Great Managers Read Books
Long ago someone asked me what helped me grow the most as a technical leader.
My answer was immediate: reading management books.
I started reading these books only after I exhausted my network of advice on how to manage effectively. I noticed people borrowing ideas they learned from books, and eventually, I started buying some of these books.1
Reading books on management provides a few advantages:
- Centers your perspective away from the immediate problem.
- Removes hidden biases from your assumptions.2
- Broadens your language for describing complex situations. I can’t stress this one enough: developing ways to label interactions and situations can be a big help– it’s also what people expect from a great manager.
- Reading is random-access and happens at your pace. No matter how good a note-taker you are in a management training seminar, it’s no match for being able to skim a chapter from an established author and slow-read an important section.
- It is cheap. If you think $40 is a lot for a book, consider the cost of management training or coaching.3
Finally, I find books to be great center points for discussion with others to tackle shared challenges. Rather than reacting to each other, reading and then reacting/discussing the ideas in a book together can be a great way to begin collaborative discussions, as well as build a shared understanding.4
All the above is great but will only happen if you develop the habit over time.
That part is up to you.
Most management challenges are not domain-specific, as I discovered. ↩︎
Learning from your peers is helpful, but can also be an echo chamber. ↩︎
Management training is great, but don’t wait for it. It’s never a good idea to hinge your career on employer-provided materials. ↩︎
This happens even if everyone completely disagrees with concepts in the book. The point of a book isn’t to be told what to do. It’s to understand its lessons and develop a more informed perspective. You can get that even if you disagree with the author. ↩︎