Leadership starts within your own life and behaviourFebruary 27, 2023 - 1628 words - 9 mins Found a typo? Edit me
As business scales, the leaders’ primary focus must shift from customers to employees. Therefore, I would like to share what I consider critical points that any leader should address and focus on regularly.
For each key point, you will have book recommendations that go deeper into the matter, giving you references from real experts behind them.
I already wrote about the beauty of leadership, and as a quick recap, to become a leader, you need specific skills:
- Excellent communication, giving support, and enabling your people
- Leading by example, especially to become a better self
- Passion for sharing your leadership skills, so you build other leaders
To extend the previous post providing resources and examples, in this one, you will find books about the following topics:
- Leading through change
- Empowering your people
- Effective communication
- Team dysfunctions
- Management principles
- CEO Mindset
- Engineering leadership
For “starting” leaders
First of all, you need to define a purpose for your leadership. I would recommend “Start with Why”, as this can help you clarify the difference between great leaders and those who are not.
“The ability to inspire those around you and to achieve remarkable things starts with WHY.” – Start with Why
You need to be aware that leadership is not about being the boss of anyone but serving others. It would help if you were a role example that your people would copy and follow, especially in hard times. This is a leadership philosophy in which the leader aims to serve. “Leaders Eat Last” goes deeper into this topic.
After reading the previous two books, if you are looking for more, the cherry on top is “The infinite game”, which is the third and last book (so far) by Simon Sinek. This book questions our daily mindset when confronting (business) problems. It’s about the need of a just cause, courageous leadership, trusting teams, and a worthy rival.
“There is no such thing as the one “right” organization. There are only organizations, each of which has distinct strengths, distinct limitations, and specific applications. An organization is not absolute. It is a tool for making people productive in working together.“ – The infinite game
Leading through change
Leading through change is something you have to face in many moments in your life, whether you like it or not. “Who moved my cheese?” is a tale about the different attitudes people adopt as part of their identity when confronting change.
“Change how you identify yourself. The environment is more important than being motivated. Reduce friction for good habits and increase friction for bad habits.” – Atomic Habits
Empowering your people
It would be best if you empowered your people to become leaders themselves. A great book I recommend is “Turn the ship around!”, in which the author challenges the commonly accepted leaders vs. followers model into a leaders-to-leaders relationship.
“Leadership is communicating to people their worth so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.” – Turn the ship around!
Communication is one of the most challenging skills you need because you constantly communicate with other people; with different backgrounds, experiences, expectations, and even understanding of life. And the important key aspect is not just what you say but how you say it to ensure your desired message is correctly delivered to the receiver.
“Leadership is Language” challenges the industrial-age playbook (where leaders give commands and employees follow them), giving you strategies that can help you such as: control the clock, collaborate, commit, complete, and improve.
“Your words matter more than you think.” – Leadership is Language
It is important to recognize our emotions and not let them control our actions. Creating an open, honest, and safe environment is crucial to create trust among your peers.
“Dare to lead” addresses that leaders need to be more vulnerable. It shows that solid values guide you to do what is correct rather than easy. The importance of trust and difficult conversations even when they make you uncomfortable.
“Great leaders must be brave and always dare to provide constructive feedback, speak the truth, and be clear about their expectations.” – Dare to lead
Regarding communication, you might need some good persuasion skills to convince others about your ideas. “Never split the difference” is a book about negotiation (from one FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator) that gives you great insides into how to negotiate effectively: negotiation begins with listening, using mirrors to encourage the other side to empathise, tactical empathy to getting an agreement, labelling emotions, among others.
“Negotiation begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin.” – Never split the difference
For “experienced” leaders
Assuming you have read the books above (for “starting leaders”) I can give you more recommendations.
One of the most difficult areas from the communication layer is dealing effectively with conflicts; so “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” is a great book which addresses the “absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results” as a pyramid of dysfunctions that you need to pay attention.
Although leadership is not the same as management, I find it quite useful knowing some theory behind management, and for this “High Output Management” is a great starting point.
After that one, if you want more, I can recommend something more advance with “The Essential Drucker”, which addresses the essential principles of management.
“Management is about humans.” – The Essential Drucker
Although not every leader might want to be a CEO, I find “The Great CEO Within” a great book because this can help you understand the responsibilities from any organization’s most abstract point of view.
Similarly, “Adapt or Die” is a great book that covers the fundamental aspects of overall responsibilities and capabilities to thrive in any business, addressing aspects such as Product, Strategy, Growth Engine, Financial Model, People, Operations, Process, and Leadership.
“Leadership is about helping people adapt and leading through change so the business and its people can thrive.” – Adapt or die
“Managers tell you where you are; leaders tell you where you are going.” – The Art of Leadership
I hope I got enough attention to create awareness about the key areas you must work on. I am aware that many other books could be included in this list. You might have others on your shelf. These are just a reference, not necessarily better or worse than others.
I still have many other books I want/will read over time. Still, I thought it would be interesting to compile these already, aiming to create value, sharing especially for those who don’t know where to start or how to become better leaders themselves.
However, these are the essential points to remember:
- You need to have passion for your work and share this passion with the people around you. You cannot expect passion from your peers if you don’t have passion for what you do.
- You need to empower your people, creating leaders instead of folks who follow orders from their superiors.
- You need to learn how to create a safe environment, which is crucial for trust and honest relationships.
- You need to help create agreements when dealing with conflict resolutions. Avoiding healthy conflicts doesn’t help long-term relationships.
- You have to look for opportunities to grow everywhere and help our team grow with you.
Your primary responsibility is to help others improve, and this is only possible if you embrace the change and start with yourself.
All mentioned authors
- Simon Sinek: Start with Why, Leaders Eat Last, The infinite game
- Spencer Johnson: Who moved my cheese?
- Charles Duhigg: The Power of Habit
- James Clear: Atomic Habits
- L. David Marquet: Turn the ship around!, Leadership is Language
- Brené Brown: Dare to lead
- Chris Voss: Never split the difference
- Patrick M. Lencioni: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
- Andrew S. Grove: High Output Management
- Peter F. Drucker: The Essential Drucker
- Matt Mochary: The Great CEO Within
- Thomas H. Douglas: Adapt or Die
- Camille Fournier: The Manager Path
- Michael Lopp: The Art of Leadership
Extra: Leadership Guide for the Reluctant Leader
Especially if you are a software developer, this video is for you.
“Leadership is for everybody. It is for all y’all.”