Books can be a great way to gain new insight into leadership and other human resources-related matters. Books can help you think through new problems and discover innovative ways to approach the problems you already see in your organization. This insight can have a significant impact on the way you approach work.
For this reason, we asked members of the Forbes Human Resources Council for recommendations of books that have had a positive impact on how they approach their work. Consider adding some of these titles to your reading list in the near future.
1. Good To Great
Jim Collins’s research and study of successful companies over a 30-year period resulted in the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t and there are key lessons and practices that are evergreen. From the five levels of leadership to the hedgehog concept (which helps define a company’s purpose), to feedback with unvarnished truth and finally getting the right people on the bus — and then figuring out how they can contribute — the lessons and skills are backed by years of research and, with discipline, are easy to practice. It’s about how to manage talent, how to develop a central purpose and how leaders should have humility and an unwavering commitment to the company’s success. – Cat Graham, Cheer Partners
2. Primal Leadership
Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman illustrates how resonant leaders create positivity and dissonant leaders create negativity. It also shows how the brain’s limbic system and prefrontal cortex, hence “primal,” manages people’s emotions and shows how leaders strong in emotional intelligence draw out positive emotions by understanding the science of the brain. My copy is well worn and referenced often! – Kellie Graham SHRM-SCP, SPHR, Complete Children’s Health
3. Step Out On Nothing
This book taught me the importance of taking chances, on people and opportunities but, most importantly, on myself. Byron Pitts’s story inspires you to go after everything you ever wanted and helps you rid (or at least shove aside) all obstacles in your way, because he reminds us that most obstacles are ones that we put up ourselves. When you’re scared or unsure, trust your gut and “step out on nothing.” – Lotus Yon, NCH
4. How Will You Measure Your Life?
A book that has been a staple for me has been Clayton M. Christensen’s How Will You Measure Your Life. The premise that it’s important to succeed, but that success isn’t going to be the measure of your life really resonated with me and is a must-read for all leaders. As an HR professional, I think being able to understand that we spend a season of our lives at work will help us in the very critical decisions that could help alter someone’s life — whether in recruiting where we are helping usher someone to make a decision that can alter their future, or even as we guide employees as they transition out of the company. In the end, the deepest source of joy in our lives goes beyond just thriving in a career, but in thriving in life. It offers a great perspective for anyone in our profession. – AJ Thomas, Auction.com
5. Managing From The Heart
Managing from the Heart by Hyler Bracey and Jack Rosenblum not only impacted the way I have managed both teams and my HR role, but has also became a book I have gifted to others. Reading about, understanding and putting in practice the five principles in the book allowed me to better manage conflict, listen to others, speak truthfully even when it wasn’t easy, learn to see other’s intentions and be a better coach to those who looked to me for leadership. – Sandi Wilson, FinTek Consulting
6. Leading From The Emerging Future
It’s an insightful and thought-provoking book addressing some of the most systemic issues organizations and societies are facing today. It explains how leaders need to shift the inner place from where they operate: letting go of past practices and co-creating the emerging future jointly with those they lead. In today’s age of disruption, the book reinforces the significance of systems thinking and challenges the leaders and the change makers to operate with greater awareness and consciousness. It is one of my favorites for its focus on individual and collective transformation for the greater good of all. – Ekta Vyas, Ph.D, Stanford Children’s Health
7. How To Win Friends And Influence People
Despite being published in 1936, this book is still one of the most important and relevant books for HR leaders (or any leader, for that matter). The key lessons inside are crucial reminders of how to use emotional intelligence to drive change and influence that people can get behind. HR involves so much change management, and a big piece of that is winning people over to new organizational strategies and initiatives. – Heather Doshay, Rainforest QA
8. Mastering Civility
Mastering Civility: A Manifesto For The Workplace by Christine Porath demonstrates with research and data the “cost” to organizations when people are not civil to one another. This book is a must-read if you want strategies to create a more humane workforce that improves relationships to foster a more productive workforce that leads to higher engagement and ultimately higher profitability for an organization. One of my favorite quotes in the book is, “A crucial measure of our success in life is the way we treat one another every day of our lives,” from P.M. Forni. – Sherry Martin
9. No Excuses!
I love this book. Brian Tracy teaches you how to have success in every aspect of your life. You have the ability to achieve success through self-discipline and goal setting. This book helps you identify a plan to accomplish goals and not make excuses. It is your responsibility to take action and be motivated each day. This book will inspire you to set a plan to achieve both your professional and personal goals. – Debi Bliazis, Champions School of Real Estate
10. Knowledge For Action
I’d recommend Knowledge for Action by Chris Argyris. It very astutely identifies productive and counterproductive norms and behaviors in organizations, and why people are unable to learn and unlearn prior behaviors. In addition, he outlines the consequences of those behaviors and what to do about them in the context of drawing out the best in people. – Mark Lascola, ON THE MARK
11. The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People
This book gives an approach for solving personal and professional problems. In the HR world, not all employee issues stem from professional problems and HRleaders need to know how to approach both. The book goes into detail on how to adapt to change and how to take advantage of opportunities created by that change. This book will make you feel “back on track.” – Tiffany Servatius, Scott’s Marketplace
12. Who Moved My Cheese?
Who Moved My Cheese? is a staple that I reference consistently. The name says it all. None of us are, in fact, entitled to claim ownership of whatever “our” cheese is. So there is a constant need to shift and adapt to new realities, whilst doing our best, reasonably, to influence them. With today’s corporate emphasis on change management, this book’s tenets apply more strongly than ever. – Mirande Valbrune
13. The Checklist Manifesto
This book focuses on how the medical profession relies on checklists for consistency and to avoid costly mistakes. Checklists can be used in several areas of HR, e.g., for compliance tracking within recruitment process, for internal audits, for managing the HR rhythm of business, programs, etc. – Ushma Mehta, Voicebox Technologies
14. Nonviolent Communication
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. is hands-down one of the best books I’ve read as a business owner, as well as a husband and father. This book is not a new title, but for me, it does much better than other books at unveiling key principles and practices of exceptional communication. It’s also the first book Satya Nadella asked his leadership team to read, which is meaningful. – Ben Peterson, BambooHR