Books

Have you ever thought how great it would be to have a leadership mentor? Some wise hand who's seen it all before and can speak to exactly your point of need? Well we're pulling together some of the most useful reads on leadership and teams and every one of these books has the potential to be a mentor to your personal development.

We’ve linked each title to a buying option through Blackwells Books, where you can find many of these titles discounted. Even better, if you’re in a hurry and pressed for time you can read our synopsis of each title & our thoughts on who would most benefit from each title and why. Click on the link for our summary notes on each book which will give you an abridged snapshot of the key content.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on any aspect of this page as well as any comments or recommendations for titles you would like to see here. Email us at info@metrisleadership.com

Happy reading!

Culture

Culture is what happens when everyone turns up to work. The expression of all the behaviours, good and bad. The best leaders and organizations are highly deliberate about how they build and curate their cultures. These are the best books we have found on the topic and give great insight into why culture matters.

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Owen Easterwood is a performance coach with a rich Maori heritage that informs the central premise of this book, that in order to thrive we need a sense of belonging. A philosophy that was a strong influence on Gareth Southgate and the England Football team at the recent European Championships. invaluable for anyone interested in building strong teams and effective organizational cultures.

Belonging by Owen Eastwood

Owen Eastwood
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Leadership lessons from the All Blacks, New Zealand’s Rugby Team, statistically the most successful sports team in any sport ever.  Given that remarkable record there is much to pay attention to here as the All Blacks have found a way to institutionalize success, a system that is greater than any individual or coach.  Like similar successful organizations, the right culture, learning, humility and the pursuit of excellence at the heart of what they do.  Great read if your interested in teams and high performance regardless of any interest in rugby.

Legacy

James Kerr
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Alex Pentland is a Professor & Director of the Human Dynamics Lab, which aims to use the collection and analysis of big data to better understand society in order to use social networks to address a range of social policy challenges.  This book is important for anyone interested in team performance because of the insights his research is providing into how the best teams communicate and develop ideas.

Social Physics How Good Ideas Spread

Alex Pentland
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The authors are both research academics and Harvard, the book looks at 3 companies who have developed a culture of individual learning and development which they see as intrinsic to their success as organizations.  Anyone interested in how to build a high performance culture at work should consider this essential reading.

An Everyone Culture

Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey
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The story of how a team of engineers led by Adam Steltzner designed and built the technology to put the Mars Rover vehicle onto the surface of Mars as part of NASA’s Mars robotic exploration programme.  The complexity of the challenge is breathtaking and the team work required to make it work was world class.

The Right Kind of Crazy

Adam Steltzner & William Patrick
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New York Times best selling author of The Talent Code and a well known sports journalist.  This book brings together a fusion of research and applied examples from sports teams, business, public services and the military.  The book unpacks how groups create strong cultures on which outstanding performance can be built.

The Culture Code

Daniel Coyle
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Leadership

Don't look here if you are looking for books on leadership theory. Do look here if you are looking for stories and insights from people who were or are leaders. These are the best books we have found for leaders who are looking for practical insights and inspiration. on average we read 3-books for every title that makes it onto this list.

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Eliot Cohen is a Professor of Strategic Studies and John Hopkins University. The book is an examination on civil military relations in war and their impact on grand strategy. A story told through the examples of Lincoln, Clemenceau, Churchill and Ben Gurion.  Its lessons are at least as much about effective executive leadership as they are about military strategy.

Supreme Command

Eliot A Cohen
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John Wooden is more or less a household name in the US after a 40 year coaching career in basketball in which his success was astonishing.  As coach of the University of California UCLA his teams won 10 National championships in twelve seasons, seven of them consecutively!  His relentless focus on teaching good habits and on the process  – leaving the score to take care of itself, have inspired generations of sports coaches since.  This is a book not just for sports fans but for anyone interested interested in the cross-over lessons that apply to leadership, team and performance development that are to be gleaned here.

Wooden On Leadership

John Wooden
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Benjamin Zander is the conductor for the Boston Philharmonic orchestra and his wife Rosamund is a family therapist.  This is a fantastic book on leadership, richly illustrated with anecdote and examples from Zander’s extensive teaching and conducting career.  For any leader interested in how to inspire and get the most out of people to connect with their potential and to help unleash that.

The Art of Possibility

Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander
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One of two books I would recommend or gift as an initial 101 primer for leadership in the 21st century to any leader regardless of seniority.  David Marquet’s story is about his time in command of a US Navy nuclear submarine and how he and the crew turned around the worst boat in the fleet to become the best on every metric.  His revelation was to switch his style from the autocratic top down command and control  – the normal culture of the Navy to one that empowered and engaged the crew by developing them as leaders.

Turn the Ship Around

David Marquet
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Biography of former England head coach Stuart Lancaster and his role in rebuilding and developing the England team after the 2011 World Cup. The book explores his philosophy and vision for the team. Heavily influenced by famous American sports coaches such as John Wooden (UCLA Basketball) and Bill Walsh (49’s Football) both of whom took weak teams and transformed them into consistent winning machines. Another story about being deliberate about a culture and setting out to build the right culture for long-term success. Lots of parallel lessons for business on performance & culture.

The House of Lancaster

Neil Squires
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General McChrystal was the the US Joint Special Forces Commander with responsibility for all US Special Forces Missions.  This book is in part based on his experiences of how US and Allied Special Operations Force units evolved to counter the asymmetrical networked threats of terrorist groups in Iraq.  The teams of teams that resulted, fast flat and enabled by a twenty first century communications architecture and a culture of mission command were dramatically impactful against Al Qaeda.  This same organizational design is how McChrystal and his co-authors argue business can best prepare and be successful in an ever more competitive, fast paced global environment.

Team of Teams

Stanley McChystal
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Performance

Performance is a process of understanding and paying attention to a system of interlinked skills. In combination these are the factors that will drive your outcome or result. These are the best titles we have found to give practical insights and inspiration into what performance means.

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Patti Niemi’s autobiographical story of her journey to become a professional orchestral percussionist. It provides a powerful insight into a world of obsessive relentless practice, competitive auditions and the impacts of pressure on performance.

Sticking it Out

Patti Niemi
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Myles Downey is a leading executive coach with over 25 years of experience in the business.  This book is a great distillation of why coaching works and makes such a difference in unlocking the performance potential of individuals and teams as well as being an effective how to guide for those wanting to develop their own coaching skills.  Fundamentally based around the GROW model Downey adds the benefit of years of practitioner experience to provide a hands on practical framework for shaping and delivering coaching sessions that drive change.

Effective Modern Coaching

Myles Downey
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John Whitmore along with Tim Gallway was a pioneer of performance coaching for business.  This book introduces the principles of effective coaching to help individuals fulfill their potential.  The book covers the GROW model as a framework for coaching conversations; goals, reality, options & wrap up and lays down a great foundation for anyone working to understand coaching as a process for unlocking and developing performance.

Coaching for Performance

John Whitmore
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Bill Walsh was the head coach of the 49’s from 1979-89 & took them from being the worst team in the NFL to winning three Super Bowel Championships as well as leaving a legacy that saw the team go on to win two further titles in the years after he left. The book is about his approach to coaching, a relentless focus on preparation and a defined ‘standard of performance’ for every conceivable drill and process. Many useful comparisons and experiences for anyone interested in developing and leading teams.

The Score Takes Care of Itself

Bill Walsh
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Atul Gawande is a General and Endocrine surgeon as well as an Associate Professor at the Harvard Medical School. The book is about the search to find a simple reliable method for improving surgical outcomes in the face of ever increasing complexity and specilization.  A problem that is far from being confined to medicine.  The solution, a checklist and a culture that recognizes experience does not make us infallible.  In fact it often creates the conceit of omnipotent competence which is frequently the genesis of careless oversight. Essential reading for anyone interested in decision-making.

The Checklist Manifesto

Atul Gawande
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Born out of a US government funded research project into the process of predictive analysis, this book about the mental processes and habits of a rare group of analysts who are able to make accurate predictive forecasts.  None of these individuals is a professional analyst or the custodian of any particular expertise these were simply volunteers with a curiosity and an approach that turns out to be far more accurate than the predictive powers of most ‘experts’ or agencies. Anyone interested in the analysis of complex situations should read this for its invaluable insights into how to approach problems, use analysis in an effective and insightful way and synthesize multiple points of view into a reasoned judgement.

Superforecasting

Philip Tetlock & Dan Gardner
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Psychology

Psychology is about being able to better understand and control the mind in order to be more consistently at our best. These are some of the best titles available if you want to understand topics like resilience, performing under pressure and mindset.

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Katy Milkman is a behavioral Scientist, Wharton Professor, and Co-Director of the Behavior Change for Good Initiative. This book looks at the major barriers to behavior change and what strategies can be used to overcome them. Applied research at its best.

How to Change

Katie Milkman
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Patti Niemi’s autobiographical story of her journey to become a professional orchestral percussionist. It provides a powerful insight into a world of obsessive relentless practice, competitive auditions and the impacts of pressure on performance.

Sticking it Out

Patti Niemi
Buy Here

Jane McGonigal is a game designer and psychologist whose  research focuses on how the positive characteristics of gameplay, such as focus, determination, resilience and persistence can be applied to real life challenges.  The book describes both the research science and the game methodolgy ‘SuperBetter‘, which is designed to help participants maximize their personal potential by applying the psychology and mindset of gameplay to real life challenges.

Super Better

Jane McGonigal
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Beloved by a host of NFL coaches and players, the book looks at how the philosophy of stoic thinkers such as Seneca and the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is as relevant today as it ever was, where philosophy has its original meaning of being a guide to life.  Stoicism focuses on what is within your power to change – for example your attitude and your approach to circumstance, accepting it for what it is neither good or bad.  This book is a great read for anyone interested in resilience and the development of character, through stress and adversity.

The Obstacle is the Way

Ryan Holiday
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Author and journalist Jonah Lehrer is a contributing editor to Wired magazine.  This book is a 101 of both the neuroscience and  psychology of how we make decisions.  It explores the constant biological tension between our emotional impulses – driven by the limbic system and the neurotransmitter dopamine which are broadly responsible for most of our decision-making and our ability to rationalize and control our emotional instincts.  The book explores how by understanding our own biology and the impact our blood chemistry has on our behaviour we can learn to make better, more self-aware decisions.  Excellent primer for anyone wishing to understand how biology influences decision-making.

How We Decide

Jonah Lehrer
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Colin Robertson is a researcher and writer on performance psychology.  This book is about willpower and the role it plays in helping us to achieve our goals.  Using examples from Motzart to J K Rowling the author looks at the science of willpower and how it can be developed and harnessed to improve personal performance.

The Will of Heroes

Colin Robertson
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Owen Easterwood is a performance coach with a rich Maori heritage that informs the central premise of this book, that in order to thrive we need a sense of belonging. A philosophy that was a strong influence on Gareth Southgate and the England Football team at the recent European Championships. invaluable for anyone interested in building strong teams and effective organizational cultures.

Belonging by Owen Eastwood

Owen Eastwood
Buy Here Read Notes

General McChrystal was the the US Joint Special Forces Commander with responsibility for all US Special Forces Missions.  This book is in part based on his experiences of how US and Allied Special Operations Force units evolved to counter the asymmetrical networked threats of terrorist groups in Iraq.  The teams of teams that resulted, fast flat and enabled by a twenty first century communications architecture and a culture of mission command were dramatically impactful against Al Qaeda.  This same organizational design is how McChrystal and his co-authors argue business can best prepare and be successful in an ever more competitive, fast paced global environment.

Team of Teams

Stanley McChystal
Buy here Read Notes

Jocko & Leif were US Navy Seal Officers leading a Seal Task Force in the battle of Ramadi in Iraq.  A period of intense sustained combat in a built up area. The book is about the mindset and leadership lessons they learned in the Seals and perfected in combat. Their distillation is designed to be applied to any team or business context where performance matters. The title refers to the principle of individual accountability for every aspect of the team’s mission. Plenty of interest and value here for military and business leaders alike.

Extreme Ownership

Jocko Willink & Leif Babin
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A how to guide for developing high performance teams.  The book looks at 7 facets for delivering results; context, mission, talent, norms, buy-in, power and morale and provides guidance and exercises to benchmark and develop the team.  Certainly not the holy-grail its authors might claim but none the less of value to anyone interested in developing high performance organizations.

The Rocket Model – Practical Advice For Building High Performance Teams

Gordon Curphy & Robert Hogan
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