Are you looking for new books to add to your reading list? We asked leaders from the community to share their favorite reads about people-first leadership, effective communication, and the art of running a business that puts humans first. Here are the books they call a must-read.
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
Recommended by Kelli Doré, Senior Director People & Culture at Think of Us
I found The Art of Gathering to be an excellent resource for enhancing the endless cycle of meetings many of us seem to be caught up in. The book emphasizes the importance of intentionality and purpose when gathering people, which is achieved through various intentional practices such as defining a clear purpose, understanding the needs of participants, and identifying rituals or traditions that promote connectivity. By planning every aspect of the meeting or gathering carefully, you can overcome challenges such as burnout and feeling overwhelmed and build a sense of community and better communication.
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard
Recommended by Bettina Specht, CEO of People-First Jobs
Patagonia is a fascinating company—and one that proves that businesses can be a force for good. In this wonderful memoir, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard tells the story of the company’s beginnings and how it grew into one of the most prominent examples of a business that cares about the planet and its people—and that puts values over profits.
“It's business that has to take the majority of the blame for being the enemy of nature, for destroying native cultures, for taking from the poor and giving to the rich, and for poisoning the earth with the effluent from its factories. Yet business can produce food, cure disease, control population, employ people, and generally enrich our lives. And it can do these good things and make a profit without losing its soul. That's what this book is about."
Transforming Stigma by Mike Veny
This book, written by my podcast co-host, business partner, and dear friend, Mike Veny, is a wonderful book for anyone who would like to lead a people-first team. Although it isn't specifically geared towards workplace leaders, it's an insightful, sympathetic, and authentic view of long-term mental health issues from Mike's own lived experience. He challenges readers to identify the cycle of stigma within themselves and others and overcome it through care, actions, and ongoing support.
As a disabled person myself, and someone who wants to be a good leader, I love that these concepts can be applied to anyone. It's so crucial that as we work to become better people-first leaders, we start by putting in the work on ourselves.
The Culture Map by Erin Meyer
Reading this book triggered “ah-hah!” lightbulb moments as I realized why I’d run into misunderstandings or lack of alignment in the past. The Culture Map explains how people from different countries approach common business interactions like communication, leadership, decision-making, trust, disagreement, and even scheduling. It helped me realize that some practices I found to be familiar and people-first in my home culture/country (the United States) might not be seen the same way to my colleagues in other parts of the world. For example, my American style of delivering feedback is actually indirect and potentially confusing to my direct report in Germany or France, leaving them with the impression that they received a positive performance review when I intended to soften the blow of critical negative feedback.
It strengthened my emotional IQ and empathy, providing an eye-opening reminder that my intent may be well-intentioned while the reality of my impact can be quite a bit different than what I expected. If you work in a remote team—especially one that spans multiple countries—this is a must-read. And don’t miss the tools available on the book’s companion website, where you can map your personal profile or the makeup of your team.
How I Built This by Guy Raz
Recommended by Charlotte Carnehl, Head of Content & Community at People-First Jobs
One of the podcasts I keep coming back to is NPR’s How I Built This. Did you know that Guy Raz also wrote a book about all the lessons he learned from interviewing more than 300 entrepreneurs? In this book, Raz doesn’t only tell the success stories of companies like Airbnb or Headspace, but structures them like a guidebook—from identifying the right idea and taking chances to raising money and forging a culture of caring for people while doing it. A fun and inspiring read for everyone interested in entrepreneurship and innovation!
If you're looking for more tips for your reading list, here are some additional books PFJ community members recommend:
- The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo
- The Manager's Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change by Camille Fournier
- Managing Humans: More Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager by Michael Lopp
- Crucial Conversations - Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, RonMcMillan & Al Switzler
- Radical Candor by Kim Scott
- Ben & Jerry's Double-Dip: How to Run a Values-Led Business and Make Money, Too by Ben Cohen & Jerry Greenfield
- Engineering Management for the Rest of Us by Sarah Drasner: Try to see past the title; this is an excellent book that is relevant to all managers, especially those in a tech/SaaS company
- Good Authority by Jonathan Raymond
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek