The 12 Best Books for New Managers
Motivation, soft skills, and expertise are some of the most coveted aspects when you want to hire a new manager. However, some management skills aren’t intrinsic. Even if you have a great recruitment process, a solid onboarding program, or you hire from within, great managers aren’t forged overnight. Sometimes, supplemental help is necessary.
That’s when you should peruse this list of the best books for new managers. Within the pages of these books, you can find invaluable information on how first-time managers can form leadership skills, become superb motivators, and coach a team to success.
Why the Best Books for New Managers Are the Best Tools in Your Arsenal
Knowledge is power. It’s that simple. Whether you promote a subordinate or go with an outside hire, the making of a manager starts on day one and never really finishes. It’s an ongoing process to lead a team and work smarter—not harder.
And that’s just why the best books for new managers—whether new at your company or new to management altogether—provide the added knowledge required to succeed. Through skill development, long-term goal focus, and operational strategy, these books offer the little tidbits and big-picture ideas that propel new managers into great leaders.
1. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck
“Mindset” talks about the power of beliefs and how changing even the simplest things in our mindset can have a profound impact on every aspect of our lives—especially on how we lead.
To succeed as a new leader, managers should specifically adopt a growth mindset. Through this growth, you can improve your emotional intelligence, coaching skills, delegating mastery, and teamwork—all key components in developing a high-performing team.
2. The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy Edmondson
With so much riding on innovation, creativity, and spark, the attraction and retention of quality talent are essential. The only issue is what Edmondson refers to as the “knowledge economy.”
In a knowledge economy, true advancement as a manager and a business lies in each team member being a contributor in terms of creativity and ideas. Managers need to encourage open discussion and resist the urge to suppress free speech and openness.
Success requires a continuous influx of new ideas, new challenges, and critical thought, and the interpersonal climate must not silence, ridicule, or intimidate. “The Fearless Organization” by Amy Edmondson explores this culture of psychological safety and provides a blueprint for bringing it to life.
3. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Where fear reigns, little gets done. It’s an inevitability in the business. world. However, “Daring Greatly” offers an interesting and powerful new vision: to embrace vulnerability and imperfection and to stop being afraid.
This leadership book challenges managers to become more vulnerable, which in turn, makes them better managers and leaders. When you can empathize with others and have the courage to leave your weaknesses out in the open, you become “real” to your employees—something that can separate a good leader from the mediocre.
4. Team of Teams by Gen. Stanley McChrystal
In periods of unprecedented crisis, leaders need practical management practices that can scale to thousands of people—and fast. That’s what makes “Team of Teams” one of the best books for new managers.
Penned by four-star general Stanley McChrystal, this book applies how the precise and organized military operations used in war can be applied to managers in all types of businesses, nonprofits, and organizations.
The basic idea is that every individual needs to truly know other people in order to build trust and maintain a common purpose. While effective managers have endless leadership styles they can employ to earn trust, the rigid approach can have its place in the business world—especially when a project or singular goal beckons.
5. Measure What Matters by John Doerr
In “Measure What Matters”, John Doerr explains how transparently setting objectives and defining key roles can align organizations and motivate high-performing teams. This is a great book for new managers onboarding team members, which is arguably the most crucial step in constructing team culture, improving team dynamics, and implementing an effective team cycle.
6. Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman
“Primal Leadership” by Coleman explains the business application of emotional intelligence. It frames it as the capacity of the leader to rouse and focus strong positive emotions in their followers and focus that energy on a specific direction.
In the current climate of uncertainty, people need leadership that offers them a level of reassurance about the direction a company is going in the future. A good manager excels not just through expertise, but with empathy and true emotional connection. This human-to-human approach leads to your best leadership possible, encouraging and motivating workers along the way.
7. HBR's 10 Must Reads on Emotional Intelligence — with featured article "What Makes a Leader?" by Daniel Goleman
Whether you're a recruiter or a manager, HBR's “10 Must Reads” will inspire you to improve your emotional intelligence on all fronts.
Compiled from only the best essays from the Harvard Business Review, this is a good book for new managers to get in touch with emotions while also providing a fair, open-door policy for employees. With the knowledge contained herein, you can manage conflicts, become a shrewd negotiator, and make those tough decisions that many managers often dread.
8. Radical Candor by Kim Scott
With experience as a CEO coach at companies like Twitter and Dropbox, Kim Scott has insight into Silicon Valley businesses boiled down into a digestible format. In “Radical Candor,” she talks about two simple ideas: building relationships with your employees and providing guidance when necessary.
In a leadership role, the fragile balance between caring for your team and challenging them at the same time is often frayed and stressful. Scott discusses how to maintain an even balance while earning the respect of your team as a result.
Ideal for project management, middle management, and even upper management, this business book is useful at all levels of the management spectrum.
9. The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
Known as the “business thinker,” Peter Drucker is a legendary figure in the world of management. Perhaps that’s what makes “The Effective Executive” a must-read book.
In this book, Drucker discusses the five tenets that should guide high-output management, including prioritization, mobilization, contributions, time management, and decision-making. Originally meant for executives, the book’s multipronged message to cut unproductive tasks and never overlook anything is easily applied to small businesses and entrepreneurs. Due to the concise, easy-to-read nature of the writing, it should certainly be on the shortlist of the best books for new managers.
10. Managing for Happiness: Games, Tools, and Practices to Motivate Any Team by Jurgen Appelo
Sometimes, the hands-on approach is the best method to achieve great management. In "Managing for Happiness" by Jurgen Appelo, managers can use practices and games to combine fun and work into the same concept—an idea often thought impossible.
At the core of this book, everything boils down to superb management—from customer loyalty to employee retention. By inspiring and engaging employees, managers can create a team that’s about more than a job—they’re about an experience.
11. The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick
As the name implies, “The Carrot Principle” discusses the idea that motivation and recognition are the two keys to success as a manager. With case studies from companies like Disney, Pepsi, and DHL, Gostick shows that the key to recognition is a core focus that shouldn’t be ignored.
Even moderate amounts of recognition provide an added layer of motivation for employees, regardless of the size of the company. Moreover, you don’t have to have a ton of money or resources to provide recognition—just some creative thinking can provide you with the answers you need.
12. Atomic Habits by James Clear
One of the major hurdles of a new manager is avoiding bad habits. However, with little coaching or outside influence, bad habits can almost seem like an inevitability.
A New York Times #1 bestseller, “Atomic Habits” teaches you how to formulate good habits, break bad habits, and improve yourself by just 1% each day until you reach your goal. For those who struggle with staying on task or a lack of willpower, this book puts everything in perspective.
The Best Books for New Managers Are the Ones That Work for You
Creating an all-inclusive list of the best books for new managers ignores one major facet: subjectivity. So while these books can certainly point you in the right direction, don’t take them as gospel. You have to do a bit of investigation yourself to find the books that speak to you and address the problems you see as an entrepreneur, startup, or corporate manager.
Regardless of your role as a manager, the more you read, the more you learn, and the better you’ll perform. It’s just one small step you can take to push yourself toward the ultimate goal of becoming more than a manager—taking the reins as a leader.