10 Must-Read Books About Teamwork and Leadership

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What makes an effective team? What can you, as a leader, do to foster teamwork and collaboration within your organization? 

No man is an island, as the popular adage goes. We can only accomplish great things together, which is why teamwork is the key driver of change and progress.

Here are Shortform’s picks of the best books about teamwork and leadership.

The Power of Teamwork

No one is guaranteed a life without pain. You will eventually experience painful and tragic moments, and you may have already. Going through these hard times alone is much more difficult than relying on the help of others to get you through. You need teamwork and cooperation to help navigate life’s difficult moments. 

The same is true for achieving success in business: You need a team—a strong, committed team who will make your goals a reality. If you want to learn how to build and lead a team, check out our roundup of the best books about teamwork. 

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team explores how teams fail to work cohesively together through a dynamic, five-part model of dysfunction. The five dysfunctions are 1) absence of trust, 2) fear of conflict, 3) lack of commitment, 4) avoidance of accountability, and 5) inattention to results.

Through identifying these root causes of poor teamwork, teams can develop specific strategies for overcoming each of them. By doing this, they will become comfortable with one another, be willing to engage in constructive debate, achieve clarity and buy-in around team priorities, hold one another to high standards, and focus on team results instead of individual ambition.

Teams of Teams

In 2004, General Stanley McChrystal took over as commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. The sprawling organization—encompassing strategists, analysts, and elite special forces from every branch of the U.S. military—was struggling to make headway against an unconventional enemy and environment.

In Team of Teams, McChrystal describes how he transformed the slow-moving bureaucratic task force into an agile, adaptable network of teams united by a “shared consciousness”, trust, and decentralized decision-making. After years of being outmaneuvered by Al Qaeda, the reinvented task force pulled together to eliminate terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi and began winning the fight against terrorism in Iraq. These accomplishments hold lessons for all kinds of organizations struggling with unconventional challenges and environments today.

Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work

Want to motivate your employees and teammates to do a better job? Does your team seem unhappy, unmotivated, and distrustful of your organization?

In Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, Paul Marciano argues that engagement stems from respect. Employees don’t want to be treated like cogs in a chain. Instead, they want to feel empowered, have autonomy, receive supportive feedback, and be treated considerately. Learn what components of work people really want, and simple actions to take today to engage your team.

The Mythical Man-Month

In The Mythical Man-Month, Frederick P. Brooks offers a guide to managing large teams and completing complicated projects. The book covers strategies for streamlining your process so that you can keep your staff working together smoothly and finish your most daunting projects on time.

Brooks led the division of IBM that programmed computer operating systems in the 1960s, when computer programming was far less developed than it is now. He originally wrote The Mythical Man-Month as a management guide for the burgeoning software industry. However, managers from diverse fields began adopting his strategies, turning his work into a business classic.

Turn the Ship Around!

L. David Marquet was in charge of the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Santa Fe and its crew from 1999 to 2001. Turned the Ship Around! is the story of how he turned the submarine crew into one of the best by replacing the military’s traditional “leader-follower” or command-and-control structure with a “leader-leader” organizational model that gave crew members control over their work. In 2012, the book became the number one must-read book, according to Fortune Magazine

Radical Candor

In Radical Candor, Kim Scott shares her insights on how to become a great boss through the straightforward, deeply human principle of radical candor. This approach maintains high employee satisfaction and drives stellar results that you’d never be able to accomplish otherwise. With the two guiding principles of radical candor—caring personally and challenging directly—you’ll build stronger relationships within your team and create a culture of sincere and helpful guidance, inspiring your team members to bring their best and most motivated selves to their work and their collaborations, every day.

The Culture Code

In The Culture Code, Daniel Coyle explains how organizations can develop a healthy group culture that promotes interconnection, teamwork, and consistency by focusing on three foundational concepts: safety, vulnerability, and purpose. He breaks down the key attributes and benefits of each concept, warns of the consequences of ignoring them, and gives insight into how to implement them in your workplace.

The Ideal Team Player

In The Ideal Team Player, Patrick M. Lencioni argues that true team players are surprisingly uncommon, in part because many organizations are unclear on what being a team player means, and as a result, often end up hiring people who undermine teamwork. Lencioni defines the model team player as a person who embodies the virtues of humility, hunger or drive, and people skills. He explains how to transform your organization by developing your current employees into team players and making sure you hire team players in the future.

Tribal Leadership

What makes some organizations more effective than others? In Tribal Leadership, authors Dave Logan, Halee Fischer-Wright, and John King contend that culture makes all the difference. Any organization succeeds or fails on the culture of its tribes—groups of individuals that share ways of thinking, interacting, and working—and we can improve our organizations by upgrading the cultures of those tribes.

To elevate a group’s culture, tribal leaders coach their people through five stages, progressing toward the inspired teamwork of Stages 4 and 5. Implement these leadership stages and strategies effectively, and you’ll improve both your bottom line and your employees’ happiness.

The Ultimate Sales Machine

In The Ultimate Sales Machine, Chet Holmes argues that the secret to sales success is relentless discipline, determination, and above all, repetition of just a few steps. For Holmes, sales mastery is intensive, not extensive—it’s about being an expert in a relative handful of practices, not being adequate or average at many things.

But you and your entire team have to be fully committed to refining and perfecting every aspect of your new sales strategy. By implementing effective time management across your company, honing your sales team with interactive training, hiring people with the right personality traits, and relentless marketing that presents your company’s value to the customer, you can significantly boost your sales figures and put your team on the path to permanent success.

Final Words

There are dozens of books about teamwork and leadership out there, but they cover the subject from such a wide range of angles that it’s not easy to know which ones are applicable to you. That’s why our roundup of the best books about teamwork features books that address a breadth of topics pertaining to building and leading teams of all shapes and sizes. 

If any of these books piqued your interest, you are in luck because you are just a few clicks away from diving into their wisdom. Check out the summaries of the best books about teamwork in our Shortform library.

10 Must-Read Books About Teamwork and Leadership

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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