Which Book Should a Mid-Level Manager New to Agile Read during the Christmas Holidays?

Yesterday, my colleague, Kristian Haugaard (@haugaards), asked on our Ugilic Google hangout; Which book should a mid-level manager new to Agile read during the christmas holidays?

My instinctive answer was Scrum for Managers: Management Secrets to Building Agile & Results-Driven Organizations by Rini van Solingen (@solingen) and Rob van Lanen (@robvanlanen). The book is a ‘how to get started’ guide and discusses many of the benefits and challenges managers face when adopting an Agile leadership paradigm.

Thinking more about the question, it gets a bit trickier to answer. Agile leadership is people-centered. Therefore, the best answer very much depends on the particular leader and the organizational context in which he or she operates. This is not to say, that Scrum for Managers is not a great book; it certainly is, but you might also want to consider the following three options.

If you already know Scrum and are looking to contribute to your company’s journey as part of a transformation team, you might want to pick up Lean Change Management by Jason Little. The book combines ideas from Lean Startup with tradition Change Management and Agile and offers a step-by-step guide to combining different frameworks to develop a customized change management process. If you face a lot of resistance to change in your organization, this book might just be right for you.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) was suggested on the hangout by my colleague, Tore Nielsen (@torenielsen), and I immediately wished I had suggested that book. The book includes inspiring case studies, interesting research, and explains why the most successful organizations over the long-term are those in which people feel safe inside the organization. If you are looking for a story about servant-leadership and want to understand why good leaders empower their teams to function independently, even long after the leader has left, this is the book for you.

Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni (@patricklencioni) is another great holiday reading option and one of my personal all-time favorite leadership books. It is a book I think every leader would benefit from reading. The first part of the book is a story about a very dysfunctional leadership team and the second part describes a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome dysfunction. For more on this book, please read my review from four years ago… time flies!

Finally, I want to point to the book Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux (@fred_laloux). In the book, Laloux discusses that with every new stage in human consciousness also comes a breakthrough in our ability to collaborate, bringing about a new organizational model. I believe we are on the verge of a new leadership revolution and Reinventing Organizations is a great book for understanding what is wrong with the currently predominant organization-as-a-machine paradigm. For a full evaluation, please check out my recent review.

I could go on and on listing great inspiring books you could pick up and read during the Christmas holidays, but I also want to hear your input. If you could recommend a book a mid-level manager in an organization transitioning to Agile should read during the Christmas holidays, which one would you pick? Please use the comments field below to join the conversation.

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  • Erik Korsvik Østergaard

    december 20, 2015 at 10:16

    “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek
    “The Halo Effect” by Phil Rosenzweig
    “The Opposable Mind” by Roger Martin


    • Martin

      december 20, 2015 at 13:56

      Haven’t read Halo Effect and Opposable Mind (yet), but totally agree on Start With Why. Might even be a better pick than Leaders Eat Last.


    • Martin

      december 21, 2015 at 14:00

      Thanks Stephan,
      A classic that never get outdated.


    • Martin

      december 24, 2015 at 12:37

      Thanks Barry,

      Sounds like a very interesting book, especially when if you are fascinated by coupling sports and business, like me. I will definitely put it on my 2016 reading list.

      Merry christmas,


  • Karen C

    januar 4, 2016 at 17:36

    I think inspirational leadership books are perfect for the new year as well as the holidays. You know the saying, “New Year, New You!” Thanks for sharing your list with us! I am always looking for books that help motivate and inspire me as well as helping me to inspire my employees. The book that I have read and reread in 2015 is “Leading For Results” by leadership development expert Joan Bragar (http://bostonleadership.com/) The quote “Leading is about empowering others to face challenges and achieve results” has stuck with me and she makes it very clear that being a good leader isn’t all about me me me. I have to want to lead to make a difference for others. I think the book does a great job at assisting you in finding your leadership purpose and then through journaling and exercises you can hone these skills into something usable in the workplace or even at home. Can’t recommend it enough. It’s a book that deserves more recognition for sure


    • Martin

      januar 7, 2016 at 08:20

      Thanks Karen,

      Certainly sounds like a book worth reading – thanks for sharing it with us.


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