8 Books To Read If You’re A First-Time Manager

Whether you're a first-time manager, or someone already at the top of their game, here are eight must-reads that will inspire you to become a better leader.

By Lara Robertson


Whether you're a first-time manager, or someone already at the top of their game, here are eight must-reads that will inspire you to become a better leader.

By Lara Robertson


Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates You by Daniel H. Pink

Drive tells you to forget everything you think you know about motivating others – because it’s wrong. Pink argues the “carrot and stick” approach adopted by many businesses – that is, offering pay rises and punishments to encourage good behaviour – isn’t actually that effective, and encourages employees to take shortcuts. Drawing on four decades of scientific research, Pink argues that the secret to improving performance and motivation is focusing on three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

“Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.”


Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

You might already be familiar with some of researcher Dr. Brené Brown’s fantastic TED Talks, but her book Daring Greatly is required reading for anyone stepping into a leadership role. Based on twelve years of research, the book challenges negative stereotypes about vulnerability, arguing that it is not a sign of weakness, but is actually the clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”


How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

An oldie but a goodie, Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People has stood the test of time since its publication in 1932. Carnegie’s main argument – that you will achieve better outcomes and form a better relationship with others by being positive, showing your appreciation and being empathetic rather than critical – has been backed up by a number of studies, so you know it’s good advice!

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.”


Radical Candor: Be A Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott

Earning her stripes as a manager at Google and Apple, Kim Scott knows what she’s talking about when it comes to dealing with people. Scott argues that managers can find success by embracing what she calls “radical candor”: the middle ground between managers who are ruthlessly aggressive and those who are overly meek and empathetic.

“Make sure that you are seeing each person on your team with fresh eyes every day. People evolve, and so your relationships must evolve with them. Care personally; don’t put people in boxes and leave them there.”


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

As one of former US President Barack Obama’s favourite books, Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast And Slow is required reading for everyone. Describing two different types of thinking – slow and fast – Kahneman exposes the capabilities and shortfalls of fast thinking, showing how you can tap into a slower, more thoughtful way of thinking to improve your personal and professional life.

“Confidence is a feeling, which reflects the coherence of the information and the cognitive ease of processing it. It is wise to take admissions of uncertainty seriously, but declarations of high confidence mainly tell you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true.”


Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

The Facebook COO’s “sort of feminist manifesto” for navigating the workplace as a woman has attracted its fair share of criticism and praise. Sandberg talks about her own experiences of sexism throughout her high-profile career to show how other women can help themselves by “leaning in” in the workplace and overcoming the fear of asking for a promotion, a raise, or equal pay.

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”


The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

From Pixar to the US Navy’s SEAL Team Six, Daniel Coyle reveals the secrets of highly-successful (and not-so-successful) teams, providing a toolkit that readers can use to build a cohesive, innovative and productive workplace. The Culture Code outlines specific strategies that encourage learning, collaboration, foster trust, and push for positive change.

“Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust—it precedes it. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialize beneath our feet.”


Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

It’s not exactly a book that first springs to mind when thinking about becoming a better manager, but Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ personal diaries contain a number of wise lessons on leadership, morality and self-discipline. As one of the greatest works of philosophy of all time, Meditations is a book that continues to inspire generations of leaders and thinkers.

“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”

Disclosure: When you purchase an independently chosen book through our website, we earn an affiliate commission

Future Women is a club dedicated to the advancement of women through events, quality journalism and connecting like-minded women. To read more articles like this, sign up to become a member for less than the cost of a coffee per week.