Great Managers Read Books


Long ago someone asked me what helped me grow the most as a technical leader. My answer was immediate: reading books about management.

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 myself.

Reading books on management1 provides a few advantages:

  1. Centers your perspective away from the immediate problem.
  2. Removes hidden biases from your assumptions.2
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 of the above is great, but it will only happen if you develop the habit over time.

That part is up to you.

  1. Most management challenges are not domain-specific, as I discovered. ↩︎

  2. Learning from your peers is helpful, but can also be an echo chamber. ↩︎

  3. Management training is great, but don’t wait for it. It’s never a good idea to hinge your career on employer-provided materials. ↩︎

  4. 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. ↩︎