What are the best books on leadership for small business owners?
There are a lot of books on leadership, but many seem to talk about leading in larger organizations. I run a small store with a small staff and have limited resources. Which leadership books are best for small business owners like me?
I really enjoyed this book https://www.amazon.com/Turn-Ship-Around-Building-Breaking/dp/0241250943
It's written by an ex-submarine captain about his experiences with changing the dynamic onboard. The lessons can be applied to your staff though.
You have such a broad-brush question that it can be difficult to define a few specific titles. For small business though, I highly recommend E-myth and it's series of follow-up writings- Michael E. Gerber
Also "The Lombardi Rules" by Vince Lombardi was a fantastic read, and not very long.
My strongest recommendation is to find a title you find interesting and read it the first week of every month. Take the next 3 weeks to try and implement the teachings into your business and the way you think.
In the following month, start a new title, and then implement.
Do this for an entire year, you will have implemented 12 new titles, and potentially 12 new habits into your business lifestyle. This practice will change your life.
The Entrepreneur's Solution (Mel Abraham) is a very practical leadership guide. Major sections include the entrepreneur mindset (how to think), influence (how to show up), and impact (how to make your mark) as a leader. It also provides a business blueprint division's on money, marketing and business mechanics. He has some related videos online as well if you are an auditory learner.
Kristy: I'd recommend the "21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" by John C. Maxwell. This is a book on leadership that is focused on you and the size of your business or even if you have a business doesn't matter.
Here are links to 10 of my favorites
You have touched on one of my hot buttons!
I think people should not try to emulate others. No matter how many books I read, I will not be Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Mahatma Ghandi. It is fine to read books about inspiring people and learn concepts and ideas but do not try to be them. You have to be YOU and each of us are unique because we are all made out of our unique experiences and circumstance.
I am proud that every person I have ever had in my team as direct reports has gone on to become senior manager in their respective field. It was great pleasure to take on young ambitious, and smart people and coach them to become the best they could be, but I never tried to make them or mould them to be a “Mini Me”.
Management of people is easy if you have empathy and direction.
Direction is knowing where you want to go and where you want to take your company. It is not about being Rich or Making Money, but it is about the vision of your future. If you cannot clearly see this in your own mind, you cannot communicate it and hence inspire others to make your dreams to become theirs.
Empathy is understanding everyone has different motivators and has a different hot button. Some are motivated by money, some by recognition, some by being part of a team. You need to switch on your radar 24/7 and hone in on what makes each person tick.
Here are some of my pet hates which I never did and I think they are overrated but you will see them all over the standard management books:
1. Town Hall Meeting
In my experience most Town Hall Meeting are a condescending, insincere, and frustrating means of arrogant management to talk AT their staff and tell them where they are heading (usually some of them heading out!)
2. Elevator Pitch
This is when the clueless tell the dummies how the world works in 20 seconds. If things were that simple, then we would all be millionaires, there would be peace in the world, end of hunger, etc. Nothing is that simple. The reason so many companies (large or small) and Governments make massive mistakes is this dreaded “Elevator Pitch”. Companies and Governments make decisions on the briefest of briefs, without understanding the context, and without considering the “Unintended Consequences”. Elevator Pitch should be banned and be an offence punishable by capital punishment!
3. Innovation Workshops
Honesty, no breakthrough product ever came out of these. Innovation, creativity, moments of brilliance come from nowhere and only come when you allow people the space to think, experiment and expand their horizons, enable them to think beyond or think the unthinkable. Weekend in Vegas is not going to achieve this!
Here is what I recommend:
1. Ask for Forgiveness not Permission
In 1990 I joined a Management Buy Out team and our CEO (we call them Managing Director in the UK), asked us “Are you asking for Permission or Forgiveness?” every time any of us went into his office. His view was that he had selected the best in the industry, he had communicated a clear vision and what needed to be done to achieve it, so these intelligent people should be trusted to do the job! Don't make people ask your permission for every single and smallest thing. Let them think and solve problems, you just need to give them the parameters. This makes people feel empowered and teaches them to make decisions, gain confidence, learn and feel part of the success.
2. Only one mistake is allowed
There was a counter balance to this approach. My MD's rule was that you are allowed to make a mistake, but you are not allowed to repeat the same mistake. In this respect he was very harsh as it was 2 strikes and you are out! His point was, if you are not capable of learning from your mistake, then you are a liability. As a small company we could not afford such luxuries.
Remember when you marry someone you also marry their family (sorry we all come with baggage). When you employ people you also are engaged with their family. Be kind, considerate, but don't be a push over. We had 2 family days a year and I mean family days including children and partners. We never had “Employee” only shindigs. Partners were part of the deal (unless they did not want to be). So team building evenings included partners, Christmas lunch or dinner was with partners, awards and incentives included partners. So the family was part of the business and felt passionate and engaged and valued. Just as well since we had to work long hours to survive!
You may ask if we were successful. We went from 69 people to 400 in 3 years. We went from 4% market share of the UK to 20% plus 7% of the European market in 5 years. So much so that Lucent Technologies finally acquired us for over $220m because they could not beat us! Not bad for a company that was sold to the management for $15m.
We also had a time of our life and majority of us still keep in touch as there is a strong bond between us even after all this time, and despite most of us having left and gone on to other pastures. My children now grown up, and have their own children, still talk about THE Family Days. So the force is still with us :-)
So forget books and trust yourself. Be 1st class version of your genuine self rather than a second rate copy of someone else.
All businesses share one common denominator *people*! Books of research that become tools of reference in helping the leader navigate the seas of intrinsic motivators among the diversity of people that are part of the team that adds value to your business. Consider four guiding behavioral principals: safety, efficiency, quality and ethics that shape a forever changing culture of business value. Use a graph that is horizontal (not vertical) as value flows horizontal influence behavioral changes to flow in parallel to the horizontal flow of value. Sure, there will be times where things in parallel cross over each other; the challenge is to bring them back into a parallel flow.
Books that discuss the tools of influence are very good tools that can be applied in different scenarios because of different stimulus. The recent work of Bill Collins "Good to Great" is a good book to explore for concepts that are applicable to leading people the size of business is not relative while the size of the group may contribute in how to apply the tools.
To understand people and draw on ideas free of bias the work of Dr Maxwell Maltz "Psycho-Cybernetics" is a great tool of reference for understanding how to trigger a response in working with the intrinsic motivators among people. The research on leading people is evolving more rapidly today because of technology than ever before. P2P (people to people) skills are building a challenge of change related too; working and living in harmony than we have ever known. "Management Task and Responsibilities" by Peter Drucker, "The Leadership Challenge" by Kouzes and Posner, "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" by John C. Maxwell, "Influencer" by Grenny, Patterson, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler, are a few more books along the lines of leadership tools. Unfortunately, it does not stop there "Leadership Skills" has and will for ever evolve because of change.
In Search of Excellence by Waters and Peterman is in my opinion the best
Dear Kirsty, I understand that your business is currently small, and I am sure you aspire to be big one day. Honestly speaking, leadership is something which you can always learn thru common sense and a practical outlook. You do not need a book to identify your goals, take care of your staff and manage your resources. No book can teach you the day to day stuff which you deal with. I suggest you take a while to introspect on the few areas each day - (1) have I set the right directions for my staff (2) have I treated them well (3) have I been just with my money (4) have I done something new today (5) where can "we" go from here?
Asking and answering these 5 questions every day will help you handle any "leadership" challenges you face. Hope this helps. In case you still wish to know of a book, I will recommend "Winner's Dream" by Bill McDermott. There is much to take away from it.