In writing my book Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders, I followed in the footsteps of many leadership and management thinkers and teachers. While some of their work has gone out of fashion or been rendered irrelevant by newer thinking, plenty remains relevant and useful today.
In Becoming the Boss, I include a list of classic management books that are still worth reading for today’s leaders. Here are four books from that list:
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)
How to Win Friends and Influence People was one of the very first self-help books and it’s still amazingly relevant. Here are two of the book’s tips for making people like you. (FYI, the original edition also included tips for wives like “Don’t nag your husband,” but those were, thankfully, removed later.)
- Be genuinely interested in other people.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. A person’s favorite word is his or her own name.
The Effective Executive (1967) and The Essential Drucker (2008) by Peter F. Drucker
If Ogilvy is the father of advertising, Peter Drucker is the father of management. I chose The Effective Executive for this list because Drucker’s influence was particularly strong in the late 1960s (and rumor has it that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos requests that all of his top executives read it). But Drucker wrote dozens of important books on management, leadership, success, and business, which is why I also recommend The Essential Drucker, a greatest-hits collection of his sixty-plus (!) years of writings.
I guarantee you will hear someone quoting Peter Drucker in a meeting or presentation sometime soon (whether that person knows he or she is quoting Drucker or not), so you must know his name. Here are two of his most well-known pieces of wisdom:
- “What’s measured improves.”
- “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson (1982)
When I reached out to dozens of colleagues to ask what their favorite business book was, The One Minute Manager received the most mentions. Consider this super-short book a “management for dummies” that’s really very smart. It basically boils down to this:
- Set one-minute goals that you can write in 250 words or fewer. (If Twitter had been around in 1982, Blanchard and Johnson probably would have recommended 140-character goals.)
- Give one-minute praise and one-minute reprimands for behavior to keep people on track toward their one-minute goals.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey (1989)
I was a freshman in high school in 1989 and I remember how insanely popular The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was when it launched, even though most of my attention at the time was focused on boys. It’s probably the book I’ve seen on successful business people’s bookshelves more than any other and the book I recommend most to others. Here are two of my favorite habits:
- Habit 2: “Begin with the end in mind.” Covey advises creating a mission statement for your life and making daily choices based on that statement. In other words, whenever you want to do anything, weigh the decision against your long-term goals.
- Habit 3: “Put first things first.” Prioritize, plan, and execute your to-do list based on your life priorities (along with, when at work, your organization’s priorities), not just what seems urgent in the moment.
My new book Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders has my full list of classic management books that remain relevant today along with my own advice for young leaders moving into their first management roles.