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I began my career in the 1980s as a C and database programmer working for several different Wall Street firms. The primary management technique was a command and control management paradigm. This resulted in strong, and perhaps somewhat narcissistic, leaders that drove projects forward and lived the mantra “No Pain, No Gain.” It produced a Type A, “take no prisoners” attitude. Work was ruled by aggressive timelines. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were eaten at the office desk and washed down by cup after cup of Jolt and Mountain Dew.
Burnout rates were high. As time went on, I knew I had to change the pace. I moved to the suburbs and became a software development manager.
With no formal management training, I took a management class at the American Management Association. The class was inspiring and a great place for me to start my managerial path. After I finished the class, my manager gave me a copy of “The Servant Leader,” the first of five books on my list of essential books for any manager.
“The Servant Leader: How to Build a Creative Team, Develop Great Morale, and Improve Bottom-Line Performance” by James A. Autry
This book gives a clear blueprint on how to develop yourself into a great leader. It shows a way to be a compassionate leader and at the same time contribute to the financial success of the company. Since reading this book as part of my “paying it forward,” I have recommended this book and given some as gifts to as many people who aspire to become managers.
To be a great servant leader, you must be able to have open and authentic conversations. A true dialog where both parties feel safe are able to be vulnerable, accepting, and present is difficult. Instead of engaging in critical conversations when needed, a good manager must be able to have critical discussions.
“Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler
This is the perfect book for any manager, new or seasoned, to learn solid techniques on how to engage in conversations. This book can be used in any situation, not only when the stakes are high. The book is not only a good read by yourself but is also great to do in a small group setting. There are lots of exercises in each chapter that will give you the skills you need to gain confidence to engage with anyone, especially when the situation may not be the most comfortable.
“Beautiful Teams: Inspiring and Cautionary Tales from Veteran Team Leaders” by Andrew Stellman, and Jennifer Greene
What’s the end goal of managing? How can you as a manager make people feel valued and part of a team? For a look at what’s involved in team building and what the end results are, I recommend this book. It is a roadmap on how to create great teams and some of the pitfalls to avoid along the way.
“Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone” by Satya Nadella
This is a powerful example of a leader using all his creativity and resourcefulness to guide his company through troubling times. It is inspiring not only because of his success but also in his humanity in doing so. It proves that success can be achieved without sacrificing the well-being of others.
My last book recommendation is one that has a foundation in spirituality and at the same time offers concrete ways of building peace and harmony in the world. In line with the theme of this article, becoming a great manager is a journey in becoming a better person. It is a lifetime journey and having good books to guide us is a must.
“Creating the Culture of Peace: A Clarion Call for Individual and Collective Transformation” by Anwarul K. Chowdhury and Daisaku Ikeda
This is an inspiring dialog between these two individuals striving to build a better world. Read as they discuss the challenges unfolding at local, national, and global levels and how these relate to humanity's quest for peace, human security, and happiness.
Regard these books as an essential core of your library as you continue on your quest to become a great manager. These books will guide you to becoming a better manager and leader. They will give you new energy in working together with others in your company in a spirit of cooperation and entrepreneurship.
Our founder Imtiaz Mohammady believes that the way we treat each other matters and has bolstered up a culture of caring about more than just business success. Nisum has created a transparent community that gives everyone access to leadership and forums for our community to share ideas and give feedback because we value an inclusive and integrated workplace where we all can succeed.
Additionally, we invest in a wide range of learning and development tracks that cover subjects from professional development to global citizenry because we care for our people, clients, communities, and planet. I invite you to learn more about Nisum and its culture.