10 books on leadership that will help you become a better boss

When you get your first job as a junior designer, the idea of leading a team, as an art director, creative director or even CEO, can seem decades away; something that "grown-ups" do. But sometimes such promotions can happen surprisingly quickly. So quickly, in fact, that you can feel out of your depth.

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Image licensed via Adobe Stock

Don't worry, though, that's quite a normal reaction. Most, if not all, leaders go through a period where they're winging it. And the good news is, there's plenty of advice and help out there to get you through.

Nothing beats a real-life mentor of course, and so we'd encourage you to reach out to senior creatives you think might be able to point you in the right direction. But it's good to do a bit of background reading too. And so in this post, we bring together our favourite books to help you transition from a creative follower to a creative leader.

1. First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

In this groundbreaking book, authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman expose the myths and mistakes of standard management thinking. Based on more than 80,000 interviews conducted by Gallup over 25 years, they outline four keys to becoming an excellent manager, including specific techniques for helping people perform better on the job.

2. Creativity, Inc by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Want to know how to manage talented creatives? Ed Catmull has some useful advice on the subject. In this book, Catmull reveals the carefully honed ideas and techniques that have made Pixar, the company he co-founded with Steve Jobs, so widely admired (and so profitable).

3. Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time by Jeffrey Pfeffer

As the title suggests, Stanford business school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer takes no prisoners in this hard-hitting book, which dissects the failures of the “leadership industry” and offers positive ways to make workplaces and careers work better. By calling BS on so many of the stories and myths of leadership, he gives people a more scientific look at the evidence and better information to guide their careers.

4. Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent by Sydney Finkelstein

Superbosses exist in nearly every industry, and are defined by consistent success in their fields and their approach to finding, nurturing and developing talent, says author Sydney Finkelstein. After more than 200 interviews with superbosses including technology CEO Larry Ellison and fashion pioneer Ralph Lauren, he explores how each of us can emulate their best tactics.

5. #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

Named by Forbes as "Fashion's New Phenom," bestselling author Sophia Amoruso is the founder, CEO, and creative director of Nasty Gal, a $100 million plus online fashion retailer with more than 350 employees. Yet she's never been a typical CEO or a typical anything for that matter. And so she's written #Girlboss for outsiders seeking their own unique path to success.

6. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less Paperback by Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown, CEO of a leadership and strategy agency in Silicon Valley that's run courses at Apple, Google and Facebook, shows you how to achieve what he calls the disciplined pursuit of less. He explains how applying more selective criteria for what is essential allows us to regain control of our own choices so we can channel our time, energy and effort into the things that matter.

7. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

In this book, the cofounder of Huffington Post explores how to avoid executive burnout. Drawing on the latest research in psychology, sports, sleep, and physiology, she explains how meditation, mindfulness, unplugging and giving can change our thinking, our workplace, and our lives for the better.

8. Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future by Ashlee Vance

South African born Elon Musk is the renowned entrepreneur and innovator behind PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity. Tech reporter Ashlee Vance spent 12 months shadowing Musk, and this is his astonishing story of a visionary and revolutionary leader, giving a great insight into his life and career.

9. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Forget everything you thought you knew about how to motivate people: it’s wrong, says Daniel H. Pink. In this paradigm-shattering book, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing a very different way forward.

Priced at £6.49 | Buy the book

10. TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson

If you can’t speak confidently and effectively in front of an audience, you’ll never be a leader. This book from the “Head of TED” Chris Anderson explains how the miracle of powerful public speaking is achieved and equips you to give it your best shot.


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