Management Skills

10 business books every manager should read

5 min read

Shannon Maloney

Why read this list versus the other hundred “Best Business Books” lists?

Because you’re going to get the classics that you should just know (because you want to relate to the c-suite when they talk about things like “crossing the chasm”), you’re going to get some gems that are great straight-shooting reads about management that tell it like it really is (and we’re pretty sure you won’t find on any other list), and you’re going to get some books that have absolutely nothing to do with business or management – they’re just good stories by great authors that have many life lessons embedded in there.

Read on for our top business books recommended by managers, for managers.

1. Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Written by Candor Inc founder, Kim Scott, Radical Candor will quite simply make you a better people manager. Scott explains the concept of radical candor as caring personally while challenging directly. In other words, speak your mind but give a d*mn about the person you’re talking to.

The result of this practice is better relationships and higher performance. This book is an action book, as in if you want a theory or idea to put into practice tomorrow, to make you a better boss – then this is it.

Length: 272 pages  ||  Published: March 2017

2. The Power of Moments by Chip Heath & Dan Heath

How do we choose the memories we keep? The Heath Brothers tackle this question in their co-authored novel, The Power of Moments. Both professors at Stanford and Duke Universities, the Heath brothers deduce that when we recall experiences in our lives we do so by extracting certain moments instead of capturing a period of time. We remember highs, lows and endings but not necessarily the ins and outs between.

An interesting read full of anecdotal stories, The Power of Moments is a great book to get you thinking about how you form your own memories and how you impact the creation of others.

Length: 320 pages  ||  Published: October 2017

3. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

An oldie but a goodie: this non-traditional business book written by John Gray, a relationship counsellor, shows readers how to navigate relationships between men and women. Gray explains that the key to understanding men and women is to study how to the opposite sex communicates and reacts to stressful situations.

Successfully navigating relationships, especially in stressful situations, is a massive cornerstone of being a successful manager which makes this book a “must” personal and professional read.

Length: 368 pages  ||  Published: April 2012

4. How F*cked up is Your Management? by Johnathan and Melissa Nightingale

Husband and wife team Johnathan and Melissa Nightingale co-authored this refreshingly honest modern management book. This book doesn’t sugarcoat and will not be taking you on any shortcuts to becoming a great leader.

The Nightingales know firsthand that management is hard and not everyone can or should be managing people, or even running a business. Sometimes being a great leader is knowing when to empower other people to do a job you may want to do, but aren’t the best for. This and other pearls of wisdom (and a chuckle here and there) await in this book!

Length: 368 pages  ||  Published: April 2012

5. The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen

Written by Harvard Professor and Businessman, Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma is perhaps one of the best traditional business books of all time. It deep dives into business strategy and why large businesses fail when they overlook disruptive technologies.

In a very, very small nutshell, The Innovator’s Dilemma is the idea of doing something that isn’t profitable now, but has the potential to be hugely successful in the future or remaining true to the technology that works and is profitable now. Every entrepreneur and business leader can relate to this concept.

Length: 368 pages  ||  Published: 1997

6. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by  Mindy Kaling

This is not a business book by any means.

But Mindy Kaling’s debut novel takes you on a hysterical journey of making it as a writer, actress and producer in one of the toughest to crack industries: Hollywood.

If you’re sick of business books, take a break and be inspired by Kaling’s trials and tribulations pursuing her dreams, accepting herself along the way and realizing that success is hard work and often involves a whole lot of failure.

Length: 222 pages  ||  Published: November 2011

7. Managing Humans by Michael Lopp

A hysterical look into people management as told by Michael Lopp and his experiences at Silicon Valley companies like Apple, Netscapre, Borland and more. This book is filled with relatable stories and practical knowledge like how to hire well, handle conflict, manage your boss and more.

Managing Humans (evident from its title) is designed for anyone in a people management role, or aspiring to be. Lopp’s perspective as a Software Engineering manager also gives this book a unique perspective!

Length: 292 pages  ||  Published: June 2012

8. Bossypants by Tina Fey

Another non-traditional business read, but well worth a mention.

Tina Fey’s memoir is an “I am woman, Hear me Roar” feel good novel any woman juggling a career and motherhood can relate to. Chuckle, cry and learn to laugh at yourself with this book.

Another key message for anyone in management? Don’t be afraid to tell people what you want or what you need from them.

If that makes you a “Bossypants” then so be it.

Length: 277 pages  ||  Published: April 2011

9. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Do you work at a startup?

Are you thinking of a startup?

Are you just intrigued by the idea of a startup?

In any case, this book is for you. The Lean Startup advises entrepreneurs on how to test their company vision for long term sustainability. If you’re head is stuck in your business plan and you can’t find a way out, read this book.

Length: 336 pages  ||  Published: 2011

10. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier

If you’re looking for a playful, short read with straightforward advice, then this book is for you.

Learn more about how to ask questions as opposed to immediately offering advice, and instead of asking your employees why, frame your questions with “what.”

This book is filled with helpful little nuggets for managers and leaders.

Length: 234 pages  ||  Published: February, 2016

For more suggested reading, check out the SoapBox Book Club!