5 Christmas books for a thoughtful leader

There are a lot of shortages in the headlines – of goods, talent, vaccines and good sense. But the greatest shortage any of us ever faces is the shortage of time. Leaders, in particular, struggle when everything seems to be a priority, and their family and personal lives can suffer as a result.

It may seem difficult to justify reading a book when there’s so much else to do, but for leaders there are few things more important than stretching the mind and seeking out new, challenging ideas. The alternative is someone who doesn’t grow in intellect or wisdom, and who therefore gets outgrown by a changing world.

woman reading

A good read – or listen, or watch, depending on your preferences – can also be rather enjoyable, particularly on a cold winter’s night. Here are a few options for the Christmas holidays. 

This is How They Tell Me the World Ends, by Nicole Perlroth

Cybersecurity can risk falling into the ‘boring but important’ category, until you’re the one who gets hacked. The chances of that are rapidly rising, writes former New York Times reporter Nicole Perlorth in this investigative tour de force, revealing a thriving, pernicious market in stolen data and cyber vulnerabilities, dominated by highly organised criminal groups and hostile nation states.

Western countries and businesses alike, she argues, are sleepwalking into disaster. Our best bet is to be aware of the threat, and start looking at our companies through a security lens – ensuring you have adequate cybersecurity skills in the team and making it a board level responsibility.

The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World, by Adrian Wooldridge

Entrepreneurs tend to believe in meritocracy, for obvious reasons. But it’s a thorny concept, often used as an excuse for social immobility rather than as a solution for it, by brushing over the role of environment on a person’s capacity to find and pursue opportunities. In this lucid examination, The Economist’s political editor offers what is simultaneously a defence of the idea of meritocracy – on the basis that the alternatives are far worse – and an argument for its reform. 

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kottler

This book came out in 2015 but it’s definitely worth revisiting after a pessimistic few years. By examining breakthrough innovations throughout history – from Roman goldsmiths to today’s deep tech pioneers – the authors aim to dispel the Malthusian distaste for economic growth and progress, painting a much more optimistic picture of a prosperous, sustainable future.

Beyond Collaboration Overload: How to Work Smarter, Get Ahead and Restore Your Well-being, by Rob Cross

We all know we’re supposed to be collaborative – working well with others, rather than bossing them around. But what if we’re collaborating too much? In this book, Professor Rob Cross reveals that about half of a manager’s collaborative interactions are unnecessary, creating an unmanageable burden of unproductive time.

We make it worse for ourselves too, expecting to be copied in or consulted on decisions because it validates our identity, or because we genuinely want to help, leading to learned dependence in the team. The good news? We can reduce collaboration overload by zeroing in on our most important tasks and building networks around them.

The Long Game: How to Be a Long Term Thinker in a Short Term World, by Dorie Clark

The temptation when you’re busy is to get your head down and get on with it. But do that too much and you’ll lose direction. To be strategic – in business and in life – you need to get your head up and see the big picture. In this bestseller, author and academic Dorie Clark gives tips on how to do that, discussing how small changes and persistence can help you achieve your goals and live a more purposeful life.