The best books for understanding how people skills support great leadership and career success

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m fascinated by the relationships component of leadership. I’ve worked for major service firms, taught MBAs for years, advised many teams and organizations, and educated millions via my courses on LinkedIn Learning. When I look at performance, I see the same issues popping up over and over: people issues! You can know a lot about how to run a team operationally or how to roll out a change step by step – but it’s all for nothing if you don’t know how to positively relate to and lead others. Communication, motivation, empathy, etc. – these are the essential people skills required to allow you to actually add value with your business knowledge.  

I wrote...

Dancing with Monsters: A Tale About Leadership, Success, and Overcoming Fears

By Todd Dewett,

Book cover of Dancing with Monsters: A Tale About Leadership, Success, and Overcoming Fears

What is my book about?

Dancing with Monsters will inspire you to overcome your fears, optimize your key relationships, and lead with confidence. Written by globally recognized leadership educator, Dr. Todd Dewett, this enthralling, fast-paced fable that examines how to embrace your monsters and harness you and your team’s true power. Joe is a depressed vampire at risk of losing his monster status due to poor performance. He must lead a group of misfit monsters who lack confidence. Sheets, Mum, Wolfy, and Z can’t even scare kids!

Dancing with Monsters tells the story of their collective efforts, missteps included, toward connecting with their authentic selves.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence

Todd Dewett Why did I love this book?

Personality is a very real thing! Understanding your personality and appreciating the different personalities around you is the foundation of strong communication and productive relationships. 

Most people have characteristic ways of thinking and reacting to others. Due to our lack of knowledge about personality, we make bad assumptions and engaged in unproductive routines (e.g., trying to make others be more like us).

In short, more intrapersonal and interpersonal understanding feeds your ability to connect and that, ultimately, makes you more productive and peaceful at work and at home. This is a classic for a reason! You can study DISC, MBTI, the Big Five, and others, but this is a great place to start.  

By David Keirsey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Please Understand Me II as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rev. ed. of: Please understand me. 3rd ed. c1978.

Book cover of The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

Todd Dewett Why did I love this book?

This is one of the few books I’ve read multiple times. 

Some feel this is a book about business operations, but for me it’s much more. I was assigned to read it in college and fell in love. To succeed in life, you must question your assumptions, embrace learning and improving as fundamental goals in life, and learn to leverage the knowledge of others, not just your own insights and abilities. 

This is a business novel that teaches Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, but for me it’s a primer on how to think in a manner that will positively impact how one looks at relationships and leadership.  

By Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeffrey Cox,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Goal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*A Graphic Novel version of this title is now available: "The Goal: A Business Graphic Novel"

30th Anniversary Edition. Written in a fast-paced thriller style, The Goal, a gripping novel, is transforming management thinking throughout the world. It is a book to recommend to your friends in industry - even to your bosses - but not to your competitors. Alex Rogo is a harried plant manager working ever more desperately to try improve performance. His factory is rapidly heading for disaster. So is his marriage. He has ninety days to save his plant - or it will be closed by…

Book cover of Coaching Essentials for Managers: The Tools You Need to Ignite Greatness in Each Employee

Todd Dewett Why did I love this book?

It’s fascinating when terms and ideas become popular and pervasive, yet everyone has a slightly different take on what it is they are talking about. 

Coaching might be the best example ever in business. It’s a vital skill set, yet only in the last couple of decades have we begun to effectively grapple with what it is, how to do it, and the outcomes it produces.  Sara Canaday’s book is wonderful because it addresses these issues with great focus and clarity.

It’s the perfect first book for anyone who wants to dive in to coaching. It’s not too complex or academic, rather quick and applied. She offers a model, helps you understand how to actually use it, and sets you up to engage coaching far more effectively.  

By Sara Canaday,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Coaching Essentials for Managers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the first books in McGraw Hill's NEW Business Essentials Series-filled with the tools managers need to boost employee confidence, engagement, and performance through coaching.

As a manager, an essential and rewarding part of your job is to get the best from your employees-to help them overcome challenges, meet (and exceed) their goals, and maintain a high level of engagement and performance in today's new world of work. Like many other leadership skills, coaching is one you can hone and perfect with the right information and tools-and Coaching Essentials for Managers provides exactly that.

At a time when leaders…

Book cover of Quick Confidence: Be Authentic, Boost Connections, and Make Bold Bets on Yourself

Todd Dewett Why did I love this book?

I am a big fan of this book! Selena uses a voice that is warm, positive, and personal to share her ideas. 

From building confidence, to interacting with others, and dealing with challenges and setbacks, this is a career “must read.” It’s ostensibly about confidence, but really, it’s way more. I was an organizational behavior for years teaching MBA students, and this has all of the topical coverage you’d want to convey in any course related to leadership and career success. 

But instead of being boring like a textbook, it stays focused on crisp actionable advice for improving how you think, interact, and achieve. Not to mention, her use of short examples and anecdotes makes it a fast fun read too. Highly recommended.

By Selena Rezvani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Quick Confidence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hands-on, bite-sized strategies for improving your confidence

In Quick Confidence: Be Authentic, Create Connections and Make Bold Bets On Yourself, best-selling author and renowned leadership speaker Selena Rezvani delivers an effective and eye-opening new approach to building confidence and presence for professionals. In the book, the author walks you through-and helps you leap over-the 9 most common obstacles that stand in the way of building authentic confidence. She offers digestible actions, behaviors, and exercises you can use to change the way you think and the way you present yourself to others.

Relying on sound, scientifically validated data, the book helps…

Book cover of Mastering the Basics: Simple Lessons for Achieving Success in Business

Todd Dewett Why did I love this book?

Most leadership books are hyper-focused on one or two very finite and well-defined topics. 

Dean’s book intentionally takes the opposite approach. It’s like someone came up to this person who has had huge sales and general executive success and asked them to name their top twenty tips for having an effective career. But instead, Dean explodes with a few hundred amazing tips. 

From grand ideas such as “always be learning” and “fostering relationships” to very specific ones such as “be reliable” and “don’t show off or gloat,” this is an amalgamation of tried-and-true career wisdom delivered in an easy-to-digest manner. 

I imagine anyone reading this book will come away with several new maxims to live by. Bottom line – this is fast, useful advice.  

By Dean Karrel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mastering the Basics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Are you limiting your potential because you haven't mastered workplace skills, office politics, and career development?

Do you ever feel pressured to learn the latest strategies just to stay ahead of your peers? Are there times when you feel intimidated by colleagues with fancy titles or advanced degrees who don't shy away from sharing their opinions? We can all fall into the trap of getting caught up in a competitive and stressful work environment and the result can negatively impact our confidence and ability to maximize our potential. Based on business lessons and techniques that Dean Karrel learned throughout his…

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Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

By Edward Benzel,

Book cover of Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

Edward Benzel Author Of Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Coming from the perspective of a neurosurgeon, I have witnessed many successes and failures over more than four decades. I recognized decades ago that communication with patients at a level that involves emotions is a necessary part of being a complete physician. This involves being empathetic and, henceforth, digging deep to find the strength to be transparent, vulnerable, compassionate, understanding, and, when needed, forceful (some would call this paternalism). Although the five books I have chosen to highlight vary widely in content, they have one common theme – finding within us the will and wherewithal to succeed.

Edward's book list on awakening of the strengths that are hidden deep inside each of us

What is my book about?

My book is a collection of monthly Editor-in-Chief letters to the readership of World Neurosurgery, a journal that I edit. Each essay is short and sweet. The letters were written for neurosurgeons but have been re-edited so that they apply to all human beings. They cover topics such as leadership, empathy, vulnerability, stress, burnout, and on and on…. These essays are relevant for all who strive to craft a better version of themselves.

Life lessons learned by the author during his 40+ year neurosurgery career are shared and translated into real-life scenarios. Between the covers are many lessons that are derived from the experiences of the author and then applied to all humans. The mastering of these lessons should translate into a sense of pride and satisfaction. In keeping with the theme of the book, this process should culminate in the feeling at the end of the day that ‘Today was, indeed, a good day.’

Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon

By Edward Benzel,

What is this book about?

About the Book
Today Was A Good Day: A Collection of Essays From The Heart Of A Neurosurgeon features many topics that pertain to how neurosurgeons interact with others and how each of us can use introspection to modify how we are using tools and strategies such as empathy, respect, stress management, and much more.
This book provides some insights into leadership, effective communication, and fulfillment from the perspective of a neurosurgeon, and it causes the reader to think about and consider many, many attributes of a leader.
We all want to have a good day. This book provides strategies…

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