3 management books that changed me
16 Feb 2021
Inga Pflaumer

Recently one of my friends asked me for recommendations on good books on team management. I love questions like this because I am a bookworm, and the best way to connect to me is to tell me about the book you've read recently. I read a lot of stuff, but management books have a special place in my heart. Like many others, I came into a leadership role with a lot of personal and cultural baggage. A lot of my management conditioning came from a particular management type that was not applicable anymore. Working in a very diverse cultural environment (shoutout to SMG and Immutable) required me to revise a lot of my old concepts.

In this list, I focus on books that literally turned me around and made me think about management and leadership very differently.

At the top of the list, there’s "Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders" by L. David Marquet. Some context here - being a very controlling person internally and being used to a very controlling management style, I was a helicopter manager for a while. The feedback from the amazing mentors and unsatisfactory results had shown me that this is not the way to get the best out of people. This book explained why I was struggling, and why some of my deep convictions (like "leader controls, oversees, directs, and if the things fall appear without you - you are doing your job properly"), were completely wrong. It was tough for me to turn my own ship around. I had panic attacks when things were not under my control, and letting go of this idea of being the "all-seeing eye of Sauron" was one of the scariest things I had to do in my life.

This book also helped me to form my mojo: leave things better than you've found them.

The second place goes to "Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts" by Brené Brown. I mean, if you don't know who Brené Brown is - go and find out, because she is fantastic. She showed me that leadership is built on communication and collaboration, and not on pushing your will on people. I always saw a good leader as someone who offers no emotions, knows everything and has a flexibility of a tank. It took me a while to allow myself to be human with my subordinates or even co-workers, and I still struggle with it a lot. Vulnerability doesn't come naturally to me because of my cultural and personal background, it is always work in progress. I also recommend reading all Brown's books on vulnerability as I see the ability to accept it and nurture it in yourself and others as an essential leadership quality.

From two books on how to do things, I want to jump to a book on how not to do things. "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable" by Patrick M. Lencioni shows how the results of a helicopter management and a lack of trust (that comes from lack of vulnerability – read Brene’s books, seriously) affect your team. The lack of trust is the foundation of many other problems, for example: If you don't trust your team, you start to push more and control more. The reaction from your team on your push is less trust because you took away power from them. They don't feel ownership anymore; they are not comfortable standing up and saying so because they fear conflicts. The results are lacking, and you push and control more. It is a cycle of issues that reproduces itself again and again until someone finds a way out. Sometimes this way out is to leave the team, which is not good for many reasons.

It is important to note that all three books talk about trust to some extent. It is aligned with my personal goals on becoming a more mindful leader and a person who relies on trust over control. If this is something you're struggling with or something that is of interest to you, I highly recommend these books to evaluate your leadership style and maybe figure out why it's not where you want it to be. Please let me know if you want more recommendations like this. As an avid reader, I have another six books on management in my reading list right now. Happy to recommend the most interesting ones to the current and future leaders in the industry!