As part of our first season of the HR Think Tank, we asked each of the guests five rapid-fire questions to get to know them a little better—one of those questions centred on recommended must-reads.
We had a great lineup of guests who shared their must-read books on leadership, management, and workplace culture. Their responses were varied and interesting, and we wanted to share them with you.
So, whether you’re just starting out in your career or have been in business for years, these books are a great place to start.
1. A Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
On our first episode of the HR Think Tank, we spoke to Sarit Vandegraaf, a highly experienced organisational coach and facilitator who has worked with leaders from a cross-section of industries here in Australia and abroad.
Her must-read book was A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
The book details the lessons he (a psychiatrist) and his patients of spiritual survival and life in the Nazi death camps. His primary argument is that, while we can’t avoid suffering, we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it and move forward with renewed purpose. His theory, known as logotherapy, is based on the conviction that the pursuit of what we find meaningful is the ultimate driver of human experience – not pleasure.
2. The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age – Reid Hoffman
Shane Duffy, our second podcast guest and CEO of Employment Innovations, had a couple of books he recommended including, Traction by Gino Wickman and Best Kept HR Secrets by Alan Collins. The one that stood out to us the most was The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age by Reid Hoffman.
Shane is the CEO of one of Australia’s leading payroll companies and often advocates for many ideas Reid Hoffman details in his book.
As the co-founder of LinkedIn, Hoffman believes that he has found a way around the dilemma that you can’t afford to treat employees like family. But you also can’t build a lasting, innovative business when every employee acts like a free agent.
His solution is to stop thinking of employees as family or free agents and start thinking of them as allies. This way, you can recognise an employee’s independence which essentially builds loyalty and trust and, in turn, allows them to work together toward a common goal – even though their interests may differ.
All of this allows employees to transform their careers – which helps companies attract and retain the entrepreneurial talent they need to drive innovation.
3. War of the Worlds – HG Wells
According to Sophia Symeou, CEO of INS Career Management, the original War of the Worlds is extraordinary from a social commentary perspective.
The book is a science fiction novel detailing how humans must come to terms with the prospect of the end of human civilisation following an alien invasion. Beyond that, many have interpreted the book as a commentary on evolutionary theory
4. 48 Laws of Power – Robert Green
On episode four of the HR Think Tank, we had Paul Dinh join us to discuss the candidate’s experience during recruitment. Paul Dinh is the Head of Sales at CareerOne – the leading digital employment brand offering a unique job hunting experience and innovative corporate solutions for candidate sourcing, talent management and employee branding.
His must-read recommendation is the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green.
The book essentially draws on the history of power and summarises it into 48 essential laws. According to Good Reads, some laws teach the need for prudence, others teach the value of confidence, and many recommend absolute self-preservation. However, every law has one thing in common: an interest in total domination.
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Burt Sigsworth, CEO of Cabin Services Australia – one of the leading professional aircraft cabin services providers – highly recommends To Kill a Mockingbird. He argues that the book taught him how to think before he acts, be deliberate in his choices, and try to do the right thing.
This makes complete sense because the premise of Harper Lee’s unforgettable novel is to take readers to the roots of human behaviour – innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humour and pathos.
6. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t – Jim Collins
Our guest on episode six of the HR Think Tank, Ronel Raats, specialises in proactive talent acquisition to meet immediate and long term strategic hiring needs.
With her genuine interest in people and an understanding of what drives and motivates them, it’s no surprise that her must-read book is Good to Great by Jim Collins. According to Ronel, the book gives a great perspective on the differences between companies that were successful and those that weren’t.
According to Collins, the book addresses a single question: can a good company become a great company, and if so, how? Based on a five-year research project comparing companies that made the leap to those that did not, Good to Great shows that greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance but largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.
7. The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
During episode seven of the HR Think Tank podcast, we spoke with Omer Molad, the co-founder and CEO of Vervoe. We discussed the role of skills assessment in the hiring process and explored the opportunities when companies hire based on merit, not background.
Omer’s must-read, especially if you are trying to build a company, is The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. Omer argued that while there are a tonne of books out there that talk about the great things about starting a business, not all of them are brutally honest about how hard it is to run one.
This book brings that honesty and covers some of the toughest problems that Ben Horowitz experienced while in Silicon Valley – that wasn’t covered in business school.
Omer also recommended a book called Atomic Habits, which would benefit anyone who wants to either develop or shed habits.
8. Behind the Cloud – Marc Benioff & Half the Sky – Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Our guests on episode eight of the podcast, Angela Kwan and Aivee Robinson have developed a platform to give global workplaces the power to connect their people through purpose, to make a culture of community and to make giving a central part of the employee experience.
Angela’s must-read recommendation is Behind the Cloud by Marc Benioff. According to Angela, the book focuses on the story of the founder of Salesforce. She argues that it is a great book about building a game-changing technology business and that Marc Benioff had a real game-changer approach to corporate social responsibility.
Aivee recommended Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. She argues that it is a must-read because it will change how you see the world. After reading this, she said it is impossible not to live your life with a social lens and want to be part of the change.
The book is a passionate call to arms against the oppression of women and girls in the developing world, and the authors show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad.
9. The Art of Possibility – Ben and Ros Zander & Synchronicity – Joseph Jaworski
For Julie Birtles, there were two books that she would grab if her house was on fire and she was running out the door: The Art of Possibility by Ben and Ros Zander and Synchronicity by Joseph Jaworski.
The Art of Possibility is a book about bringing creativity into all human endeavours and shares the powerful role that the notion of possibility can play in every aspect of life. One of the best ways to of dealing with the problems you face is to focus on the possibilities surrounding you in any situation rather than slipping into the default mode of measuring and comparing your life to others.
According to the book, while most things are measured, you don’t need to play the measurement game. Instead, you can play the possibility game and live in a world where anything is possible rather than measured.
Synchronicity is a guide to developing leadership capacity. Through telling his life story, Jaworski shares how the capacity to be a leader has more to do with our being – our total orientation of character and consciousness – than with what we do. In the book, Jaworski describes three shifts in how we see the world, how we understand relationships, and how we make commitments – which in turn offers a new definition of leadership that applies to all types of leaders.
10. The Barefoot Investor: The Only Money Guide You’ll Ever Need – Scott Paper
On episode 11 of the HR Think Tank, we spoke to our very own Zahra Nathwani, Recruitment Specialist at VerifyNow.
Her favourite book, which sparked an interest in living a minimalist lifestyle, was The Barefoot Investor by Scott Paper. The book delves into creating an entire financial plan that is so simple you can sketch it on the back of a serviette.
Zahra explains that there are so many self-help books filled with tips around financial success, but it can easily be overwhelming – especially when one book says, “do X” and another says, “do Y”. The Barefoot Investor brings things back to basics and the book is full of stories from everyday Australians including single people, young families, empty nesters, retirees – who have applied the simple steps in this book and achieved life-changing results.
11. Papillon – Henri Charrière
For Simon Darcy, our guest on episode 12 of the HR Think Tank, a must-read is Papillon by Henri Charrière because it taught him a lot about resilience.
Simon explains, “even though the key character was a criminal, they were framed and spent time in this hideous South American penal colony in all sorts of terrible experiences. But they got through, and at some stage in our life, all of us will need to get through something and come out to the light at the other end.”
Papillon’s flight to freedom remains one of the most incredible feats of human cunning, will, and endurance that was ever undertaken.
12. Talking To My Country – Stan Grant
Our guest on episode 13, Cat-Thao Nguyen, is the CEO and Managing Director of Global Ready – which provides coaching, training and consulting services in inclusive leadership and executive development to global companies.
A must-read for her is Talking To My Country by Stan Grant. She believes that one of the biggest issues in Australia is not being able to have a reconciliation with our First Nations peoples. And the book is about Stan’s personal experience on race, culture and national identity. The book aims to reach out to every Australian about their country – what it is and what it could be.
13. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose – Tony Hsieh
For our last guest on season one, Aja Bhatia, Delivering Happiness by the late Tony Hsieh is a must-read for any business leader. The book is about the path Tony took at Zappos to get to over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales in less than ten years. The book details Tony’s life as an entrepreneur but essentially delves into the business of delivering happiness while living a life of passion and purpose.
Through his experience, Tony demonstrates how thinking long-term and following your passions can not only lead to profits but also a happy life for your employees, your customers, and yourself. The book also describes an alternative approach to corporate culture that focuses on making people around you happy, and by doing so increasing your own happiness.
If you’re looking for more insight into being a better leader and bringing out the best in your team, we hope this list provides some inspiration.
For more advice on workplace culture, recruitment, leadership styles and retaining high-value talent, make sure to tune into the HR Think Tank with Khai Ngo.
Or, if you would like to know more about our VerifyNow’s recruitment and screening services, get in touch with us today!