The year 2020, 12 months that felt like a decade, is finally over. As 2021 begins, never have we been more ready to embrace new beginnings.
While 2020 started normally enough, by late winter our lives were interrupted and then paused indefinitely. We were forced to adopt new ways of doing business, going mostly virtual virtually overnight. Each of us was tested in unexpected ways and stretched as leaders, colleagues and individuals. Auto-pilot was not an option; we were gripping the tiller in 24-hour shifts. As trying as 2020 was, one of its gifts was the opportunity for perspective and growth. We learned our relative strengths and got a window into our development opportunities, too.
This universal moment of self-reflection and personal inventory brings tremendous potential for leaders to turn disruption into opportunity. Before it passes, the MVP Executive Search and Coaching Team is working with clients to create actionable plans that harness the lessons for meaningful change. What 2020 reinforced is that winning cultures foster courageous leaders who communicate transparently, building trust, shared purpose and greater resiliency. This does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process that starts with clear objectives and visible changes.
In the course of our coaching and consulting work with businesses of all kinds, there are some thinkers that we return to time and again for inspiration and insight. Wherever you are in your own journey, these books will jump start your thinking about what is possible and how to start the new year with renewed purpose and energy.
Actor and screenwriter Emma Thompson said that books are like people, “in the sense that they’ll turn up in your life when you most need them.” We hope these recommendations are timely and spark positive change in the year ahead.
1. Don’t be a boss. Be a “superboss.”
“Superbosses” by Sidney Finkelstein is a playbook for leaders who want to bring out the best in their people, and an MVP Business Book Club favorite. In it, Finkelstein examines the characteristics that separate good bosses from great leaders. Included are profiles of exceptional leaders from a range of industries who have cultivated the ability to identify, attract, develop and retain great talent. This is a competitive advantage because great businesses are built with great teams and great teams require great talent.
We speak constantly about the difference between a good “manager” and a true “leader.” this book shows you how to become the latter.
2. Play to your strengths.
The Gallup series by Tom Rath and Don Clifton, “Strength Based Leadership” and “Strengthsfinders 2.0,” should be required reading for new managers and seasoned executives alike. What we love about the Strenghtsfinders books is that they really help people build on what they’re good at, versus wasting time trying to improve on areas where they don’t excel.
The authors tap into 30 years of research and discovery to identify the three keys to being a more effective Leader: knowing your strengths (that you can identify in “Strengthsfinders 2.0”) and investing in others’ strengths, maximizing the strengths of those on your team, and honing the style that fits most naturally with your strengths to become a more authentic leader.
For leaders, identifying your strengths enables you to build teams with complimentary skill sets in order to amplify the power of the entire team. The Strengthfinders diagnostic takes 20 minutes and unlocks a wealth of insights for leadership teams and individual clients alike.
3. Have better meetings.
“Death by Meeting” by Patrick Lencioni is an indispensable guide to reimagining an essential, yet often broken aspect of operations: meetings. Lencioni provides a framework for planning and formatting your meetings to achieve more participation, buy-in, and ultimately greater productivity. His principles apply equally to both in-person and remote meetings, making it a must-read for leaders looking to start the year on the right foot.
4. Be yourself.
While not technically a business book, “More Myself” by Alicia Keys is an ‘outlier’ book we recommend wholeheartedly. Published in March, this New York Times bestseller by award-winning singer, songwriter, actress, entrepreneur and activist Keys is a soulful journey into what makes a person tick.
In a recent interview, she described the book as “the honest journey of how I found my way to becoming who I am as opposed to being what I’ve been told to be.” In a year of widespread personal and professional turmoil, when we have to cover our faces with masks, books like this help us see what is possible when we unmask and reveal our authentic selves. Its timing could not be more perfect for anyone looking to develop as a more authentic leader and explore expanded definitions of success.
What are some of the books you are reading to guide your year ahead?
Mary Olson-Menzel is the founder and CEO of MVP Executive Search & Coaching, and co-founder of SparkinSight Coaching. Connect on LinkedIn.
Melissa Shahbazian is the co-founder of SparkinSight Coaching. An executive coach and facilitator with over 10 years of experience, she specializes in the future of work. Connect on LinkedIn.