A Look Back: 10 Of The Best Leadership Books of 2015

This year’s crop of leadership books includes a call to enjoy one’s work more fully through a philosophy of social responsibility that puts people first.

As a card-carrying member of the Credit Union Movement, I find that encouraging. It seems that many industries are adopting a philosophy akin to “people helping people” and discovering that it can drive success in every level of their organization.

Having said that, there is much for all of us to learn from these authors. From building better teams, to taking more risks, to making better decisions, what follows is some of the best leadership advice of the year. As we look towards 2016, we hope that as many of these as possible find their way onto your bookshelves, the wisdom contained in each seeping into every level of your Credit Union, and the movement as a whole.

Stand Out by Dori Clark

Stand-Out-croppedWhether you are a for-profit business or non-profit organization, success in today’s marketplace is largely dependent on how well you successfully position yourself as uniquely valuable. Working hard and creating excellence is important, but we can’t expect that we’ll be recognized without also working hard to make a name for ourselves. That’s what this book helps you accomplish.

Author Dorie Clark explains how to identify the ideas that set you apart and promote them successfully. Spoiler alert! The key is to recognize your own value, cultivate your expertise, and put yourself out there.

People Over Profit by Dale Partridge

People-over-profit,croppedThis book is a plea (with an action plan) for organizations remain socially responsible not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it’s the only way to survive. Serial entrepreneur and business visionary Dale Partridge reveals seven core beliefs that create success by putting people first. (Which is, after all, the very heart and soul of the Credit Union Movement.)

Dan reveals the beliefs that have enabled him to build a multimillion-dollar company that is changing the way we do business by valuing honesty over deception, transparency over secrecy, authenticity over hype, and ultimately, people over profit.

Team Genius by Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone

Team-genius-croppedMuch of the time, the teams that make up important parts of our lives are created by luck or circumstance. What happens when we create teams with greater intention? This book answers that question with the latest scientific research, compelling case studies, and great storytelling, while exploring solutions to challenges that could mean the difference between success and obsolescence.

The book reviews and explains the latest scientific research into how teams behave and perform, and sheds new light on the vital importance of teams as the most fundamental unit of organization in the global economy.

Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader by Herminia Ibarra

Act-like,croppedMost leaders aspire to lead with greater impact but find themselves so weighed down with the immediate demands of each day that bigger plans are set aside – sometimes indefinitely. In this book, Herminia Ibarra takes an unorthodox approach to this challenge by suggesting that leaders act first and then think, utilizing the reflective “outsights” gleaned as launching pads for further self-development.

This book gives clear examples for how managers and executives at all levels can make big improvements by making small but crucial changes. The author argues that “outsight”, as opposed to “insight”, can change the way you think as a leader and help you make better decisions about what kind of work is important, how you should invest your time, why and which relationships matter in informing and supporting your leadership, and who you want to become.

Simple Rules by Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt

Simple-rules,croppedWhether you’re looking at nature, business, or life in general, simplicity trumps complexity more often than not. And yet, our lives are overwhelmed by complexity. Too much email, multiple flat screen devices competing for our attention, and thickets of regulations and choices within everything from phone contracts to health plans.

The authors of this book argue that, even if we are drowning in complexity, that doesn’t have to be our destiny. They outline a few simple rules to guide us – and the organizations we lead – through simplifying the most complex problems.

Leadership BS by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Leadership-BS-croppedAuthor Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Stanford professor, dissects the leadership industry to reveal why so many organizations with the best intentions continue to limp along with suboptimal performance. Today’s multi-billion dollar “leadership industry” includes thousands of books and hundreds of thousands of blogs, videos and podcasts focused on improving leaders.

So why do we see so much employee disengagement and high levels of leader turnover? One of his key pieces of advice is to learn how to effectively and fearlessly challenge assumptions.

Work Rules by Laszlo Bock

Work-Rules-croppedWritten by the longtime head of Google’s ‘People Operations’, this book is a compelling and playful manifesto that shows leaders how to approach work differently in order to attract and grow the best talent – including themselves.

Author Laszlo Bock reveals why Google is consistently rated one of the best places to work in the world, but also offers real-world examples from a range of industries and the latest research in behavioral economics and human psychology. The book offers practical ways to strike a balance between creativity and structure, leading to success you can measure in quality of life as well as market share.

Do The Kind Thing by Daniel Lubetzky

Do-the-kind-thing,croppedAuthor Daniel Lubetzky, founder of Kind Healthy Snacks, has not only created the fastest-growing purveyor of healthy snacks in the country, he’s sparked more than a million good deeds worldwide with the KIND movement – the company’s social mission to make the world a little kinder.

The transformative power of the company’s philosophy is largely about challenging assumptions and false compromises. Lubetzky writes about how not settling for less, being willing to take greater risks, learning to think boundlessly and critically, can be the path towards the greatest rewards.

The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership by Richard Branson

Virgin,croppedThis is a book on leadership from someone who has never read a book on leadership in his life. Richard Branson, a self-made billionaire, offers sound leadership advice with an emphasis on the importance of listening, delegating, nurturing teamwork and people-oriented corporate cultures. Branson makes a great case for how fun, family, passion, and the dying art of listening are key components to success.

He outlines why he’s never shied away from tackling seemingly outlandish challenges and how “out-of-the-box” thinking is key to reducing risk. Refreshingly, Branson is candid about his failures, illuminating the lessons he’s learned along the way and concluding that “orchestrated procrastination” is often wiser than a more decisive (impulsive) leadership style.

5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time by Jeremie Kubicek

5-gears,croppedWhom amongst us doesn’t feel that there is never enough time in the day? This book offers practical advice for how to shift into the right gear at the right time so that you can be more effective and increase your influence. The book outlines five different mindsets (gears) that can provide a competitive advantage in our task-driven world through higher levels of relational intelligence. The author’s reveal valuable insights into how we can spend more of our days fully focused and ‘in the zone’, improving the quality of our work and increasing our level of effectiveness.

I’m curious… Are there a few on this list you plan to add to your library? Are there any books you feel are missing from this list of the best leadership books of 2015?

About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.

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