Some people argue that reading is a lost art, but after perusing this list of must-read management books, you won’t be able to choose which one to pick up first!
Management is a complex topic, but each of these books takes a personable (and sometimes light-hearted) tone that implores you to get excited about the many challenges you will face in management. Realistically, some of those challenges might stretch you far beyond your comfort zone, while others help you find your stride as a manager. But all of the challenges presented in between these pages will encourage you to seriously think about the kind of manager you want to be and present you with the tools you need to have a lasting impact on every professional you meet.
Most popular and widely celebrated management books
Some bestsellers get pushed aside simply because people fear they might be overrated, but not these three. Each of these compelling books about management (and related topics, such as self-development and coaching) are popular and widely-celebrated for a reason.
Management book 1: Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know — Adam Grant
If you follow organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant almost anywhere on the web, you know he’s known for dropping gems on improving the workplace. But it is this #1 New York Times bestseller that really solidifies Grant as an authoritative voice in the management and organizational development space. Revered by fellow authors, theorists, and psychologists, Think Again explores ways people can question their own opinions, unlearn old, less effective ways of doing things, and relearn new approaches that prioritize workplace satisfaction. To put it simply, Think Again is just what managers need to really spark positive change at any stage of their careers.
Management book 2: The Four Agreements — Don Miguel Ruiz
Although not touted as a management book, The Four Agreements presents a set of personal commitments that can drastically change your approach to management. For instance, the third agreement is “don’t make assumptions,” which is central to effective management. Managers who avoid making assumptions about their teams’ needs or abilities can reduce friction in the workplace, boost engagement, and foster stronger communication. And if that doesn’t sell you on the book, which has also been lauded by Oprah Winfrey, Ruiz’ assertion that the most important agreements are those we make with ourselves is a reminder for managers to master integrity and mindfulness before trying to lead others. It’s no wonder this management book stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a decade.
Management book 3: The Coaching Habit — Michael Bungay Stanier
Since its release in 2016, The Coaching Habit has earned rave reviews from leaders in learning and development, global performance, human resources, and similar fields. Perhaps it’s the seven essential coaching questions that author Michael Bungay Stanier outlines, which managers can use to enhance work with their teams. Or, it could be Stanier’s fresh take on coaching as a daily practice rather than an occasional effort that has won over so many readers. In any case, The Coaching Habit is a must-have in your arsenal of management books.
Best management books by and for women
Women not only excel in management, but they have a special way of capturing their life lessons and career experiences in books, too! In each of these management books, women with diverse career experiences are speaking directly to other women about how to succeed in professional spaces that often leave us out. In doing so, they offer their unique perspectives and integrate many of the universal feelings women in the workplace share at one point or another. These reads are handy, relatable, and too good to pass up!
Perhaps one of the most captivating aspects of Brass Ovaries is that it appeals to women across age groups and backgrounds. This is particularly important (and timely) as our job market calls for greater diversity and women over aged 55 will double their presence in the workforce by 2024. What’s more, Smith’s extensive background in assessing and transforming workplace culture positions her to offer a unique take on how women can successfully navigate the workplace to achieve their goals.
Management book 5: Run to Win — Stephanie Schriock
When Stephanie Schriock says “Run to Win,” she means it. A seasoned political strategist, Schriock has advocated for women to run for elected office and aided major political campaigns along the way, including Hillary Clinton’s memorable 2016 run for U.S. president. Since 2010, Schriock has channeled much of her political experience into her role as president of EMILY’s List, which has been described as one of the largest resources for women in politics. While this isn’t exactly a book to “cozy up” with (you’ll end up feeling way too motivated to sit still for long), it is certainly one that you can use to re-energize yourself, refocus your goals, and learn a thing or two about what it’s like to navigate the male-dominated world of politics (and how to translate that to almost any work environment).
Management book 6: Get Over ‘I Got It’ — Elayne Fluker
Way too often, women are told that they can be successful without doing it all by themselves, but they are seldom told how to do that. Elayne Fluker stands in the gap by sharing her own story along with the experiences of other women who have found themselves in similar situations. Fluker’s encouraging words may be best suited for managers who are trying to find balance while wearing multiple hats or juggling roles that often intersect, whether that’s at work, at home, or in social settings.
Read more: 9 Essays All Working Women Should Read
Best management books written by famous leaders
Whether you’re a top-rated manager with lots of experience under your belt or a new leader who’s just getting your foot in the door, we all have to start somewhere. That’s true for famous leaders, too. They didn’t start out famous, so sometimes, it’s nice to hear from them about their successes, failures, and all the lessons they’ve learned in-between.
Management book 7: Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change — Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams is one of the strongest leaders of our time. You may have noticed that she leads quietly and peacefully, igniting change in a way that progressive yet powerful without ever raising her voice—and that’s just from what we see on TV. But Abrams’ poise is also undeniable in this book, which feels more like a chat with a mentor than a management “how-to.” Per usual, Abrams’ strategy for making “real change '' starts with talking to real people; namely, those who are marginalized and often ousted from leadership positions and decision-making processes, even though they are most impacted by said decisions. An easy yet impactful read, Abrams truly speaks to “women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and millennials ready to make a difference.”
Management book 8: Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. — Brené Brown
Brené Brown’s name alone carries with it years of thought-provoking commentary on empathy and how it fits into our lives and careers. The renowned author, speaker, and professor reinforces the value of empowering anyone to lead in the workplace regardless of job title. Beyond that, she equates “daring leadership” to a human-centered approach; one that new and existing managers as well as employees at all levels can use to refine their management skills through the lens of vulnerable, honest leadership.
Management book 9: Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ — Daniel Goleman
The importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) in the workplace cannot be overstated, particularly in this management book—another New York Times bestseller—where Daniel Goleman asserts that EQ is equally as important as IQ, if not more so. Originally published in 1995, it’s safe to say that Goleman’s take on EQ was ahead of its time. In the book, Goleman highlights the importance of recognizing and managing emotions as a form of intelligence that is necessary at work, but also in your interpersonal relationships outside of work. This book will likely come in handy for you if you want to keep the needs of your people at the heart of your management style, take into account how employees feel, and consider how those feelings guide their behavior and decision-making on an ongoing basis.
Best management books written for new managers
Technically, there’s no right or wrong way to manage. Sure, there are things you could (and probably should) be doing along the way, but everyone’s management style is different. In fact, they’re so different that it can be difficult to figure out what you should be focusing on, especially in your early years as a manager. These books help you narrow down which management issues to prioritize and what you need to know about them. But these books can also help reveal a lot about you, how you lead, and what it means to motivate people at work, build high-performing teams, and foster connections with people. If you’re a new or aspiring manager, this section of the list is just for you (with an extra book to make sure you crush your new manager role).
Management book 10: The First-Time Manager – Loren B Belker, Jim McCormick, and Gary S Topchik
This collaboration between a business executive, a C-suite leader in management, and a professional skydiver who specializes in risk-taking draws upon decades of collective experience to guide new managers in leading effectively. Covering everything from the hiring process to managing team performance, The First-Time Manager is good for budding leaders who want to understand the fundamental aspects of management.
Management book 11: Wait, I'm the Boss?!?: The Essential Guide for New Managers to Succeed from Day One — Peter Economy
Much like the previous book, Wait, I'm the Boss?!? is one of those books that brand new managers reach for when they want to tackle the basics. But this book just might take it a step further by also diving into handling employee terminations, building company culture, and rewarding your employees.
Still not sold? It has a 4.5 rating on Amazon and is even said to be useful for experienced managers as well as new managers who are new to the game.
Management book 12: The Making of a Manager — Julie Zhuo
The Making of a Manager might sound like a one-size-fits-all management book, but Zhou proves early on that she’s talking to more than just one type of manager. Drawing from her experience of stepping into a management role at age 25 (and not having the slightest clue how to actually manage), Zhou details her hands-on experience of trying to figure it all out while already in a management role. But one of my favorite parts? Zhou’s thoughts on how managers can identify great talent, even if the candidate didn’t interview so well. This is one of those things no one thinks to tell you, but is really useful for a new manager.
Management book 13: Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity — Kim Malone Scott
Are you a new manager who’s wondering how you’re going to earn respect without sacrificing the human part of management? If so, you’re not alone. A lot of new managers struggle with whether they want to be seen as a friendly manager who speaks openly with their direct reports or a tough-as-nails leader who employees are scared to cross. Luckily, Kim Malone Scott lays out a few ways that managers can do a bit of both—with great results. Scott draws upon her experiences working at Google and Apple, so if you’re interested in working with one of these heavyweights in the startup space (or a similar company), you might find it beneficial to hear from someone who’s been there and done that.
Best management books written for managers of color
Essentially, these books are well-written pieces that are great for any manager from any background. But they’re written with people of color in mind, and with good reason. Managers of color are often tasked with overcoming hurdles in the workplace that other managers never encounter, so if you’re seeking a voice that can speak to these kinds of struggles (or wanting to learn more about what the Black and Brown managers in your company face), dive into these.
Management book 14: The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women — Elaine Brown, Marsha Haygood, and Rhonda Joy McLean
Most principles of management are universal but The Little Black Book of Success raises a few that Black women are disproportionately exposed to, such as the “angry Black woman” trope. Chances are you will do just fine learning to assert yourself in your role, but you should be able to do so without worrying that your colleagues will see you as aggressive or angry. If you do experience this (or just want to stay ahead of the game), consult The Little Black Book.
Management book 15: The Memo: What Women of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table — Minda Harts
Cleverly named after the age-old office communication, The Memo provides advice for women of color at work that is both practical and outside-the-box. One Amazon reviewer even credits author Minda Harts with packing a lot of helpful information into the book, which she says, “accomplished so much in its 40 pages.” This is an ideal gift for an entry or mid-level professional who wants to decode some of the office politics that come up for so many women.
Management book 16: More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say) — Elaine Welteroth
Don’t you just love Elaine Welteroth’s energy? The journalist who so many people have found themselves drawn to gracefully transitioned from her post as editor-in-chief at Teen Vogue in 2018 to take on a number of admirable endeavors, including a stint on daytime (and primetime) television. One of her most notable works thus far, though, is her 2019 memoir, in which Welteroth divulges how she has navigated complex, high-profile workspaces that were designed to keep people like her out. This book, which has been labeled “a must read,” “inspiring,” and “eye-opening,” offers advice that you would get from a cool big sister or a close friend you cherish, set against Welteroth’s upbringing in a multicultural family, impressive career, and ongoing journey to advocate for herself and remember her worth.