The 13 Best Management Books for Aspiring Leaders

Anyone who's ever tried to learn how to be a good manager knows how hard it is to fully grasp the nuances of the role. Yet, good people management has the power to lower workplace stress, improve morale, and reduce turnover. A solid leadership strategy and support system may even extend your lifespan by three to five years, according to a study linking health to high-pressure positions.

While effective leadership runs on simple principles, there’s a difference between understanding these concepts and experiencing them in action. It takes more than a high-level explanation to inspire meaningful action and lasting change, especially when coaching those who will handle future training.

Learning from some of the best management books and articles can help you internalize the wisdom that lies inside key people management topics and prepare you to pass those insights on to your employees.

BambooHR helps businesses of all sizes cultivate thriving work environments with award-winning HR software. In this article, we'll review why expanding your knowledge in this area is important and provide reading recommendations for managers who want to develop into impactful leaders.

How Top People Management Books Can Help You Refine Your Management Style

Your management style will profoundly affect your company culture. For example, autocratic leaders make decisions alone and demand unwavering loyalty from their employees, which often leads to low morale and a powerless employee experience. While decision-making may be slower for democratic leaders, an environment built on inclusivity and collaboration translates to greater employee satisfaction, less stress, and increased wellbeing.

For employees to engage with your ideas for a great workplace experience, they need to know how the decisions your organization makes fit together—from the top level of leadership to their closest coworkers. These decisions and the actions that follow determine your workplace environment, so being intentional and consistent helps your organization create a culture of its choice instead of a culture of chance.

As you read through people management books, it’s important to remember that even the best strategies will still need to be tailored for your specific workplace, industry, and goals. Instead of taking sections from books and presenting them as etched-in-stone rules, spend time uncovering the principles behind the lessons. Ask yourself how each team in your organization can benefit from these principles, or, even better, have a conversation with your leadership team exploring the culture you want to build.

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13 of the Best Books on Managing People

This list of popular business management books is by no means exhaustive. We hope you'll use this assortment as a starting point on your own leadership journey or help your employees refine their management style.

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

by Julie Zhuo

Management is about more than just checking off a long list of to-dos. You’ll have to toss the boss mentality and learn to build trust with your reports, find answers when they’re scarce, and see people for who they truly are. This guide is perfect for management veterans, rookies, and hopefuls looking for practical advice, everyday examples, and transformative insights to help them lead with confidence and become the manager they always wished they had.

StrengthsFinder 2.0

by Gallup and Tom Rath

Becoming a great manager is all about tapping into your natural talents. But do you know what these talents are? StrengthsFinder 2.0 fills that gap, helping today’s managers discover what they’re best at and uncover their true management style. With this information, you’ll learn to lead from an authentic place and gain the trust, respect, and appreciation of your employees along the way.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

by Stephen R. Covey

This seminal book by Stephen R. Covey lists seven practices that promote personal effectiveness. Covey’s insights include how to focus on outcomes, methods of effective prioritization, developing connections with others, and balancing work, home, and personal responsibilities.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You

by John C. Maxwell

In this book, John C. Maxwell provides an extensive exploration of leadership behaviors with stories to give context. When asked about the most important leadership principle, Maxwell gives a succinct answer: “The one thing you need to know about leadership is that there is more than one thing you need to know about leadership!”

The Remix: How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace

by Lindsey Pollak

Today's managers are leading workforces made up of people from several generations, each with distinct values, expectations, and professional styles. In this book, Lindsey Pollak uses recent data and her own research to provide sound strategies business leaders can use to navigate generational diversity and create a more inclusive work environment.

Do you know someone you would like to change and regulate and improve? Good! ... But why not begin on yourself?
Dale Carnegie, Author and Lecturer

The Leader's Guide to Unconscious Bias: How to Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-Performing Teams

by Pamela Fuller et al.

Unconscious bias can surface in unexpected ways, especially at work. This book discusses how to identify bias and provides tools to help you reframe your outlook and meaningfully connect with others. Leaders at all levels can use this insightful management book to nurture greater empathy, curiosity, and belonging in the workplace.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

by Daniel H. Pink

Understanding humans starts with understanding the basics of human behavior, and meeting these motivational needs takes more than a carrot-and-stick approach. In this book, Daniel H. Pink presents better ways to match management practices with three core human needs: the need to direct our own lives, the need to learn and create, and the need for improvement.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business

by Charles Duhigg

Developing a proactive workforce requires understanding the strong nature of habitual reactions. In this book, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg provides scientific explanations behind identifying and changing habits. He also offers anecdotes on how the right habits influenced the success of several prominent individuals and organizations, including Michael Phelps, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Target stores.

Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win

by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Drawing on their experience leading a SEAL task unit in reclaiming the city of Ramadi in war-torn Iraq, authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin share the mindset and principles that enable this elite military group to accomplish the most difficult combat missions and explain how these principles can apply to any leadership environment.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High

by Joseph Grenny et al.
All too often, progress stops right where employees leave difficult things unsaid. This book walks through the emotional reactions involved in high-stakes situations and provides insights into how employees can create intellectual and emotional safety in their conversations.

Fun Fact: This book is so insightful that BambooHR furnishes a copy to every new hire! For more tips on how to navigate crucial conversations, read 12 Ways to Make Your 1-on-1 Meetings More Effective.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

by Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie passed on in 1955, but the wisdom in this book has influenced generations as they make connections, persuade others, and encourage positive change. He provides this important perspective: “Do you know someone you would like to change and regulate and improve? Good! That is fine. I am all in favor of it. But why not begin on yourself?”

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't

by Simon Sinek

Some teams build deep trust with one another regardless of the mission in front of them. Others will never pull together no matter what you say, do, or give. The difference maker is a leader who's willing to make sacrifices for the team. The BambooHR team was pleased to welcome Simon Sinek as a keynote speaker at our HR Virtual Summit, and this connection—along with the insights in Sinek’s book—has contributed to a positive workplace culture.

Inclusify: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams

by Stefanie K. Johnson

How do you strike a balance between celebrating individuality and nurturing a cohesive sense of belonging? Creating diverse teams can help employees feel empowered, accepted, and valued. In Inclusify, Stefanie Johnson details how to make sustained, continuous progress in your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and propel your company forward.

Bonus: Best Blogs on Managing People

Learning how to manage people is key to building a workplace culture that drives true, lasting success. In addition to the resources provided above, here are four blogs to help you improve your people management skills:

People Management Books Help You Shape Your Organization

As you work toward becoming the best manager you can be, you must do more than simply read these books. Use them as resources to dial in on your management style and improve your people skills. As you do, you’ll see that your organization can develop a culture that employees love being a part of, with lower turnover rates and increased team morale, productivity, and wellbeing.

In this respect, the best books on managing people are also some of the best books for HR professionals. Learning from these books and consulting with the members of your leadership team can help you provide the employee experience that paves the way to success.

For more people management ideas, read 11 Leadership Lessons From Today’s Top People Managers.

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