Earning your first role in leadership may seem exciting in the beginning but it can be challenging once you dig a little deeper on the job. But if you learn how to build the right team to assist you with meeting the company’s mission and goals, you’ll be set up for success in no time with people who are willing to back each other up during the decision-making process. And that’s a big win for all.
In addition to having reliable staff to stand by your side, often what is most needed is the time to reflect inwardly by yourself—so you can think things through, or seek knowledge from a close colleague, a mentor on paper, or through an established personal network that will keep you motivated when times get tough.
Below are some go-to leadership resources that a panel of Fast Company Executive Board members have found useful, whether you’re a seasoned C-Suite executive, newly appointed team leader, or in the launching phase of building your own start-up.
Time is of the essence for me, but I am and always will be a relentless learner. Recognizing that those two facts are at odds with each other, I regularly use the Blinkist app. It summarizes business books in 15 minutes or less, so I can absorb several books in a short amount of time and lean into several different ideologies in the most efficient manner. – Nihal Advani, QualSights
2. YOUR BUSINESS PURPOSE
The best resource for a leader is purpose—ours is our fierce dedication to our customers. Knowing our customers inside and out is the most important piece of our business strategy. Additionally, having a mentor who can share their experiences and help to work through challenges is imperative. Both are crucial resources for driving innovation. – Ravi Kumar, Theatro
3. THE MEDITATIONS
My go-to leadership resource is The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. It’s the predominant read in the philosophy of Stoicism. It offers rare insight into the thoughts of a brilliant man trying hard to make the right decisions for his people, for himself, and for the world. It’s also action-oriented, with a wonderful question at its core: “What would the world be like if everyone behaved this way?”
4. Y COMBINATOR
5. AMP IT UP
Amp It Up: Leading for Hypergrowth by Raising Expectations, Increasing Urgency, and Elevating Intensity, by Frank Slootman is a favorite. In his most recent book, he shares his leadership approach. The book delivers a look at what it takes to transform an organization for maximum growth and scale. Frank is Silicon Valley royalty having led three companies through IPO (Data Domain, ServiceNow, and Snowflake). – Jason Wojahn, Thirdera
6. CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Emily Gregory is a relevant and insightful book on trust and empathy. It’s the epitome of a good resource and can be used for any conversational scenario to prepare for peer-to-peer, boss-to-employee, and more. I’ve gone back to it time and time again and find it extremely helpful as a part of discussion preparation, particularly for difficult topics. – Jennifer Dixson Hoff, Colibri Group
Self-exploration is essential. You wake up feeling that you have challenges to tackle. Ignoring that challenge will only amplify what you will inevitably have to deal with. Instead, take these steps: 1. Identify your most pressing challenge, 2. Identify what’s in your way, 3. Conduct the needed conversations. Doing so will lower your stress, positively impact the relationships around you, and drive you to achieve your personal and professional goals. – Ed Beltran, Fierce, Inc.
8. SILENCE AND INWARD FOCUS
This might surprise people but I would say silence. Leaders have to make tough decisions all the time. Looking inward and making decisions when you are feeling grounded and in touch with your intuition and principles will result in more thoughtful and better decisions. – Sunil Rajasekar, Mindbody
I particularly enjoy reading biographies and learning from extraordinary lives. I follow thought leaders like Adam Grant, Ben Horowitz, Satya Nadella, and Scott Galloway for their unique perspectives and some controversies to entice fresh thinking. Unbiased publications like Harvard Business Review and The Economist are great for being up-to-date on the latest trends and top-notch content. – Bruno Guicardi, CI&T
10. SYSTEMS MADE SIMPLE
My go-to leadership resource is the Systems Made Simple podcast hosted by Courtney Elmer. The podcast covers topics like team building, effective communication, and time management. It also features interviews with leaders in all industries. As a leader myself, I have found this podcast to be an invaluable tool for both my business and personal development. – Kristin Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC
11. THE FIRST 90 DAYS
The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins. It addresses the increasingly demanding landscape and steeper expectations. – Britton Bloch, Navy Federal
12. LOCAL MASTERMIND NETWORK
Establish a local “mastermind” group of other successful, like-minded entrepreneurs. Meet, at minimum, once a month to discuss referral opportunities, business best practices and new findings. Keep the group very exclusive to a maximum of 10 people or less. Find ways to add value to one another through additional networking. – Tyrone Foster, InvestNet, LLC
13. STUDY THE BIGGEST COMPANIES, THEN APPLY WITH A TWIST
When it comes to sales and marketing, do as they do but better—or with your own twist. You may have an innovative product but if you try to go out of user experience you may scare away potential buyers. People have been programmed to order a certain way and deviating a lot can cause confusion and lose that potential sale. So look at what all the biggest companies do and make your tweaks. – Tyler Angelos, Angelus Brand
14. VISTAGE INTERNATIONAL
I don’t know how I would have gotten through the first 10 years as a founder without my advisory group at Vistage International. Between their extremely knowledgeable speakers and my amazing chair—who holds me accountable for everything—Vistage has taught me so much and helped me to grow as a leader. – Danielle Wiley, Sway Group LLC
15. MORNING BREW
Morning Brew is my go-to in the morning for business, economic, and social updates. A five to 10-minute investment helps me stay on top of what’s going on in the world. It also keeps me sharp as a leader. – Daniel Voskin, Goals Plastic Surgery