Books That Will Make You a Better Leader and Human in 2021

We are almost at the end of the year; and what a year it’s been. Phew! A lot of you might be thinking about setting New Year’s resolutions, creating lists of skills to work on next year, while probably also thinking about things you could gift your team members, family, and friends. 

In a year when most of us were forced to step back and reflect on what truly is important to us, gifting books written by experts who dedicated their lives to figuring out how to be better leaders and humans seems like the perfect gift.

2020 showed us all the power of true leadership and its importance. We were forced to step forward as business professionals, as parents, friends, relatives. The lives of the majority of us were shaken and we had to adjust, adapt, and change. 

Luckily for us here at Nimble, we know many smart leaders in the industry who are also avid readers. Since there’s an incredible amount of books on the market, and more and more are coming out each day, we asked for recommendations. We reached out to 10 respected influencers in the areas of sales, marketing, small business, and social media/digital marketing whose names you will most likely recognize right away.

Why Reading Makes You a Better Leader

As Harry Truman said: “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Michael Hyatt wrote in his article that readers are likely to be leaders because “reading is the most efficient way to acquire information, and leaders need a lot of general information to keep perspective and seize opportunities.” He also says that reading improves our people skills, as “stories give us an opportunity to walk in other people’s shoes and see the world through their experiences and with their motivations.”

And what better year to start working on improving our empathy, expanding horizons, and becoming better leaders than now. We hope that you will enjoy the awesome book recommendations from our friends and influencers in the industry as much as we did.

In case you are still not sure why you should gift books this year, here are some additional reasons:

10 reasons to gift books in 2020

What books have you read in 2020 that have made you a better leader and overall human being?

Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs, marketing keynote speaker, and best-selling author at annhandley.com recommends Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

“Why would I recommend that all business leaders read a children’s book? Because it’s a great book for any leader that is masquerading as a kid’s read.

“Why: Because the main character in the story is basically the world’s best leader (and the world’s best marketer, too — can we talk about the ‘web’ analogy?). Anyhow, leaders: Charlotte the spider’s entire goal in the story is to make Wilbur the pig be successful at reaching his goal.

“It’s an allegory for how the best leaders focus on what those around them need most. And they leave the world a better place. (Foreshadowing: dun-dun-dun…!!)

“Plus it’s beautifully written with spare, gorgeous prose that never feels precious.

I read this book almost every year. You should, too. Trust me.”

Favorite takeaway/quote:

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.”

ann handley

Craig M. Jamieson, Managing Member at Adaptive Business Services, a long-time Nimble reseller, and sales professional with a successful career in B2B sales and management recommends the Sales Manager Survival Guide by David A. Brock

“I have been a sales manager going back to 1979. This is, without a doubt, the best book on the subject matter that I have ever read, period. Prepare to get your eyes opened!”

Favorite takeaway/quote:
“You will find my favorite quotes on any page between 1 and 336!”

craig m jaimeson

Dan Gingiss (Chief Experience Officer at The Experience Maker, LLC, international keynote speaker, customer experience coach, author, and podcaster) recommends Fanocracy by David Meerman Scott and Reiko Scott.

Favorite takeaway/quote:

“The fundamental ingredient for true fandom, meaningful and active human connection, demonstrates a shift in the way a company relates to its customers. A true fanocracy mobilizes people to think, feel, and act together with a helpful, positive force during difficult times.”

dan gingiss

Ian Moyse, Technology Sales Leader at Cloud Industry Forum and an award-winning sales director, recommends Key Person of Influence by Kevin Harrington and Daniel Priestley.

Favorite takeaway/quote:

“The traditional career world is over. Today the world expects you to be trained; it expects you to educate yourself constantly and to bring something new to the table. For that reason, talented people move around.”

ian moyse

Mark Schaefer, Chief Operating Officer at B Squared Media, a keynote speaker, marketing consultant, author of Marketing Rebellion, and an executive branding coach recommends Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Favorite takeaway/quote:

“No matter how bad 2020 was, it does not compare to being a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp as Frankl was. How does a person survive when everything is bleak? How do you find purpose when everything has been taken from you? This is the book for 2020 and beyond, for me.”

mark schaefer

Mitch Russo, CEO at Mindful Guidance who was nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year and built two eight-figure companies, recommends Unleash Your Humble Alpha by Steven Kuhn. 

Favorite takeaway/quote:

“Transcend the walls of the organization and show how to expand the reach of your true self (your ‘Humble Alpha’) and skyrocket your quality of life.”

mitch russo

Nat Schooler, host of Influential Visions Podcast, writer, and tech industry analyst recommends the two following books: Be Like Amazon: Even a Lemonade Stand Can Do It by Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg and The Varied Origins of the Cyber Men: Volume One by Lisa Ventura.

Favorite takeaway/quote:

Book 1. “Google is your friend!”

Book 2. “So if talent is unconscious competence, what do we call conscious competence?” ‘Skill.’”

nat schooler

Rieva Lesonsky, CEO at SmallBizDaily.com, small business & entrepreneurship thought leader, advocate, and journalist says:

“Such a busy year, no time to delve into new books. I did read one: Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect Union. It’s by my nephew, Richard Kreitner. While it’s a history book about the many times in the US past that the nation almost broke apart, it also showcases the leadership of American leaders who held the country together.

“The book I open most often is Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. It’s also available in app form, but I love the book version. I find quotes to be motivational and inspirational. Often, I open the book to random pages and just read–hoping to find the perfect message–and I usually do.”

Favorite takeaway/quote:

“I have two favorite quotes. One from Eldridge Cleaver: ‘If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.’ And this one…it’s my paraphrasing of a George Bernard Shaw that Robert Kennedy paraphrased: ‘Some see things as they are and say, why; [entrepreneurs] dream things that never were and say, why not.’”

rieva lesonsky

Ted Rubin, CMO of Photofy, social strategist, and a keynote speaker at The Rubin Organization, LLC and ReturnOnRelationship.com is an avid reader and has dedicated a big chunk of 2020 to educating himself about various causes, history, and has been consciously working on his critical thinking skills.

Here’s the list of the books he recommends everyone reads now and in 2021 and beyond to become a better leader and human being:

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power

“Continuing education and learning is important for everyone — but critical for a leader. I seek books to expand my understanding in general, to learn more about those who live and work with us all, and to give me a view into the brilliant mind and perspective of those I respect.

“The lack of critical thinking in this country is appalling. After the current administration leaves office on January 20th, we need to add to the priority list a major overhaul of our education system.

And unlike what some online ‘experts’ are preaching, it desperately needs to go beyond simply teaching our youth how to be entrepreneurs or help prepare them for the new world of good jobs.

We need to teach them to think, to reason, to empathize, to understand research, and how to use common sense.”

Favorite takeaway/quote:

“There are people in the world who think only about themselves. They don’t care what happens to other people so long as they get what they want. They put other people down to make themselves feel important. 

“Then there are people who do the opposite; who are able to imagine how others must feel, and make sure that they don’t do things that hurt people. ‘So,’ she said, looking me squarely in the eye. ‘Which kind of person do you want to be?’ ― Barack Obama, A Promised Land

ted rubin

Tim Hughes, CEO/Co-Founder of DLA Ignite and a social selling pioneer, recommends How to be More Pirate, a follow up to the excellent book Be More Pirate: Or How to Take On the World and Win by Sam Conniff Allende.

Favorite takeaway/quote:

“Why your Pirate code is critical to a Pirate captain’s success and the crew – basically it’s your ‘why.’“ 

tim hughes

Turning Over a New Leaf in 2021

With the new year comes a fresh start and the opportunity to grow. These books will help you, your loved ones, and your coworkers achieve great things in 2021 and beyond. 

We hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

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