Forward-thinking leaders will be the catalysts for bringing about a future in which workplace culture drives innovation and productivity. But becoming that kind of leader doesn't happen overnight--it takes a deeper understanding, which comes from learning on your own time. How can you make the most of your limited hours to prepare to lead five years from now? Commit to reading books that will effectively equip you for leadership in the 2020 business environment. If Mark Zuckerberg can dedicate a year to this worthy pursuit, so can you.
At Pluralsight, our leadership team jointly studies cutting edge business books that in many cases help shape the direction of the company and our culture. This practice has since led to team book clubs and even the development of a company-wide book club, whereby all employees are invited to reap the benefits of group learning while improving their value to the organization. Based on our findings, here are my recommendations for the top five books that will help shape today's leaders into tomorrow's visionaries:
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Daniel Pink's bestseller offers a mind-blowing look at motivation, helping leaders gain a clear sense of what works and what doesn't when it comes to creating a workplace environment where people want to be. Conventional wisdom suggests that the carrot-and-stick approach to motivation--based on external rewards like commission and recognition--should be effective. But Pink's four decades of research into human motivation prove otherwise. The business environment of the future will increasingly demand cultures that facilitate opportunities for employees to achieve autonomy, mastery, and purpose--the three elements of true motivation.
- Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, has written one of the most important books of the century about how to build a creative culture that will endure. Catmull is the genius behind Pixar's world-famous "Braintrust" sessions, in which a closely collaborating working group puts their heads together to share candid feedback, direction, and strategy insights that have led to the creation of some of the most successful movies in history. In Creativity Inc., Catmull shares a wide range of other secrets behind the unique environment that is considered an essential ingredient in Pixar's meteoric rise to the top of the animation world.
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't. In this #1 bestseller, Jim Collins presents research findings that reveal how companies with so-so results can make the leap to become one of the elite. Collins and his research team identified companies that not only made the leap from good to great, but sustained their winning results for at least 15 years, comparing them with companies that stalled out at the "good" stage. The book unveils key determinants behind why some companies become great and others stay mediocre. Among these findings: when you combine an entrepreneurial ethic within a cultivated culture of discipline, stellar results follow.
- The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business.Patrick Lencioni has served as something of a guru for the Pluralsight leadership team, helping us navigate everything from determining our core values to improving engagement in meetings and understanding healthy conflict. In The Advantage, Lencioni posits a four-part model for organizational health that helps leaders achieve sustainable success by building a cohesive leadership team, creating clarity, overcommunicating clarity, and reinforcing clarity. The book reveals that leaders who aren't afraid to confront the dysfunction in their organization can largely eliminate politics and confusion from their environment and help the business reach its full potential.
- Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Simon Sinek's unconventional perspective sheds light on why some leaders and companies are more innovative and profitable than others, and why they're able to continuously repeat their success when others can't. Hint: they start by asking why the business exists. While this may seem obvious, Sinek's research found that most companies approach marketing by first explaining what the company does, and then move on to sharing how they do it. Most don't think to mention why they're doing it, and a surprising number don't even know why! You can't build an exceptional culture without knowing the reason behind what you do.
Needless to say, there are many other great books that didn't make our Top 5 but are still worth checking out to build a better culture for 2020 and beyond. A few of these include Sinek's Leaders Eat Last, which speaks to the importance of trust and the "circle of safety" within teams, and Tony Hsieh's Delivering Happiness, which reveals that by concentrating on the happiness of others, you actually increase your own. Other winning picks include Carol S. Dweck's Mindset, which explains how we can learn to fulfill our potential with an open mind focused on continual improvement, and Liz Wiseman's Rookie Smarts, which shares how to tap into a beginner's hunger for learning. If you want to prepare to meet the leadership challenges yet to come by creating a culture that will stand the test of time, you can't do any better than absorbing the important insights from these visionary thought leaders.