A few months ago, Kevin Fishner presented me with an intriguing challenge: to list my top non-fiction books. As simple as it sounds, this task quickly unfolded into a reflective journey through the pages that have shaped my understanding of leadership, personal growth, and organizational development. But how does one confine such a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to a mere top ten? The truth is, it’s not just about ranking books; it’s about recognizing the unique value each one brings to different stages of our journey and the varied challenges we face.
In this list, you won’t find a conventional top ten. Instead, I offer a collection of books, each holding a special place in my library and my heart. These are books that have not only influenced my thoughts but have also been integral tools in my workshops with teams during my career and now at Pearlside. They are more than reads. They are experiences shared, lessons learned, and wisdom applied. From fostering an understanding of team dynamics with Patrick Lencioni’s insightful fables to navigating the complexities of global business using Erin Meyer’s ‘The Culture Map,’ each book has been a key in unlocking potential – both in myself and in the teams I’ve had the privilege to coach and guide.
Join me as I share this curated list, a tapestry of narratives and insights that have been pivotal in my journey as a co-founder and leadership coach. Whether you are at the onset of your career, leading a startup, or steering an established organization, these books offer a compass to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of leadership and personal growth.
In the realm of leadership and team development, certain books have transcended the role of mere guides, becoming instrumental tools in my workshops at Pearlside. These selected works offer theoretical insights and have proven to be practical in real-world applications. Let’s delve into these cornerstone books:
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni: Lencioni’s captivating fable delves into the heart of team collaboration – or the lack thereof. In my workshops, this book serves as a mirror for teams to reflect on their own dynamics. Through its compelling narrative, it provides a framework for understanding and overcoming common obstacles to teamwork, turning theoretical concepts into tangible actions. I wrote a post reflecting on my experience with a leadership team here.
- The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni: Building on the themes of his previous work, this book offers a holistic view of organizational health. Our workshops explore Lencioni’s model as a roadmap to achieving business success through cultural coherence and leadership clarity. It’s a powerful guide for leaders seeking to cultivate a vibrant and productive workplace culture. I wrote about this here.
- The Culture Map by Erin Meyer: In today’s globalized business environment, understanding and navigating cultural differences is paramount. Meyer’s book is a key resource in our workshops for developing cultural intelligence. It equips leaders with the tools to effectively manage and lead across diverse cultural landscapes, enhancing global collaboration and empathy. I used again the Culture Map in a workshop just a few weeks ago.
- What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Goldsmith Marshall: This book addresses the subtle nuances of personal growth and behavioral change essential for leadership advancement. In our sessions, we use Marshall’s insights to help leaders identify and rectify the small, yet impactful, habits that can hinder their progress, fostering a mindset geared towards continuous improvement. I explain how I conduct the workshop here.
- Understanding A3 Thinking by Durward K. Sobek II: A3 thinking is more than a problem-solving tool; it’s a methodology to foster critical thinking and communication. I love using the approach to structuring thought processes and decision-making, enabling leaders and teams to tackle complex challenges systematically.
Reviewing the list, I realized that I used many other books in my workshops, books by Deming, Drucker, and Senge to name a few. It gives me ideas for more writing!
Here is the alphabetical list of books:
- A Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking
- A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM – Thomas J. Watson Jr.
- A Little History of Philosophy (Little Histories) – Nigel Warburton
- American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company – Bryce G. Hoffman
- An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization – Robert Kegan
- Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell
- Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Good to Great, 2) – James C. Collins
- Business Model Generation – Alexander Osterwalder
- Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World – Jennifer Garvey Berger
- Chimp Paradox: How Our Impulses and Emotions Can Determine Success and Happiness and How We Can Control Them – Steve Peters
- Collaboration by design: Your Field Guide for Creating More Value When Bringing People Together – Philippe Coullomb
- Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice – Clayton M. Christensen
- Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Ed Catmull
- Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose – Tony Hsieh
- Freedom, Inc.: Free Your Employees and Let Them Lead Your Business to Higher Productivity, Profits, and Growth – Brian M. Carney
- Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team Is Waiting For – Jonathan Raymond
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t – James C. Collins
- Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All (Good to Great, 5) – James C. Collins
- Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow – Yuval Noah Harari
- How Not to Diet – Michael Greger
- How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
- Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them – Gary Hamel
- I’m a Joke and So Are You: Reflections on Humour and Humanity – Robin Ince
- Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization (Leadership for the Common Good) – Robert Kegan
- Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love – Richard Sheridan
- L’art de devenir une équipe agile – Claude Aubry
- Lean Management: Mieux, plus vite, avec les mêmes personnes. – Pierre Pezziardi
- Legacy: What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About the Business of Life – James Kerr
- Leonardo da Vinci – Walter Isaacson
- Les mots sont des fenêtres (ou bien ce sont des murs): Introduction à la Communication Non Violente – Marshall B. Rosenberg
- Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E. Frankl
- Managing for Happiness: Games, Tools & Practices to Motivate Any Team – Jurgen Appelo
- Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It – Chris Voss
- Outliers: The Story of Success – Malcolm Gladwell
- Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity – Kim Malone Scott
- Radical Product Thinking: The New Mindset for Innovating Smarter – R Dutt
- Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up – Jerry Colonna
- Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness – Frederic Laloux
- Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (And World Peace) – Chade-Meng Tan
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike – Phil Knight
- Spiral Dynamics Integral: Learn to Master the Memetic Codes of Human Behavior – Don Edward Beck
- Stupid, Ugly, Unlucky and Rich: Spike’s Guide to Success – Richard St. John
- Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!: Adventures of a Curious Character – Richard P. Feynman
- **Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know** – Malcolm Gladwell
- Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow – Matthew Skelton
- The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals – Chris McChesney
- The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict – The Arbinger Institute
- The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters – Priya Parker
- The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity – Julia Cameron
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcolm X
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever – Michael Bungay Stanier
- The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business – Erin Meyer
- The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life – Michael Roach
- The Dream Team Nightmare – Portia Tung
- The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization – Peter M. Senge
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – Patrick Lencioni
- The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement – Eliyahu M. Goldratt
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers – Ben Horowitz
- The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work – Shawn Achor
- The Lean Manager: A Novel of Lean Transformation – Michael Ballé
- The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change – Camille Fournier
- The Meme Machine – Susan Blackmore
- The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win – Gene Kim
- The Qualified Sales Leader: Proven Lessons from a Five Time CRO – John McMahon
- The Rider – Tim Krabbé
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion – Jonathan Haidt
- The Sketchnote Handbook: the illustrated guide to visual note taking – Mike Rohde
- The Soul of a New Machine – Tracy Kidder
- The Southwest Airlines Way – Jody Hoffer Gittell
- The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations – Ori Brafman
- The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer – Jeffrey K. Liker
- Thinking In Systems: A Primer – Donella H. Meadows
- Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman
- Training from the Back of the Room!: 65 Ways to Step Aside and Let Them Learn – Sharon L. Bowman
- Unflattening – Nick Sousanis
- Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota’s PDCA Management System – Durward K. Sobek II
- Visual Teams: Graphic Tools for Commitment, Innovation, and High Performance – David Sibbet
- When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
- When They Win, You Win: Being a Great Manager Is Simpler Than You Think – Russ Laraway
- Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future – Joichi Ito
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
- Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams – Matthew Walker
- Work is Love Made Visible: A Collection of Essays About the Power of Finding Your Purpose From the World’s Greatest Thought Leaders (Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum) – Frances Hesselbein
- Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead – Laszlo Bock
- #Workout: Games, Tools & Practices to Engage People, Improve Work, and Delight Clients – Jurgen Appelo
The journey through these pages has been more than an academic exercise; it has been a voyage of personal and professional discovery. Each book on this list has left an indelible mark on my approach to leadership, team building, and personal growth. They have been companions and guides, challenging my perceptions, affirming my experiences, and inspiring new ways of thinking and leading. In my work at Pearlside, these books have informed our methodologies and helped shape the transformative experiences we strive to create for our clients.
In sharing this list, I invite you to view these books not just as a collection of titles, but as a mosaic of knowledge, each piece offering unique insights relevant to different stages of your journey. Whether you are navigating the complexities of team dynamics, cultural diversity, personal growth, or organizational change, these books provide a wealth of wisdom to guide you.
Call to Action:
Now, I turn the page over to you. What are the books that have profoundly impacted your journey? Which titles resonate with your current challenges and aspirations? I encourage you to share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments. Let’s continue this conversation and enrich our collective journey with diverse perspectives and insights.