Essential Reading for Young Leaders

Perhaps not mentioned enough within the business world are the wide-ranging benefits of reading. Studies have shown that reading can improve intelligence and lead to insight and innovation. It broadens your vocabulary, expands your world knowledge and improves your abstract reasoning skills. You learn to acquire and assimilate new information quickly and effectively, and many business people claim that reading across fields is great for creativity. Leaders who can sample insights in a broad range of areas—such as sociology, the physical sciences, economics, and psychology—and can apply them to their organizations are more likely to prosper.

Reading also increases verbal intelligence and a leader who is a more adept and articulate communicator is likely going to be more effective in leading others. Also, an active literary life can make you more personally effective by keeping you relaxed. For instance, reading for six minutes can reduce stress by 68%, and perhaps extend the longevity of the mind. Reading, clearly, has many benefits but it seems to be an increasingly underappreciated component of leadership development. So we say get ahead of the curve and read deeply and widely in an effort to better your development.

And to help you along—because we know that deciding exactly what to read can be quite a time-consuming endeavor—here is a short, suggested reading list for young, ambitious, future leaders.

Marcus Aurelius, The Emperor’s Handbook

Considered one of history’s “philosopher kings”, this modern translation of his Meditations, covers life, Stoicism, leadership. These were the personal notes Aurelius used to make sense of the world. A wonderful insight into the mind of the man who ruled history’s most revere empire and provides practical advice for everyday life.

Lou Gerstner, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround

Gerstner’s well-known memoir about the turnaround of IBM is a vibrant book on leadership during a challenging time. About transformation, Gerstner touches on the importance of speed and clearly communicated set of principles—especially across a company as large as IBM.

John Rossman, The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company

An accessible read that provides effective, prescriptive and actionable leadership advice. Rossman, a former Amazon executive, decodes a lot of the behind the scenes at Amazon and points to what is most important at a company so complex: decision making and ownership. The owner of a project doesn’t have to be the most senior person at the organization (it can even be a very junior person), but this person is the sole person responsible for the project’s outcome.

Viktor Frankel, Man’s Search for Meaning

An Austrian psychiatrist who survived the Nazi concentration camps, it is simultaneously an account of a frightening ordeal in the camps and a treatise on his theory, logotherapy. It’s a reminder of the depths and heights of human nature. That life is primarily about the search for meaning: something that has inspired leaders for generations.

Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Representing the best in ‘self-help’, Covey’s advice about prioritization, empathy, self-renewal is both practical and insightful; a useful manual for the personal and professional development of anyone progressing in a career in business.

Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Persuasion is at the heart of business where leaders must reach clients, customers, suppliers, and employees. Cialdini’s classic on the core principles of persuasion is a fine example of the cross application of psychological principles to business life. It also serves as a great introduction to other works by modern writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Steven Levitt, who translate theories from social and physical sciences into everyday life.

Of course there are many, many more excellent books that can help all of us—not just young leaders in the making—navigate the nuances of everyday life.

naisA Global is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to helping talented young Asian professionals unlock their potential and become great leaders.