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4 must-read IT leadership books

John Brandon | May 8, 2015
Your time is valuable and often limited, so we’ve hand-picked four books that cover the most important IT leadership issues today.

'Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead'

Author: Laszlo Bock

What can you learn from a vice president of HR at Google? Plenty. In his detailed account of leadership practices in the famed search company, Bock explains how the ruling authority on a team is essentially the one who influences, trains, and supports his team. It's no longer about having the most power or even making the decisions. You are leading a team of people who might even be better at making decisions than you and better at their jobs.

"One of the biggest shifts we'll see will be one towards hiring generalists, not specialists," Bock told "Leaders should focus on hiring nimble, collaborative learners, not siloed specialists. Why? Because your company isn't static. So why hire employees who only fit what your company is today, not where it might be in five years? When you focus on hiring for the long term, you seek out general athletes rather than candidates with highly specialized skills."

"Invest in a candidate who's eager to learn, consume new experiences, and buys into your company's mission for the long haul," he says. "Specialists will crank out the work at hand, and do it quite well. But, they won't bring the same value as an employee that's dynamic and can be successful across different parts of your company."

'The Simplicity Cycle: A Field Guide to Making Things Better Without Making Them Worse'

Author: Dan Ward

Written with any business leader in mind -- even if that person happens to run the Pentagon -- this well-written book explains what happens when companies get too caught up in the process and do not have an end-goal in mind. It's not just for military leaders. The book doesn't throw out complexity as some books do, especially those that espouse a simple design aesthetic. Instead, it provides advice for how to lead in the midst of complexity before it all gets out of hand.

"Managing complexity is difficult for a lot of reasons, but largely because talking about complexity is difficult," Ward told "We often don't have a clear way to communicate exactly what we mean by words like 'simple' or 'complex.' So I wrote The Simplicity Cycle to give leaders and teams an intuitive, visual vocabulary that makes these talks more productive and effective."

"The key to managing complexity is to understand why it's important and to identify how and when it becomes destructive," he says. "That's actually easier than it sounds, once we know what to look for. The Simplicity Cycle shines a light on a collection of complexity-related pitfalls we often fall into. It makes the difficult task of managing complexity much easier."


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