5 Books (and 1 Article) Every New Manager Should Read

There are so many books about leadership and management that it can be overwhelming to even figure out where to start.  While the "first time manager" books on how to do things like hire and fire are important, having a deep understanding of your role and how to approach is is even more critical to your long-term success.  Your HR department can help you with interview questions, but they probably won't talk to you about how to think about being a manager.  

Here are some books that are particularly relevant for new managers that will help you develop the new skills and mindset you will need to be successful as a leader.  There are other great resources for specific challenges and situations, but these are broadly applicable to all managers and will get you off to a great start. 

12: The Great Elements of Great Managing, by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter

One of the disheartening realizations many new managers have is how many things are outside of their control.  It sometimes seems like managers, particularly front-line managers, have no control at all.  This book will help to show you how important your role is, and that you have control over some of the things that matter most for your employees.  This book is also a good introduction to the concept of employee engagement and why it matters so much.  Based on extensive research by the Gallup organization, this book provides convincing evidence that what you do as a manager really does matter.  (Link)

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: a Leadership Fable, by Patrick Lencioni

This book is seemingly about CEOs and how to manage executive leadership teams, but all of the concepts are relevant to front-line managers as well.  The premise is that trust is essential for teams to function at their full potential, and the book provides methods for getting individuals on the team to care about more than just their areas.  It's a quick and easy read, but the concepts are compelling.  Don't be turned off by the "fable" part of the title.  Unlike a certain infamous fable book involving rodents, this "fable" is a realistic case study that helps illustrate the principles effectively. (Link)

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, by Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown

This book is a must-read if you manage a team of really smart employees.  It will help you to see how to leverage their talents and to avoid inadvertently shutting them down.  This book will show why you need to be very thoughtful before speaking up in your team meetings and why answering your employees' questions is sometimes the worst thing you can do.  The book gets a little redundant at times, so feel free to skim it, but take notes and create reminders for yourself. (Link)

Management Time: Who's Got the Monkey? by William Oncken, Jr., and Donald Wass

This is an article rather than a book, but it contains really important ideas that you may want to go back to time and time again.   The underlying metaphor seems a little crazy at first - projects as monkeys?!? - but it's surprisingly helpful for catching yourself in the moment.  It's a great illustration of how you might be holding your team back by trying to take too much off their plates.  (Link)

Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel Pink

While this book doesn't present the full picture of employee motivation, it does provide a good overview of the aspects that you have the most control over as a manager.  If you don't have time to read the book, watch Dan Pink's TED talk on the topic.  You'll have a better understanding of your own motivation as well as your employees' motivation. (Link)

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin

This isn't a management book per se, but it's a great guide on how to find ways to be distinctive at work.  You can apply the concepts to yourself and to your team, ensuring that none of you end up being cogs in the great bureaucratic wheel. (Link)