologies without getting lost in the weeds.
The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management Paperback by Eric Verzuh (Wiley, 2011)
A comprehensive, step-by-step introduction on how to deliver a project on time and on budget.
Project Management for Non-Project Managers by Jack Ferraro (AMACOM, 2012)
A book for the non-wonk who wants the processes demystified, without the jargon.
Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams by Terry Schmidt (Wiley, 2009)
How to develop a sound strategy and then execute it properly.
The “bible” of project management, useful for the student and professional, and a one-stop resources for project management knowledge.
Death March (2nd Edition) by Edward Yourdon
How to deal with projects that are underfunded, lack resources and scheduled tightly.
The Essential Drucker: In One Volume the Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker’s Essential Writings on Management by Peter F. Drucker (Collins Business Essentials, 2001)
A collection of leadership writings from the famous management guru, who influenced such titans of industry as Jack Welch.
The book that ignited the conversation on why women aren’t as well represented in position of corporate power is also a call to action to change the status quo, which the author notes would be a positive step for women, men and business.
Leading Change by John P. Kotter (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012)
The classic eight-step program to successful leadership and management in the business world without any of the clunky jargon and MBA-talk to clutter up your read.
Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders by Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli (Harvard Business Review Press, 2007)
Even after years of advocacy, women remain underrepresented in executive positions, and this book provides ways to avoid the roadblocks on your pathway to success.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek (Portfolio, 2011)
If you’re looking what separates the good from the great when it comes to companies and the leaders who run those institutions, then read this and learn how you can move up to the next level in your career.
The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner (Jossey Bass, 2012)
Updated version of the bestseller offering practical, real-world advice for handling the challenges of today’s organizational problems in business.
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin (Portfolio, 2008)
Introduces the revolutionary idea of collective efforts tethered to an idea and a strong leader to see the idea through fruition.
The modern classic that acknowledges great leadership comes from a balance of personal and professional effectiveness.
Managing Agile Projects by Sanjiv Augustine (Prentice Hall, 2005)
Perfect for the techie or the business manager who wants to learn how to apply Agile methodologies to their projects.
Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process by Kenneth S. Rubin (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2012)
A great primer on the core values of Scrum framework, a pragmatic approach to this Agile process.
Crystal Clear: A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams by Alistair Cockburn (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2004)
Ten years in the making, this volume offers a deeply researched and practical methodology for leading smaller, Agile project groups.
Global Project Management: Communication, Collaboration and Management Across Borders by Jean Binder (Ashgate, 2007)
With growing remote work environment and global field in which projects are now set, this book provides key ways to facilitate the necessary collaboration to get the job done right.
Assembling a Collaborative Project Team: Practical tools including Multidisciplinary Schedules of Services by Dale Sinclair(RIBA Publishing, 2014)
The A-to-Z guide to setting up effective collaborative teams, including the whole project package, from client, design team and contractors.
You may already know that with the competitive business climate we find ourselves in today that company collaboration is crucial, but this book shows you how to do so without wasting time, resources or money.
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen (Penguin, 2002)
There is no single path towards efficiency, but this books provides the tools needed to focus your energies on organizational processes that will increase productivity.
Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun (O’Reilly Media, 2008)
Using his real-life experiences running critical projects from start to finish at Microsoft, Berkun shows how productivity is embedded in good management.
The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker (HarperBusiness, 2006)
Productivity is essentially about getting “the right things done,” Drucker notes, and he shows you how to do what others overlook and avoid being unproductive.
Going against common wisdom, Pink argues that productivity comes from making workers feel satisfied and do better for themselves and the world at large.
Got Wonky, If You Want It
Supply Chain Project Management: A Structured Collaborative and Measurable Approach by James B. Ayers (CRC Press, 2003)
Collaborating with supply chain partners is a way to improve the success of your project and this book shows how you can transition from dysfunctional to competitive.
Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (3rd Edition) by Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister (Addison-Wesley Professionals, 2013)
Focuses on software engineering, but relevant for managing any type of team in any sort of project.
Optimization Modeling with Spreadsheets 3rd Edition by Kenneth R. Baker (Wiley, 2015)
Learn model-building skills in optimization analysis, emphasizing both spreadsheet modeling and optimization tools, to find solutions to real-world optimization problems.
A Practical Guide to Earned Value Project Management – Second Edition, by Charles I. Budd (Management Concepts, 2015)
For the non-accountant who wants a highly effective financial tool to apply to successful project management.
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