Recommended Leadership Books from Torch Staff

August 23, 2019 Career Planning
torch recommended leadership books

There are countless books on how to become a leader, how to be a better leader, what leadership style is best for you, and more. It can be hard to cut through the noise and choose a book that’s going to be most helpful for your personal growth. At Torch, we think about and discuss leadership all the time.

Many of our staff are avid readers, and we’ve enjoyed sharing our recommendations internally. Now, we’re delighted to bring you a few of our staff’s favorite leadership books. Get insight on what we’ve learned from each book and what you might take away as well.



The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Recommended by: Cher B.

“I love Essentialism. It’s about discipline in saying no so you can focus on what matters for you and for your company/project/task at hand. I think it’s super relevant to leaders- you need to realize what is essential and eliminate everything else so you use your most precious resource-your time-to its highest impact.”

From the book:

“The way of the Essentialist is the path to being in control of our own choices. It is a path to new levels of success and meaning. It is the path on which we enjoy the journey, not just the destination.”

– Greg McKeown

the making of a manager julie zhou

The Making of a Manager

What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

Recommended by: Mary J

“This book is great for new managers at high growth companies. If you’re struggling with the transition of being a high performing Individual Contributor to a new Manager, this book is really helpful. It reads like a field guide with specific examples and stories from Zhou’s experience and how these lessons she is sharing played out in real-time. She is humble and approaches these stories with a sense of humor that makes them feel more accessible.”

From the book:

“This is the crux of management: It is the belief that a team of people can achieve more than a single person going it alone. It is the realization that you don’t have to do everything yourself, be the best at everything yourself, or even know how to do everything yourself. Your job, as a manager, is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together.”

― Julie Zhuo


Managing Humans

Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager

Recommended by: Scott M

“This is a must-read for first time software engineering managers, but valuable for engineers, product & project managers at all levels (including those already in leadership roles). What makes this book special is that it communicates management principals from the perspective and using the language and using the language of a technologist through real stories. It’s almost as if the author ‘hacked’ engineering management and describes how it is done in a straightforward manner without being overly academic. Since the book is a collection of essays, it covers a broad series of topics from conflict management, meeting-hell, effective hiring and managing up. This book was my first exposure to the value of 1:1 meetings, which over 10 years later remains one of the most important tools in my management toolbox.”

From the book:

“Every single person with whom you work has a vastly different set of needs. They are chaotic and beautiful snowflakes. Fulfilling these needs is one way to make them content and productive. It is your full-time job to listen to these people and mentally document how they are built.”

– Michael Lopp


the coaching habit say less, ask more & change the way you lead foreverThe Coaching Habit

Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
Recommended by: Mary J

“I’d recommend this book to anybody. Whether you apply the hands-on skills from this book professionally or personally, this book will help you become a better listener and have deeper conversations. For myself, I refer back to word-for-word questions to ask people to help them draw out answers to their own questions. As a manager, this book will help you get out of the way so your team isn’t coming to you for the answer each time. It teaches you how to build a framework so you are removing roadblocks rather than driving the car.”

From the book:

“When you build a coaching habit, you can more easily break out of three vicious circles that plague our workplaces: creating overdependence, getting overwhelmed and becoming disconnected.”

Michael Bungay Stanier



trillion dollar coach the leadership playbook of silicon valley's bill campbellTrillion Dollar Coach

The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell

Recommended by: John B.

“I love that Bill came from a background of coaching football and his whole ethos was about human success over winning. In fact, he didn’t seem to care about winning as long as people were set up for success and happiness. The notion that titles don’t truly make you a leader, people do, also really resonated with me. There’s a big difference between a manager and a leader and I think that’s a big takeaway from this book. Just because you manage people doesn’t mean you’re a leader, it’s how those people see and relate to you which makes you a leader. The people define you as being a leader…not your title or role.”

From the book:

“But Bill made it okay to bring love to the workplace. He created a culture of what people who study these things call “companionate” love: feelings of affection, compassion, caring, and tenderness for others. He did this by genuinely caring about people and their lives outside of work, by being an enthusiastic cheerleader, by building communities, by doing favors and helping people whenever he could, and by keeping a special place in his heart for founders and entrepreneurs.”

Eric Schmidt



dare to lead brene brownDare to Lead

Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

Recommended by: John B.

“One of the biggest things I took away from that book is understanding the story I am telling myself. It’s about how having awareness that you’re creating a narrative without all of the facts (in that, you can’t actually know and feel or be in the exact shoes as someone else) helps you to have better awareness and empathy.”

From the book:

“If we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts—so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people—we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.”

Brené Brown



Quiet Leadership

Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work

Recommended by: Erik B

“Quiet Leadership is an excellent book that touches on the neuroscience behind coaching, including why a question is so often more powerful that a recommendation. It offers a series of techniques and practices to support effective leadership transformation.”

From the book:

“As leaders managing people who are paid to think, it’s time we learned more about how to improve the thing we’re paying for-not people’s shoulders or hands, but their minds and brains. It’s time we better harness the power of the most complex and adaptive bit of technology in the known universe.”

David Rock