Transcend’s Top Leadership Books for 2020

Continuous learning is something we live at Transcend. To keep your brain fueled in the world of leadership, here’s our list of must-read leadership books for 2020:

A letter from our CEO:

When I invest time in learning, I want to ensure there is a strong ability to implement what I am digesting. Across our work with CEOs, I’ve noticed the sharpest and most cutting-edge leaders maintain a very short gap between learning and implementation. As leaders in business, we don’t have the luxury of learning for learning’s sake. We learn to evolve, keep a competitive edge, and understand what practices lead to exceptional performance. Because of this desire to learn and implement, most of my reads are steeped in research and relate to the tactical side of leadership. I’m also keenly aware that leaders require growth that nourishes peace of mind and purpose beyond business, therefore I also find books from happiness and purpose experts to expand my philosophies and stay grounded in the bigger picture. I hope you enjoy these reads.

Craig Wiley

Tim’s Recommendations

Deep Work by Cal Newport

This book teaches the concepts and skills necessary for the type of focus and concentration required by professional work (strategic, creative, and analytical). It is the opposite of what society pushes us towards (tweets, multi-tasking, answering emails, etc.). The author also gives practical rules for embracing and adopting deep work into your daily life.

The Surprising Science of Meetings by Steven Rogelberg 

Through the acknowledgement of meetings being a productivity drain, you can begin to improve them through critically evaluating facilitation skills and attendee experiences. You’ll learn how to focus on making participants direct owners of agenda items, invite less people, and make the environment match the outcomes. Rogelberg’s framework will help you make meetings meaningful and productive.

Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz

Entrepreneurs too commonly spend more hours on their business than their employees. This book provides processes to design your business and your time from being a doer to being a leader. Any business, no matter how unique, can operate independently from its owner; giving back time to the leader to spend on the things they love.

Jaci’s Recommendations

Brand for Talent by Shumann and Sartain

The need-to-knows on how to attract the right talent and maximize talent potential once they walk in the door. The biggest opportunity to capitalize on an employee’s engagement is in the beginning of their journey with us. From attracting top talent to winning the hiring game to staying true to who we claimed to be during the interview during onboarding, it is essential to have a talent brand. Brand for Talent is an easy read with a lot of great modern-day insights.

A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better than the Competition by Margaret Heffernan

This read explores a different way to go about getting results that matter through innovation, connection, and creativity. I found the book challenges the assumption that competition is the only way to win, and challenges us, as leaders, to find ways to use purposeful collaboration to drive performance.

Willful Blindness – Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril by Margaret Heffernan

This read is about how mindful, intentional, and proactive challenge of assumptions and biases can change outcomes. I love how Margaret Heffernan pushes our boundaries and challenges the status quo in this book to help us understand and identify human behaviors that lead to ignoring what is right in front of us.

Craig’s Recommendations

Good to Great by Jim Collins

By far one of the best business books I have read that spans the dynamics of leadership, business focus, and longitudinal success. The research and principles within this book will stand the test of time because they focus on core performance dynamics, staying away from opinion and trends absent of research. Good to Great is a book that we have not only facilitated strategy sessions that highlight or reinforce its concepts, but several of my clients have not only used this book for executive group studies. If you want to drive focus in your business and leadership, begin with this read.

HBR and HBR 10 Must-Reads

I must confess. I am an HBR junkie. Over the years I have accumulated a massive stack of HBR magazines, and I often design executive dialogs around the best practices discussed within my HBR trove. I always encourage our coaching clients to read each issue cover to cover. As an executive, if finding time to consume high-quality content is the challenge, HBR is not only the solution, but my go-to source. Staying with one source of information over time naturally highlights the trends in business. For me, it provides affirmation that Transcend has been on, or ahead, of the curve in delivering outcomes within the realm of leadership, talent, and transformational business performance. My other secret: the HBR 10 Must-Reads, which are the top ten articles in a topic area. I find them perfect for the executive who wants to study up in a specific area of business.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams

This book is an exceptional read. Diving into the way we live our lives and the challenges and wins that ensue based on our thoughts and actions. It sparks reflection into what we value, prioritize, and what we allow to consume our mindsets and influence our actions. The Book of Joy acts as a counterbalance for the executive lifestyle, where leaders are constantly leading transformation and striving for exceptional outcomes. Topics in this book span from loneliness, personal responsibility, emotion, attachment to outcomes, compassion, and the larger meaning of life. If you read one self-improvement book this year, this should be it.

Chelsea’s Recommendations

The Third Domain of Organizational Excellence: The People Side of Business by Thomas J. DeMaio and Lee E. Hersch

I loved this read for many reasons, but primarily because it focuses on how to create stronger teams through recognizing and embracing diversity in the workplace. One thing I found particularly interesting is the degree to which the book focuses on psychological aspects of both leader and employee that either enhance or hinder working relationships.

How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith

Although women in leadership is becoming more prevalent in our society, women face unique barriers in reaching the top. Through analyzing copious amounts of research and years of experience in the fields of organizational consulting and coaching, Helgesen and Goldsmith pinpoint the reasons women often struggle to reach or maintain high level leadership positions. The authors discuss easy, specific ways women can reach their goals that have proven to be game-changing for aspiring female leaders.

Elliott’s Recommendations

The One Thing by Gary Keller

This is a great book that highlights the need for prioritization around doing the one thing that matters most to moving the needle in your business and life. The author gives many practical tips the reader can apply immediately to create capacity to achieve desired results.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

A renowned book and leadership classic, outlining the pitfalls teams face as they grow together. Readers will walk away with critical reflection tools to evaluate where their teams are at, but will also have practical tips to improve important aspects of leadership like trust, accountability, and results.

Drive by Daniel Pink

This read focuses on increasing autonomy, mastery, and purpose in people’s lives. Readers will explore the psychology of what motivates people, walking away with practical applications to empower others to become their best selves.

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