11 Best Management Books to Read in 2021

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December 17, 2020

Hello bookworms! You discovered our list of useful management books.

Management books are resources that outline how to handle common managerial situations. For example: interviewing and hiring, assigning projects and teams, monitoring progress, delivering feedback or discipline, and containing crises. These books teach the technical skills and practical approaches necessary for guiding employees and achieving desired results.

Management books are similar to leadership books and employee engagement books.

This article includes:

  • management books for new managers
  • project management books
  • business management books
  • management books on communication

Plus more great advice for managers looking to build skills.

Get your highlighters handy, because these books are full of useful information.

List of management books

From advice for new managers to guides for difficult discussions, here is a list of books that teach how to be a great manager.

1. How to Think More Effectively: A guide to greater productivity, insight and creativity by Alain de Boton

How to Think More Effectively

While this entry does not fall exclusively into the category of business management books, How to Think More Effectively optimizes thought processes in ways that greatly benefit bosses. Managers need to think clearly and strategically, and this guide from The School of Life teaches readers how to adopt productive mindsets. How to Think More Effectively is a mindful approach to mindsets, training readers to be more aware of different ways of thinking.

Notable Quote: “There is a fundamental distinction to be made between two kinds of thinking: figuring out what we would like to achieve, and working out how to achieve it.”

Buy How to Think More Effectively.

2. Solve Employee Problems Before They Start: Resolving Conflict in the Real World by Scott Warrick

Solve Employee Problems

Solve Employee Problems Before They Start applies a three-pronged approach to mitigating and mediating workplace clashes: empathetic listening, parroting, and rewarding. Employment law attorney and conflict-resolution guru Scott Warrick advocates an emotionally intelligent management technique that aims to assure teammates you understand and care about their plight before reaching a workable solution. Acknowledging and honoring employee emotions increases the likelihood of a situation de-escalating rather than escalating, and improves the probability of satisfaction on all sides. Warrick pioneered a method he calls “Verbal Jeet” that treats conflict as a battle winnable by means of strategy and planning.

Notable Quote: “Solutions stem from our mutual interests and goals. That is where we find our common ground, and when we can see where the true common ground lies, solutions emerge.”

Buy Solve Employee Problems Before They Start.

3. Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos by Jeff Bezos and Walter Isaacson

Invent & Wander

Invent and Wander collects the correspondence, speeches, and guiding philosophies of Jeff Bezos together into a primer on innovative, next-level, large-scale management. The book sorts Bezos’ musings into chapters with titles like:

  • Thinking About Finance
  • Making Decisions
  • Growing New Businesses
  • Setting Goals
  • Building a Culture of High Standards
  • Thinking Three Years Out
  • Work-Life Harmony
  • Competition

Part autobiography, part self-help book, Invent and Wander spans a wide array of situations entrepreneurs encounter through the lens of Bezos’ impressive empire and accomplishments. Although the book merely gathers pre-existing pieces of advice, performances, and memorandums, few readers could deny the fact that Jeff Bezos has experienced a wide management spectrum spanning multiple industries.

Buy Invent and Wander.

4. The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo

The Making of a Manager

Early in her career, Julie Zhuo became a Facebook executive. As a new manager in her mid-twenties, Zhou found herself at times overwhelmed by the amount of skills to master, lessons to learn, and seemingly endless questions to answer. After a decade leading teams in Silicon Valley, Zhou penned her own guide to help freshly-minted managers feel more confident in new roles of responsibility. The Making of a Manager tackles topics such as qualities and behaviors that distinguish excellent managers from mediocre managers, navigating interviews, building rapport with teams, vanquishing doubt, and appearing composed and competent under pressure. Written from the perspective of a young leader, The Making of a Manager is one of the best management books for new managers.

Notable Quote: “That is the crux of management: It is the belief that a team of people can achieve more than a single person going it alone. It is the realization that you don’t have to do everything yourself, or even know how to do everything yourself. Your job, as a manager, is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together. It’s from this simple definition that everything else flows.”

Buy The Making of a Manager.

5. How to Be a Great Boss by Gino Wickman and René Boer

How to be a Great Boss

How To Be a Great Boss is a master course in employee engagement best practices, providing tools and suggestions for earning goodwill, trust, and respect from employees while still accomplishing goals and achieving results. The book breaks down basics such as:

  • How to surround yourself with great people
  • How to make more effective use of your time
  • How to create accountability
  • How to deal with direct reports that don’t meet your expectations

The book also outlines five essential management practices and leadership practices, respectively.

By following the advice laid forth by Wickman and Boer, managers can avoid staff disconnection and disengagement, delegate effectively, unlock the true potential of teams, and become a beloved boss for whom staff willingly travels the extra mile.

Notable Quote: “We’re facing a crisis that is not just measured by a lack of opportunity for the workforce, but also by the lack of enthusiasm that the workforce has for their jobs.”

Buy How to Be a Great Boss.

6. It’s the Manager: Moving From Boss to Coach by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter

It's the Manager

Jim Clifton is the CEO and Jim Harter is the chief scientist of Gallup, the organization that has gathered data on the State of the American workplace for over a decade. Using findings from Gallup polls, It’s the Manager pinpoints trends of effective management. The book asserts that team leaders and managers are the factor that most reliably determines an organization’s long-term success, and offers advice on performing managerial functions such as hiring, reviewing performance, enabling diversity, and managing other managers. Not only does the book analyze the current climate of management, but also looks forward to the near future, to better prepare managers for the industry environments of tomorrow.

Notable Quote: “Maximizing human potential not only has a positive impact on your company, but on your nation’s and the world’s productivity too. The stakes are that high.”

Buy It’s the Manager.

7. Project Management for The Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, James Wood

Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager

While most project management books target official project leads, Project Management for The Unofficial Project Manager speaks to professionals without formal titles or designations who shape or guide work undertakings. After all, a project’s success is not solely a manager’s responsibility, but rather lies on every contributor’s shoulders. The guide walks those willing to take ownership through all life stages of a project, from the inception and planning steps, to executing and managing workflow, and finally, completing the assignment and evaluating results. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager helps any team member structure, organize, and finalize any project with grace, knowledge, and competence.

Notable Quote: “Project management is as much about effectively leading people as it is about skillfully managing a process.”

Buy Project Management for The Unofficial Project Manager.

8. The Harvard Business Review Manager’s Handbook: The 17 Skills Leaders Need to Stand Out

Harvard Business Review Manager's Handbook

As the title suggests, this book serves as a manual for managers. While many other management books provide a single perspective, The Harvard Business Review Manager’s Handbook gathers insight from a range of experts to offer a comprehensive glimpse into the essentials of management. The book outlines 17 skills managers need to excel and shine, plus specific situations such as transitioning psychologically into the role, defusing strong employee emotions, interpreting of organizational strategy, drafting a delegation plan, and conducting effective meetings.

Notable Quote: “Managers have formal authority to make decisions, allocate resources, and direct employees — in theory. In actuality, though, people won’t do something just because you tell them to, and they certainly won’t do it well.”

Buy The Harvard Business Review Manager’s Handbook.

9. 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees: A Manager’s Guide to Addressing Performance, Conduct, and Discipline Challenge by Paul Falcone

101 Tough Conversations

While many management books on communication focus on presentations or everyday conversation, 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees hones in on the difficult discussions managers occasionally need to initiative. The book veers into territory such as disciplinary proceedings or addressing poor performance, covering topics like:

  • inappropriate appearance
  • lack of technical knowledge or necessary skills
  • bullying or gossip
  • absence of teamwork or people skills
  • laziness and underachievement
  • defensiveness and excuse-making
  • compensation conflicts

101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees runs the gamut of challenging discourse, teaching managers how to conduct conversations with tact, empathy, and dignity to ensure the best case scenario for involved parties. Most managers dread starting such conversations, but this book offers a guide for how to handle any hurdle that may arise. From hirings to firings, pay problems to people problems, group conflict to individual issues, disruption of company policies to violation of laws, this book covers all ground.

Notable Quote: “After all, involved management is all about getting to the truly human concerns at hand, which are issues that may have been left unaddressed for far too long. And it’s only in that mode of positive confrontation that you’ll be able to simultaneously protect your company and allow your employees to take back control of their careers.”

Buy 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees.

10. The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change by Camille Fournier

The Manager's Path

The Manager’s Path explores the unique challenges of managing within the tech industry. For example, the requirements of being both technologically savvy enough to delegate and evaluate work while also being competent enough in soft skills to lead employees effectively. The book explores managing in various capacities such as overseeing individuals, teams, multiple teams, and even other managers. Camille Fournier approaches management through the particular lens of startup and bootstrapping culture, teaching how to keep up with the demands of supervisory roles within the “move fast and break things” mentality of Silicon Valley.

Notable Quote: “Humans, by and large, feel good when they set small goals and meet them regularly.”

Buy The Manager’s Path.

11. The First-Time Manager by Jim McCormick

The First-Time Manager

Another entry in the category of management books for new managers, The First-Time Manager emphasizes the differences between follower and managerial mindsets. The book delves into topics such as:

  • building trust and confidence
  • showing employee appreciation
  • training team members
  • dealing with resistance
  • delivering performance appraisals

The First-Time Manager also covers territory like managing your own time, choosing a management style, leading with an appropriate sense of humor, and coping with stress. This book explores the less-mentioned avenues of self-regulation and self-reflection that are integral to supervisory roles.

Notable Quote: “When you create a setting where your people see that their efforts are contributing to a positive outcome well beyond what they could achieve individually, they will be more motivated and find greater meaning in what they do.”

Buy The First-Time Manager.

Conclusion

Navigating the intricacies of management can seem daunting at times. Managers often want to look competent both to their bosses and their people, and may be hesitant to ask for help for seemingly obvious questions or difficult circumstances. Luckily, managers can turn to books for answers, accepting advice from accomplished professionals eager to impart wisdom to up-and-coming managers. While there is no shame in asking for assistance from colleagues, these books serve as valuable references to guide managers so that they can better guide their teams.

For more reading suggestions, check out our list of CEO books.

FAQ: Management Books

Here are answers to the most common questions about management books.

What are management books?

Management books are resources that teach useful skills and philosophies to managers. These works typically advise on subjects such as interviewing and hiring team members, assigning and overseeing projects, coaching employees, resolving disputes, evaluating performance and delivering feedback, liaising between workers and executives, delegating duties, setting and reaching departmental goals, and more. Managers read these books in hopes of learning, growing, and developing into more dynamic leaders.

What are the best management books?

The best management books to read in 2021 are:

  1. How to Think More Effectively by Alain de Boton
  2. Solve Employee Problems Before They Start by Scott Warrick
  3. Invent and Wander by Jeff Bezos and Walter Isaacson
  4. The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo
  5. How to Be a Great Boss by Gino Wickman and René Boer
  6. It’s the Manager by Jim Clifton and Jim Harter
  7. Project Management for The Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, and James Wood
  8. The Harvard Business Review Manager’s Handbook
  9. 101 Tough Conversations to Have with Employees by Paul Falcone
  10. The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier
  11. The First-Time Manager by Jim McCormick

These references cover a range of topics from stepping into the role of a first-time manager, to navigating conflict and difficult situations, to mastering emotional intelligence and driving employee engagement.

How do management books differ from leadership books?

While leadership books tackle topics like influence and inspiration, management books focus more on tactical competencies such as delegation, time management, team building, employee assessment, and conflict resolution.

Can books teach good management skills?

Reading books alone will not automatically impart good management skills, but by practicing the principles laid forth in these guides can vastly improve a manager’s performance, knowledge, and abilities, not to mention boost regard among peers and subordinates. The willingness to reflect and grow is a vital component of strong supervision, so reading these books is a good first step to managing effectively.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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