One of the things that holds leaders back from reaching their highest potential is lack of capability. We need to be growing and learning constantly to keep up with the transformation of work today. Not learning, not growing. Not growing, we’ll be left behind.

Books are one of the best ways to immerse ourselves in the world of ideas and gain new skills quickly. Below are my top favourite books I have sent to clients to help them with their productivity, strategy, and influence.


  1. Dermot Crowley, Smart Work – How to boost your productivity in 3 easy steps

I get by far and away the most comments from this book. It gives really practical strategies on how to get organised in the digital world we operate in. I use the principles too and it has made scraps of paper with things to do hidden here and there a thing of the past. Bring on inbox zero and the electronic task list! Dermot’s next book, Smart Teams, is also coming out shortly.

  1. Peter Cook, The New Rules of Management – How to Revolutionise Productivity, Innovation and Engagement by Implementing Projects That Matter

Pete’s strategy for implementation is the 90 day project. This one concept has changed the way I organise my entire life! It’s a long enough time frame to get real work done, and short enough that it looks achievable. The real genius of the book are all the strategies to make sure we follow through on what we commit to. Pete is the implementation king!


  1. Stacey Barr, Prove It! How to create a high-performance culture and measurable success

I never get tired of sending this book out. Her logical approach of ’start with the end in mind’ with the results you want to create in your business is so logical, and yet the majority of businesses I have seen do strategy completely differently. Most organisations start with a wish list of projects or aspirational targets rather than drilling down to what truly matters, and figuring how to measure it and make it real. I cannot overstate how important and useful this book is!

  1. Matt Church, Next – Thoughts about tomorrow you can talk about today

Matt’s latest book is a distillation of key thinking on topics ranging from productivity through to big picture strategic thinking. It’s a useful handbook with guiding questions to help implement and make use of the insights and frameworks introduced. Matt works carefully on his thinking and reading his work is like drinking clean, filtered water. So smooth and refreshing!

  1. Stephen Scott Johnson, Emergent: Ignite Purpose, Transform Culture, Make Change Stick

Stephen has worked with some big global brands on how to build a movement. His insight is powerful and keeps us focused on what elevates the human spirit and transforms businesses and communities. It’s an intellectually rigorous text that needs to be digested slowly and referred to regularly.

  1. Peter Diamandis, Abundance – The Future is better than you think

Peter’s premise is that technology will liberate and not destroy humanity. It’s a poignant counterpoint to the robot apocalypse, the end of jobs, and doomsday reports. The book is not just pollyanna, but filled with great examples and research on how technology in particular has solved some intractable challenges, and offers the potential to make life for all creatures on the planet much better than anticipated. I choose his version of the future and work towards that.

  1. Dr Jason Fox, How to lead a quest: A guidebook for pioneering leaders

You can’t go past Jason’s work. His writing is delightful, witty, and full of pirates and krakens. It’s a scintillating saunter though the crazy world of change, with the enterprising spirit of the pioneer. While entertaining with laugh out loud moments (keep an eye out for the incident of the ‘doodle’ – I wept I laughed so hard!), Jason’s work offers us a practical way to navigate uncertainty and challenges ahead.


  1. Adam Grant, Give and Take: Why helping others drives our success

This book makes me want to love humanity all over again. The future really does belong to nice people! This book gives us extensive research in to why and how being a ‘giver’ makes us successful. It champions generosity and contribution as a sensible, and bankable, strategy in the workplace. For the ethically-driven, aspirational professional.

  1. Janine Garner, It’s Who You Know: How a network of 12 people can fast-track your success

Wonder woman Janine shows us how to audit our network and craft a personal support team that can help elevate our progress, personally and professionally. She tears down the traditional view of networking with crappy canapés and even crappier wine to focus on building genuine relationships that are mutually beneficial. It has an audit of your current network, and practical tips on how to identify and seek out the key roles you need on your personal support team. Love this book.

  1. Gabrielle Dolan, Stories for Work: The essential guide to business storytelling

Want to make change stick? Tell a story. Want to inspire your team? Tell a story. Want to get your kids to behave? Tell a story. All the research shows that people remember stories more than statistics. Stories are contagious and get passed quickly through the business ‘grapevine’. In this book ‘Ral’ shows us how to find stories, how to tell them, and what difference it will make to being perceived as an influential leader.

I had to stop at ten. So many great books to recommend! There are dozens more, and no doubt you have some excellent ones to put forward as well. Please do so in the comments – I’m always on the lookout for books that can make a difference to me and to the folks I work with.

P.S. I interviewed many of the authors on the Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast. Listen in here