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Top five books all professionals should read

How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie

The subtitle of this book is “the only book you need to lead you to success” – so we place it first on the list in case you agree. In fact, it deserves number one spot because it has remained a bestselling book since the time of the Great Depression.

Carnegie focuses on the psychology behind interactions with other people and how to influence them positively. His main lesson is how to avoid conflict so you can lead people willingly towards your goals. He focuses on every day interactions and punctuates his advice with charming anecdotes showing how he drew his conclusions. Some of the insights seem so mundane and obvious but it is this simplicity that makes it genius.

You might decide this is old fashioned and out-of-date for today’s global and digital world. But, stop and think if wisdom about how people need to be nurtured and encouraged ever changes. If you want to get to the top you are going to have to take people with you. Learn how to do befriend and influence people from a real professional and a genuine human being.

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The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

We follow one classic with another. There have been over 25 million copies of this book sold to date and it is more than 25 years old. It is also a standard text on a huge number of MBAs. Covey first talks about how to move from dependence to independence. He then moves on to talk about how to promote interdependence – or the synergy of a team. His final habit is renewal; this is the need to continually learn and improve and rebalance.

First Covey asks us to be proactive and then to begin with the end goal in mind. When you know where you want to go, you need to start at the very first step towards that goal. He then explores how it is important to consider how best to allow everyone to win. He promotes understanding and then teamwork through trustful communication. Finally, he points to the fact that to remain sharp you need to be refreshed: so, renew by maintaining balance physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally.

This is the book that will teach you how to be an effective human being, as well as an effective professional.

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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Some men are mythical and Jobs is more myth than most. This might not be the step by step guide to being effective like those offered by Carnegie and Covey but it is a salient lesson in the pursuit of perfection, the ability to rebound from massive mistakes and the art of ruthlessness when closing the deal. Whether you want to be like Jobs is questionable but somewhere in his story of winning his own company back and dragging it up from disaster are lessons we all should learn.

Isaacson apparently had unprecedented access to Jobs and his family, so there is never likely to be a more accurate account of this mysterious man.

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The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The book The Tipping Point is a thought leader beyond your expectation. Fifteen years ago, Gladwell recognised that data and the data derived from social media could influence the way that we sell products and get ideas out into the world. Fifteen. Years. Ago. This is only 10 years after the internet had come into existence.

The Tipping Point that Gladwell explores is that moments when an idea, trend or behaviour crosses a threshold and then goes viral. It seems old hat now – like you want to go “so?” But, read the vision of the original thinker in this area and see if it helps you understand how something tips over from being interesting to a worldwide, digital phenomena. It is clear to see why you need to know this in today’s world.

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The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Maybe, just maybe, the real geniuses in the professional world are those that can think differently. Taleb certainly does this. Here he explores the theory of the black swan, which is a metaphor for an improbable event that still happens. The image comes from the belief long held that black swans did not exist up until the moment they were found in the wild.

The black swan theory essentially refers to what Taleb calls the “silent risk” or those extreme outliers that cannot be predicted with mathematics. He notes how these events tend to have disproportionate impact on history, on finance, science and technology. Only with the benefit of hindsight do people claim to see the patterns that caused these essentially unpredictable events to come about.

This seems like an odd addition to list of essential books for a professional to read. It is highly philosophical and essentially focused on our ability to sometimes just never know. So, you ask, why read it? Well, if you can recognise and respond to the outlier and acknowledge its impact, you are more likely to take the benefits rather than the consequences of these events. Opening your eyes to the possibility that you might not see it coming but you might be able to see it when it arrives means you will lead the hindsight and savour the lessons.

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Enjoy our reading list, we believe they could change the way you behave in your professional life. They are also genuinely interesting reads – so, these could just be a great way to spend your lazy, Sunday afternoons.