The pandemic forced most businesses to make rapid strategic shifts. Those in leadership who successfully navigated the brief but deep early-pandemic recession made themselves more resilient to fiscal shocks by running leaner and focusing on the core product or service lines.
Today, the global economy is faltering again. This additional wobble is partly due to pandemic overhang — supply chain issues, labor shortages, and unpredictable changes in consumer and business behavior. While the United States has thus far been the best house in a lousy neighborhood among developed economies, the consensus forecast is for a recession in 2023.
Economists are divided on the (likely) recession’s duration and severity. Consequently, some see a short, relatively mild downturn. Others see a deep and prolonged ordeal that takes years to recover from, similar to what followed the global financial crisis of the late 2000s.
Even if the economy avoids a severe recession, it seems clear that 2023 will be more difficult for most businesses than 2021 or 2022. As a result, this means it will be a challenging year for those steering the ship.
But great challenges (can) bring great opportunities. Countless leaders will be made (and broken) in the coming months and years. Likewise, the time to arm yourself and your team with the tools to seize the moment is now.
Leadership books that will make you money in 2023
Start with your leadership reading list. Then, consider these eight books to read between now and the end of Q1 2023 to prepare for what’s coming.
Each book on this list offers unique, actionable insights for entrepreneurs, executives, and senior managers. Some focus more on leadership philosophy and strategy. Others are more tactical, written by battle-scarred leaders eager to help others avoid their mistakes while sharing in their successes. And some have less to say about day-to-day management than about setting yourself up for success, which is all the more important when times get tough.
1. The Leader’s Playlist — Susan Drumm
Deep down, you understand music’s power, even if you don’t consider yourself an expert on the subject. You’ve been moved by a simple melody, maybe to tears—certainly more than once.
In The Leader’s Playlist, released in mid-October, executive advisor and leadership coach Susan Drumm shows that music does more than move us. It can change us and make us better leaders too.
Using the latest neuroscience research on music’s impact on the brain and real-world stories of executives and entrepreneurs who’ve transformed their leadership mindset and approach, Drumm uncovers powerful, mostly overlooked connections between our inner playlists and our decision-making with an actionable 7-step process to leverage the power of music to transform our leadership and our life, long after the melody stops.
2. Nudge — Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein
Nudge is arguably the 21st century’s most influential behavioral science book.
Thaler and Sunstein explore the vast and hidden world of “choice” architecture. They reveal hidden pathways and obstacles that people and organizations use to encourage or discourage action. Read Nudge with your consumer hat on, and you’ll immediately see the myriad ways your choices are shaped every day. Read it with your leader hat on, and you’ll discover a whole new world of opportunities to lead decisively and get more from those around you — often without openly exerting your influence.
Authors Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler claim this is its “final” edition. It’s been updated and, at points, entirely rewritten with post-pandemic leadership insights. Amid looming macro challenges, this book will help you delegate more effectively and keep you on track to meet your financial and professional goals.
3. Surrounded by Idiots — Thomas Erikson
Leadership is lonely partly because great leaders often feel like they’re the only ones who “get it.” As a result, they walk a rational, righteous path alone while everyone else wanders in the weeds.
They might say they’re “surrounded by idiots.”
Spoiler alert: They’re not. You’re not. But it takes work to see that people who seem to have no idea what they’re doing — or who appear to think so differently from you that there’s no use trying to understand them — actually are worth the time.
Thomas Erikson’s Surrounded by Idiots is the best book to date for leaders who want to get better at managing diverse, divergent teams. Erikson introduces us to four main personality types and provides a road map for communicating and motivating each one. Even if you still don’t “get” them, you’ll understand what makes them tick. You’ll discern what you can do to ensure each is a valuable team member.
4. The Art of Thinking Clearly — Rolf Dobelli
Tunnel vision. Decision fatigue. Cognitive biases.
No matter how smart or competent we think we are, we all experience these “thinking problems.” But, for most people, they’re part of life and rarely present serious, let alone existential, threats to our well-being.
For leaders, it’s a different matter. One bad decision can change the course of a company and derail even the most high-functioning career.
In The Art of Thinking Clearly, entrepreneur Rolf Dobelli pulls back the curtain on flawed decision-making and helps us recognize the cognitive biases and weaknesses that hinder performance.
The result is a clear blueprint for better tactical leadership. From managing cash flow to finding high-potential markets to scouring the world for your next star salesperson, The Art of Thinking Clearly provides a framework to navigate the most important decisions you’ll make as a leader. Of course, it won’t guarantee you’ll make the right one — foresight is never 20/20 — but it will reduce the chances of a reputation-damaging error.
5. The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell — Paul Smith
Great leaders tend to be great salespeople. Not in the hard-charging, close-at-all-costs sense — that only goes so far, and it’s much more effective in the trenches.
No, great leaders are great salespeople because they are great storytellers — about themselves, their companies, and their missions in life and business.
In The 10 Stories Great Leaders Tell, leadership expert Paul Smith reveals the art and science behind motivational storytelling while reassuring us that compelling storytelling is mostly learned, not innate. As a result, you can use Smith’s insights and concrete storytelling ideas to overcome your introversion. Then, tell the stories that sell your company and goals to your customers and your team.
6. Stand Out: How to Build Your Leadership Presence — Carol Kinsey Gorman
Leadership skill is one thing. But, if you’re reading this, you probably have it already.
Leadership presence is quite another. Many leaders don’t have it when they start; some never acquire it at all. As a result, they tend to leave opportunities on the table.
Contrary to popular belief, leadership presence is mostly learned rather than innate, just like leadership storytelling. In Stand Out: How to Build Your Leadership Presence, Carol Kinsey Gorman draws upon years of leadership coaching and motivational speaking experience to guide us through the often subtle cues and tics that define true presence. Read it to learn how to close the gap between your authentic self and your public persona. You are likely to strengthen both in the process.
7. The Art of Authenticity — Karissa Thacker
About that authentic self: It tends to get drowned out when circumstances demand that you’re really “on,” assert yourself, and show everyone that you’re in charge.
It doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t, and it’s actually a bad thing that it does. Consequently, it tends to encourage micromanagement, which has serious pitfalls in most modern workplaces.
Enter Karissa Thacker and The Art of Authenticity, a guide to allowing your true self to emerge even in the highest-pressure situations. Thacker demonstrates why authentic leadership is a critical macromanagement strategy that can have a contagious, positive effect on your team. People like to be themselves and perform better when they are; it turns out.
8. The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness — Lolly Daskal
If you’ve ever felt like there’s a dark side to your abilities, like your most significant strengths are also your greatest weaknesses, then Lolly Daskal’s The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is for you.
Daskal taps years of experience working closely with high performers. The book reveals the hidden weaknesses that lurk within even the most effective leaders. Look for yourself in her leadership types and foils: the “light” Explorer becoming the “dark” Exploiter, the bold Hero becoming the cowardly Bystander and many more. Learn how to suppress the negative side of your leadership personality as you face what’s likely to be the most challenging business environment in many years.
What’s on your reading list for 2023?
This reading list runs several thousand pages, all told. If you don’t habitually wind down at the end of the day with a hardcover or your Kindle — and many leaders simply don’t have the time — opt for audiobooks instead. Most of these titles are available as audiobooks. They’re likely more valuable in the long run than your go-to business-and-economy podcasts.
Remember, the months and years ahead will separate genuinely great leaders from the merely ordinary.
Prepare for what’s coming now. You’ll thank yourself later.