In this post, Andy Webber, Principle Training Consultant at IMechE, recommends five key books for managers and aspiring managers, which are all available to borrow from the IMechE library.

Bill George, True North – Discover your Authentic Leadership
(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007)
“True North” is a point on a compass and a compass needle is pulled towards a magnetic field. This book pulls you toward the purpose of your leadership and shows how, if you follow your own internal compass (your values, your passions, your purpose), then your leadership will be authentic. It includes personal stories from over a 100 leaders, which illustrate how they found that their own internal compass could guide them successfully through life. It’s a lesson for us all in 21st century leadership.

Matthew Syed, Black Box Thinking
(London: John Murray, 2015)
The black box in an aircraft is a recording system that is only really investigated when things go wrong. This book is about achieving high performance through developing our ability to learn from our mistakes. Syed illustrates his ideas with a large number of case studies and real world examples, some well known – such as British cycling and how ‘marginal gains’ were used to achieve spectacular results.

Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow
(London: Penguin, 2011)
Kahneman (together with colleagues such as Amos Tversky) has been developing our understanding of biases and heuristics over the last 40 years. In 2002, he won the Nobel prize (for economics) for work has done in this area. This book is a fascinating exploration of how our brains work and how our unconscious mind influences us without us consciously knowing it. Much of the time, this is extremely useful. However, in some circumstances it can lead to us making sub-optimal or flawed choices.

Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
(London: Penguin, 2006)
In his follow up book to the better-known ‘Tipping Point’, Gladwell explores the role that instinct plays in ‘making the right call’. It recognises the important work that our unconscious mind does in processing information and that in certain circumstances we need to listen to, what we often call, our intuition. He calls this “thin-slicing”. He observes that this can work for us or against us but in some circumstances our spontaneous gut reaction can be as good as, or even better than, a slower more analytical approach.

Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
(London: Penguin, 2013)
This book was born out of Susan Cain’s life experience of being an introvert and growing up to become an attorney on Wall Street. She observes that in Western cultures extroverted qualities and behaviours are more admired and accepted than introverted ones. And furthermore society is ‘set up’ to play to the strengths of extroverts. She argues that this is not only ‘unfair’ but it means that as a society we risk losing what introverts can bring.

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