5 books to add to your summer reading list

July 05, 2021

Summer is upon us! Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, a small-business leader or self-improvement junkie, here’s a selection of books to inspire you during your downtime this season.

Mindset by Carol Dweck

Psychologist Carol Dweck distills an important field of psychological research that should change the way you interact with others and how you see yourself in the world. Over a decade of research has shown that there are two fundamental mindsets that people adopt in their lives. The mindset we are born with is a growth mindset, an underlying “belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” In contrast, the fixed mindset stipulates “that your qualities are carved in stone [… and] creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.”

Each of us is living with one of these two mindsets at different times. Dweck encourages her readers to be conscious of the role of fixed and growth mindsets in our lives and to work at encouraging the growth mindset wherever possible.

Thinking Fast & Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman takes his readers on a practical journey through the discipline of psychology. The key finding from the state of research in the field is that the human mind has two thinking systems. One is fast, intuitive, and driven by emotion. The other is slower, more analytical, and more logical. He dubs these System 1 and System 2 respectively.

The real interesting learnings lie in how these two thinking systems interact. System 1 is incredibly valuable for getting us to solutions quickly, but it has a tendency to override System 2. This becomes dangerous when System 2 thinking is required to solve a problem, but System 1 kicks in to lead us down the wrong path.

Organizations do IN work – delivering value to a customer – and ON work – improving how that value is delivered to a customer. IN work is fast and generally relies on System 1, but ON work requires us to slow down, engage System 2, and determine root cause.

Leaders Eat Last

Author Simon Sinek has written an excellent follow up to his 2009 leadership treatise – Start with Why. In Start with Why Sinek argued that the great leaders galvanize their followers behind a shared purpose or vision of the future. In Leaders Eat Last Sinek recounts the effectiveness of the leader-servant model, explaining the chemical science behind leadership and filling the book with real-life examples that support this model.

Scaling Up Excellence by Robert Sutton & Huggy Rao

Are you chomping at the bit to grow a pocket of excellence in your organization? If your answer is yes then this book is for you. Pockets of excellence can be found in any organization or society. Those organizations or communities that scale these pockets effectively are the ones that thrive.

Sutton & Rao cover a lot of ground in a book full of stories from students and organizations they have helped at Stanford University. Chapters such as “It’s a Ground War, Not Just an Air War” and “Buddhism versus Catholicism” are fascinating both in name and content. Scaling principles cover the subjects of leading change, employee ownership, knowledge-sharing, and cutting cognitive load. 

Return on Character by Fred Kiel

This engaging study of leadership has two critical findings. First, leaders with high character scores achieve nearly five times the return on assets than leaders with low character scores. Second, it is possible to develop the habits of good character and to unlearn the habits of poor character. This can be done through a personal change path modelled on John P. Kotter’s leading change research and the author’s experience as an executive coach. Character can be changed and this book explains how.