7 books that will boost your emotional intelligence and make you a better leader

Hands photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash
Hands photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

In engineering management you end up with 3 kinds of leaders.

  1. The kind that are ruinously empathetic and over-index on people management.
  2. Battle-tested senior engineers fire-fighting in strategic/leadership roles
  3. The rare leader who balances #1 and #2

I’ve had the privilege of working with top-notch software engineers who are interested in leadership. In the interest of helping them see success in an engineering management role, I recommend three books.

The Engineering Manager EQ Trifecta

These three are the non-negotiables. I recommend them to every new manager. The applicable lessons and mental models therein are priceless.

No surprises here. This book is at the top of everyone’s leadership lists for a reason. Personally, this book helped me diagnose some ruinously empathetic behavior and completely transform the way I build trust and give feedback.

This is a playbook for both receiving and giving feedback. If feedback is fuel for growth, we want to maximize the frequency and impact of it. As an effective leader, you’ll need to master feedback.

This book unpacks hard-to-unpack concepts like intent, perceptions, blame, and feelings. It shows you how to create mutual purpose and offer mutual respect. It’s not easy to adopt the lessons of this book, but wow, I’ve seen such a difference in the way I do things after adding just a few learnings to my repertoire.

Honorable Mentions

These books are excellent if you want to continue your self-education, but if you’re going to read anything, read the three books above!

This is a framework for clear, empathetic communication. It’s a great way to fast-forward your skills. It consists of four steps: state observations, then your feelings, then your needs, then requests.

Carol Dweck introduces us to the Fixed mindset or the Growth mindset. This is a great, deep, explanation of why adopting a growth mindset will benefit you and others. Great new plays for your leadership playbook.

Covey says a summary of the first 3 Habits is “to make and keep a promise.” The summary of the next 3 Habits is “involve others in the problem and work out the solution together.” The first 3 Habits are about integrity, and the next 3 are about loyalty. Overall, something to aspire to.


Yea, I cheated. 1 of the 7 is a book I haven’t read yet. I have a pretty good nose, and I keep my ears open, so let’s call it an “educated guesses”. For this one, I’m going to look to an old book that keeps popping up.

I’ve stolen this lesson second-hand: “You can be interesting to others by getting them to talk about themselves.” The book says humans are naturally self-centered, and boy do we get excited if we meet someone who shares that interest! These seem like simple, effective practices.

Like what you see? Come be my friend on Goodreads or find me on the Twitter.

Originally published at https://www.peteisa.party on April 12, 2019.

Professional typist — retired dungeon master 🐉— 👨🏻❤️🍕 — podcast about books at www.take.fyi

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