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Top 10 Must-Read Books for HR Leaders and Professionals

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28 October, 2022

Are you browsing for a good read that can keep you engaged and informed while providing ample food for thought as we come close to 2023?  

If so, we got you! We have collated the must-read books for HR leaders that you can consider adding to your year-end reading list. 

So, without any further ado, let’s get right into the details! 

1. The Savage Truth: Lessons on Leadership, Business, and Life from 40 Years in Recruitment (2019)  savage truth

The Savage Truth is one of the must-read books for HR professionals that provides humorous accounts of Greg Savage’s (the author) life events, delving deeper into his recruitment career. Savage is the founder of two $100 million recruitment businesses and is an advisor on 16 recruitment boards.   

Savage invites his readers on a two-part journey through his well-acclaimed business biography. The first part of this HR leadership book, entitled 'A Recruitment Journey-From Africa to the World', highlights his early life events that shaped him.  

The second part offers guidance to his successors in the recruitment industry. It is in this section of the book, titled 'The Savage Truth on Your Career and Business', Savage emphasizes the significance of the following: 

  • Building a personal brand,  
  • Making successful acquisitions,  
  • Recruitment marketing,  
  • People leverage,  
  • Performance management, and so forth.  

Written in the form of anecdotes and blended with facts and personal anecdotes from Savage’s early days as a recruiter, this is one of the best books for HR leaders. Here is what Charles Cameron, CEO of RCSA Australia and New Zealand, said about The Savage Truth:  

The Savage Truth is a playbook for managers, leaders, business owners... It takes the complex and makes it simple, relatable, and executable. Read this book. Read it again, and never put it away.”  

If you haven’t already read this book, why not add this to your reading list?  

2. Victory Through Organization: Why the War for Talent Is Failing Your Company and What You Can Do About It (2017)  victory through organization

Victory Through Organization is written by Dave Ulrich and co-authored by David Kryscynski, Wayne Brockbank, and Mike Ulrich. Dave Ulrich is one of the number-one-selling authors on the Wall Street Journal and the USA Today.  

This book is divided into four parts:  

  • HR Matters,  
  • Organization,
  • Individual, and  
  • What Happens Next.  

Victory Through Organization begins with the statement, “HR is not about HR. HR begins and ends with the business,” prioritizing the role played by HR in any organization, focusing on the same, the book highlights the following: 

  • The most significant challenges in HR, especially the talent wars happening due to the dynamic changes taking place in companies 
  • Shattering myths and bringing forward fact-filled insights related to HR 
  • Insights into how companies can strengthen their systems and empower human capital 

Here is what Mike A Volkema, the Chairman and former CEO of Herman Miller, Inc., wrote about Victory Through Organization 

Victory Through Organization proves the case that the next evolution of HR will play a pivotal role in shaping winning organizations. It will not be a collection of individuals that will come out on top in our complex and rapidly changing World, but rather more capable, insightful, and aligned organizations.”  

In short, Victory Through Organization is one of the best books for HR leaders as it collated information from the HR Competency Studies, while analyzing 32,000 survey responses, substantiating all the theories that the author has put forward. 

3. The One Minute Manager: Increase Productivity, Profits, and Your Own Prosperity (1982)  one minute manager

Written by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, The One Minute Manager is a classic that focuses on the various methods of being an effective manager. The three techniques explained in the book are: 

  • One Minute Goal,  
  • One Minute Praising, and  
  • One Minute Reprimands (changed to One Minute Redirect in the later editions).  

While creating these methods, the authors have also referred to different studies conducted in medicine and behavioral science.  

The One Minute Manager is a Management 101, created as a fable, where a young man is searching for an effective manager. After meeting several managers, he comes across the One Minute Manager, who explains to him different individual and organizational growth concepts. 

Here is an interesting note from The One Minute Manager, a book that conveys a lot in less than 100 pages:  

“Take a minute: look at your goals, look at your performance, see if your behavior matches your goals.”  

Similar to this, there are several other vital insights that you can gain from this gem.   

So, if you haven’t read this already, why not grab this one as your weekend read?  

4. Becoming (2018)  becoming

Becoming is a profound reflective memoir that can take you on an expedition down the lane of Michelle Obama’s life experiences. This memoir, a Sunday Times #1 seller, also has a letter to her younger self with 20 questions and five Q&As you can use as a book club guide.   

Michelle Obama has divided the book into three sections, simplifying it further for her readers. They are: 

  • Becoming Me,  
  • Becoming Us, and  
  • Becoming More.  

Becoming Me highlights her happy childhood in the South Side of Chicago, where she spent most of her time learning piano from her aunt. This part also focuses on her time while studying at Princeton University and Harward Law School.   

In the second section, Michelle Obama delves into her romantic relationship with Barack Obama, their marriage, and about Obama starting a political career.   

In the final part, she explains about Obama’s presidency, the Let’s Move campaign, and how she juggled her duties as a parent, wife, and the first African American First Lady.  

Thus, Becoming is an excellent thought leadership book, suitable for everyone.  

Besides, the way Michelle Obama concludes by affirming that she is “an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey” makes it a much more thought-provoking memoir in all its true essence.  

5. Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine Better Future for Everyone (2017) hit the refresh

 

“At the core, Hit Refresh is about us humans and the unique quality we call empathy, which will become ever more valuable in a world where the torrent of technology will disrupt the status quo like never before.”  

– Satya Nadella from Hit Refresh  

Nadella, through this book, takes his readers on an inspiring journey, showcasing why you and your company should transform and “hit refresh,” especially in the quest for creating innovative ideas. 

Nadella crafted this New York Times Best Seller with the assistance of Greg Shaw and Jill Tracie Nicholas. In this work, Nadella delves into themes like empathy, leadership, innovation, ethical development, healthy competition, and strategic partnership.   

As part of exploring these themes, Nadella walks readers through his childhood experiences in India, beautifully connecting them with the transformations that he brought into Microsoft after he took over Microsoft in 2014. Nadella takes readers on a sojourn, focusing on rediscovering Microsoft’s soul that rejuvenated the organization.   

The book also portrays Nadella’s philosophies and elaborates further on the articulation of Microsoft’s mission and how Microsoft’s corporate culture transformed into one focusing on collaborations.  

6. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (2002) The five dysfunctions

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is indeed one of the best books for HR leaders, crafted with wisdom by Patrick Lencioni. It is a leadership fable at its core that focuses on five behaviors in a team that can hamper its performance. They are as follows:  

  • Absence of trust,  
  • Fear of conflict,  
  • Lack of commitment,  
  • Avoidance of accountability, 
  • Inattention to results. 

Lencioni explains how to overcome these five issues that affect performance with the fictional narrative of the challenges faced by Kathyrn Peterson, the CEO of DecisionTech, a Silicon Valley firm.  

In short, this book is a good read on how to build a high-performing team. Here is what Geoffrey A. Moore, Chairman of The Chasm Group, said about the Five Dysfunctions of a Team:  

“Every manager and executive will recognize themselves somewhere in this book. Lencioni distills the problems that keep even the most talented teams from realizing their full potential. Even more important, he shows — in prose that is crisp, clear, and fun to read how to solve them.”  

7. WORK RULES!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead (2015)  work rules

Laszlo Bock, the former head of Google’s innovative People Operations, wrote WORK RULES!, gaining inspiration from human psychology and behavioral economics.   

Some of the things highlighted in this book are: 

  • Why you should learn something new from your best and worst colleagues,  
  • Why hiring people more intelligent than you is essential,  
  • Why you should not trust your gut instinct,  
  • How you can create a foundation for how your team functions, 
  • How giving freedom to people can amaze you,  
  • How hiring is a crucial people activity in your organization, 
  • Why you have to shift the power from your managers to your employees 

Based on the last point mentioned above, let’s look at how Google removes managerial authority over its employees.  

“Google’s approach is to cleave the knot. We deliberately take power and authority over employees away from managers.”  

At Google, managers can’t unilaterally make decisions, including whom to hire or fire, how much salary hike, or stock grant to be given to an employee, or when to launch the final design of a product. A group of peers or committees makes all these decisions.   

There are a lot of other interesting details in-store to explore while reading WORK RULES!.  

8. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (2001) eat the frog

When Mark Twain used the phrase Eat That Frog, he meant that eating a frog first thing in the morning would be the worst thing that can happen to you for an entire day. But Brian Tracy gives a positive twist to the concept of Eat That Frog, where Tracy compares the Frog to a challenging task you have to complete in a day.   

As per Tracy, the first rule you must follow while eating a frog is: 

“If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.”  

Similarly, there are several other practical rules that you can find in this simple read, which is also one of the highly recommended and best books for HR leaders and professionals.  

Eat That Frog is a self-help book on time management, focusing on the significance of prioritizing crucial tasks and handling them on time without procrastinating.  

As part of that, Tracy presents three core elements as vital for effective time management and they are: 

  • Decision,  
  • Discipline, and  
  • Determination  

Aside from this, the book describes how to avoid distractions and stay focused in its updated version.   

Therefore, if you are someone who wish to “get more things done in a short period of time,” why not give Eat That Frog a read?  

9. Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Condition (2006)  our iceberg is melting


Who doesn’t love a well-written business fable?  

Which is exactly what John Kotter's Our Iceberg is Melting is!

John Kotter wrote this book along with Peter Mueller and Holger Rathgeber. It delves into the events of how a colony of penguins living in an iceberg on the coast of Antarctica survives the environmental challenges they face.   

This book does a meticulous job in showing the importance of: 

  • Working together as a team,  
  • Identifying problems,  
  • Prioritizing based on the situation,  
  • Planning short-term wins,  
  • The need for consolidating essential events, and so forth.   

Our Iceberg is Melting, thus, contains details that organizations and workplaces worldwide can bring into action to function better by incorporating leadership as a management practice.  

10. The Drive: The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us (2009) Drive

This New York Times bestseller presents to its readers a new way of thinking about motivation. 

The Drive is written by David H. Pink, who is also the author of other renowned books like When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing and To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others.   

Pink has structured this book into three parts:  

  • A New Operating System,  
  • The Three Elements, and  
  • The Type I Toolkit 

In the second part of the book, Pink examines three core elements of motivation through his work, and they are:  

  • Autonomy, focusing on enhancing engagement over compliance  
  • Mastery, empowering skills via upskilling  
  • Purpose, engaging in activities with purpose  

Along with this, he shows yet another central idea in The Drive that there is no correlation between high pay and performance, especially in job roles emphasizing cognitive skills and creativity. However, Pink adds that this won’t be a concern when employees get paid enough “so that money isn’t an issue."  

Bottom Line 

These are our top ten recommendations for must-read books for HR leaders and professionals. From The Savage Truth to The Drive, each of these books has something new to offer you that will aid personal and professional growth.  

So, why not pick your read? 

Revathi V Gopal
Revathi V Gopal
Revathi is a writer who fell in love with words from a very young age. She primarily writes B2B blogs, articles, listicles, whitepapers, e-books, and also enjoys creating content in niches, including HR-tech, Femtech, travel, digital marketing, e-Commerce, lifestyle, fashion, mental health. Apart from writing, she loves to read, travel, binge watch shows, try new things, go for long walks, window shop, and most importantly, be with her closest people. Find me on:
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Topics: Remote Hiring

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