However, I've never really listed out the books that every manager should read to become a better one.
Featured below are books that hone your management skills, usually by providing examples, both good and bad. (The final book is a real hoot.)
I've avoided the autobiographical and biographical "how to" management books, because I usually find they're too specific to that individual to be of much general use.
Author: Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
Why It's Worth Reading: This classic not only provides the basics of managing people, but emphasizes that it's not really all that complicated to get people to do what you need them to do.
Subtitle: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently
Authors: Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Why It's Worth Reading: Based on an extensive study of managers in different companies, this book pretends to be iconoclastic (hence the title), but is actually a clear manifesto of what has now become standard management practice.
Subtitle: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Author: Simon Sinek
Why It's Worth Reading: While the previous book is mostly about hiring the right people and setting them loose, this book is more specifically about providing reasons for people to do what you'd like them to do.
Subtitle: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow
Author: Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
Why It's Worth Reading: While I don't know whether the research behind this book (and the online survey it promotes) has been replicated or substantiated, this book's intent to be data-driven rather than opinion-driven is to be applauded.
Author: Sun Tzu
Why It's Worth Reading: Although written many centuries ago, this book provides advice about general political strategy and, more important, defeating your enemies without expending a vast amount of effort. Best read alongside The Tao of Pooh (which I almost included in this list.)
Subtitle: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't
Author: Jim Collins
Why It's Worth Reading: Probably the best of the "case study" style of management book. While I often question whether case studies are applicable to real-life situations, Collins is a genius at finding commonalities that make successful companies more successful.
Subtitle: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
Author: John C. Maxwell
Why It's Worth Reading: I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty tired of the "xxx principles" format. Nevertheless, this is a classic of that genre and contains a wealth of accessible, easily understood advice.
Subtitle: Getting Out of the Box
Authors: The Arbinger Institute
Why It's Worth Reading: Many bosses suffer from confirmation bias, where every fact and event is framed so that it reinforces the boss's preconceived notions. I've watched huge companies topple as the result of self-deception; this book makes you painfully aware of your own tendency toward it.
Subtitle: The Best of Sixty Years of Peter Drucker's Essential Writings on Management
Author: Peter F. Drucker
Why It's Worth Reading: Almost everything that's been written about management since the middle of the 20th century is based in one way or another upon Drucker's work. Reading these excerpts gives you a solid understanding of this seminal thinker.
Subtitle: An Inquiry Into the Politics of Corporate Life
Author: Antony Jay
Why It's Worth Reading: This "classic that you've never heard of" reframes corporate behavior in terms of medieval politics. While the book was written before the PC revolution and many of its corporate stories are hoary, there's a universality to the way Jay presents his arguments that's eye-opening. He later co-authored two classics of political humor, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.
Subtitle: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't
Author: Robert I. Sutton
Why It's Worth Reading: All too many bosses tolerate bullying and jerky behaviors, especially from their "star" performers. This book explains why jerks always create more problems than they're worth and suggests ways to either get rid of them or change their behaviors.
Author: Stanley Bing
Why It's Worth Reading: Not only is this book wildly entertaining, but after you've read it, you can truly say to yourself, "Well, I may not be the best boss in the world, but I'm certainly not as bad as these bozos."