Business and Leadership Skills By the Book!

Maybe your idea of a summer read is NOT a book on business and leadership skills, but at least entertain the notion! We've curated a collection of titles that offer enough mental floss to open yourself to new thinking and different leadership paths, along with others which suggest that worker harder is not always the way to work smarter.

First suggestion is A Leader's Destiny: Why Psychology, Personality, and Character Make All the Difference by Elias Aboujaoude. True leadership, writes the author, flows from innate temperament, character, and talent, as well as a large dose of being in the right place at the right time. In one chapter poking fun at the alphabet soup of how-to acronyms, he stresses instead the importance of self-awareness and humility. Not every person is suitable for a leadership position, he writes, but no matter: there are many other skills that are equally important to business and personal success, as he demonstrates throughout the book. 

Red face. Sweaty palms. Shaky voice. We’ve all likely experienced at least one of these symptoms when having to give a spur-of-the-moment answer or speech. Luckily, Matt Abrahams (Stanford lecturer, coach and host of the popular “Think Fast, Talk Smart The Podcast”), has a six-step method to help us become “more comfortable and confident in the moment” regardless of “how affable, sociable, and facile with words we perceive ourselves to be.” In Think Faster, Talk Smarter: How to Speak Successfully When You’re Put on the Spot, he provides suggestions, exercises and techniques on how to become a better speaker.

In his latest book, Slow Productivity: the Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout, career development expert Cal Newport aims to answer a seemingly simple question: When it comes to our work, how can we sustainably and consistently produce high-quality results? More specifically: How do we grant ourselves (and our employees) wide leeway to work slowly and deliberately toward a clearly defined, highly valuable result when we’re under pressure to prioritize the number of tasks we’re crossing off our to-do lists? Many people would agree that the quality of our work is more important than how many things we’re getting done. And yet, the feedback that we get at work often sends a very different message. As Newport puts it, many (if not most) of us find our careers rooted to a large extent in a culture of “pseudo-productivity,” which he defines as “the use of visible activity as the primary means of approximating actual productive effort”.

Next up is Charles Duhigg’s Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection. This insightful book is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their communication skills, both personally and professionally. Duhigg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, explores the science and art of effective communication, providing practical strategies for connecting with others and making a lasting impact. The author provides illustrative anecdotes, ranging from a CIA agent recruiting sources to jurors discussing a tricky case. He admits that all this takes effort and concentration, although it gets easier with practice, and the rewards of good interaction are worth the work.

Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things by Adam Grant presents a treasure trove of knowledge, revealing its riches through simple, captivating writing. Although it’s categorized as a self-help book, it transcends the usual preachiness. Grant’s expertise in psychology and his status as a social scientist shine through his narrative. He weaves concepts with real-world stories, making the ideas feel genuine and attainable. The tales of ordinary individuals achieving greatness through honesty and perseverance are particularly uplifting. The core message is the belief in the latent potential within us all, waiting to be unleashed. Grant explores the myriad factors and circumstances that guide one to achieve excellence, enriched with real-life stories illustrating how support systems and opportunities critically influence personal development.

Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao focus their attention on “forces that make it harder, slower, more complicated, or downright impossible to get anything done in organizations," in The Friction Project How Smart Leaders Make the Right Things Easier and the Wrong Things Harder. It’s about why and when such friction is destructive, useful, or a mixed bag. Above all, it’s about how to think and live like a friction fixer who makes the right things easier and the wrong things harder, so that work doesn’t ground people down and drive them crazy. Highlighting organizations that have successfully simplified their operations, the authors describe how the chief medical officer at Hawaii Pacific Health saved hundreds of nursing hours per month by making such minor tweaks as reducing the “required clicks for documenting a diaper change from three to one.” 

Jerry Lynch, PHD ties Eastern philosophies of Buddha with the competitive nature demonstrated in both sport and life in The Competitive Buddha: How to Up Your Game in Sports, Leadership and Life. The writer ties in his years of work associated with a wide variety of athletic championship teams with business and life practices. This text is a teaching book to help the reader develop new ideas to incorporate into their day to day living, to grow and further develop the mind, body and spirit of both athlete and coach.

When team leaders meet a challenge, they often spend more time dealing with their people than dealing with the challenge. They can’t get their team to row in the same direction—or row at all. In Good Team, Bad Team, a ground-breaking primer for leaders, Sarah Thurber and Blair Miller share their decades of experience building, facilitating, and leading thriving teams alongside pioneering research from the fields of cognitive diversity and creative problem-solving. Effective team leadership isn’t mind-reading—it’s good science. Built on research from their popular FourSight System—used by Disney, Nike, and NASA—Good Team, Bad Team examines over 6 million data points on problem-solving styles that impact collaboration, innovation, and leadership. By integrating these scientific insights with creative strategies, Good Team, Bad Team presents a transformative model that empowers leaders to harness the diverse energies of their teams and generate powerful results.

Looking to explore more business and leadership resources? DPL has a ton of databases and services available, including BizBoost: Helping You Find the Right Data for Your Business Plan, and the Patent and Trademark Resource Center.

Written by Dodie on