In this article, we’ve gathered fourteen insightful recommendations from CEOs and CTOs on resources that have significantly contributed to their professional development. From GTD as a framework for task management to Lean Startup for its framework for efficient innovation, discover the books, podcasts, and courses that these technology leaders swear by for their ongoing growth and success. Here, 14 technology leaders share their favorite professional development resources.
- Getting Things Done: A Framework for Task Management
- High-Performance Leadership Certificate: A Practical Approach
- Inspired: Creating Tech Products Customers Love
- Start with Why: Defining Purpose in Leadership
- Turn the Ship Around: Value of Delegation
- Leaders Eat Last: Prioritizing Team’s Well-being
- Crossing the Chasm: Adapting New Technologies
- RunAsRadio: Diverse Topics and Expert Insights
- The Manager’s Path: Better Management and Mentoring
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: Understanding Disruptive Innovation
- Search Engine Journal: Industry-Specific Insights
- Streaming Technologies: Comprehensive Overview of Media Streaming
- Zero to One: Advocating Innovation and Novelty
- Lean Startup: Framework for Efficient Innovation
Getting Things Done: A Framework for Task Management
Getting Things Done by David Allen has been instrumental in my journey. The book’s core principle of externalizing tasks to free up mental bandwidth resonates deeply with me. In a fast-paced industry, it’s easy to get bogged down by the sheer volume of tasks and projects. GTD has given me a framework to manage these complexities, allowing me to focus on what truly matters: innovation and leadership.
I think it’s also worth mentioning a couple of other books that have complimented my GTD journey (or that can replace yours): Zen to Done and The One Thing. I turned to Zen to Done when I felt the need to simplify my GTD system. The book’s emphasis on Big Rocks and Most Important Tasks has been a boon for my productivity. It’s like GTD, but stripped down to its most essential, actionable components. The One Thing, on the other hand, takes a more comprehensive approach. It aligns well with the 80/20 Principle, but with a laser focus on achieving your most critical goals.
High-Performance Leadership Certificate: A Practical Approach
The High-Performance Leadership Certificate from eCornell has been instrumental in my growth as a technology leader and managing director at Softjourn. I highly recommend this program for its practical approach, industry-specific focus, and networking opportunities. It equips leaders with skills to foster innovation, build high-performing teams, and adapt to the fast-paced tech industry.
The course offered in-depth, tech-specific leadership skills, such as promoting innovation, forming high-performing teams, and cultivating a culture of continual improvement. It prioritized practical application through case studies, translating theory into actionable strategies. The program’s customization to the tech sector ensured the direct relevance of the knowledge to my role at Softjourn.
The Lean Startup: Validated Learning and Iterative Development
The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries, is probably the most important book for any tech startup practitioner to read. It introduces the concept of validated learning and emphasizes the importance of iterative product development, which tech leaders can take into companies of any size.
It also outlines a systematic approach to entrepreneurship by making data-driven decisions to remove some of the more emotional aspects of running a startup and reduce the chance of failure.
Inspired: Creating Tech Products Customers Love
The first resource that pops into my mind is the book Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan. Yes, I know it’s a book that just about everyone in the tech industry recommends, but there’s a reason it’s the first thing that comes to mind for me.
It’s a comprehensive guide that delves into the intricacies of how today’s most successful tech giants—think Amazon, Google, Facebook—operate. It provides invaluable insights into how these companies structure their teams, develop their products, and most importantly, how they create products that people not only use but love.
I believe the book is particularly beneficial for tech leaders who work closely with Product Managers. In modern product companies, you often find Tech Leads or Engineering Managers grouped into mission-based teams alongside a PM. Understanding how to navigate and nurture this dynamic is crucial, and “Inspired” offers actionable advice on how to do just that.
Start with Why: Defining Purpose in Leadership
One resource that has profoundly impacted my journey as a technology leader is Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why. This thought-provoking read delves into the essence of leadership, emphasizing the importance of defining and communicating the “why” behind what we do. As a CEO, understanding the “why” is critically important in inspiring our team and attracting top tech talent. Sinek’s concept of the Golden Circle, which centers on “why,” “how,” and “what,” has guided our company’s vision and strategy.
I recommend this book because it transcends the tech industry, offering timeless wisdom applicable to any leadership role. It compels you to reevaluate your purpose and align your actions with a deeper sense of meaning, which, in turn, fosters innovation and excellence. Start with Why has been instrumental in shaping my leadership philosophy, and I believe it can do the same for aspiring technology leaders.
Turn the Ship Around: Value of Delegation
David Marquet, a retired US Navy captain and author of Turn the Ship Around, talks about the value of delegating leadership responsibility to individuals in your team in the context of running a submarine.
Rather than being an authority figure, you are the master delegator, a team supporter, a guide, not a dictator. Your team has leadership responsibility. They know the answers or know where to find them. All you need to do as a manager or CEO is to help them build that autonomy and to orchestrate the overall direction of travel.
Micromanaging people, counting keystrokes, and measuring productivity at that overly granular level is going to kill the trust and remove your employees’ sense of empowerment, and therefore their investment in their work. That’s how you sink the submarine.
As a CEO of a marketing agency in the B2B tech space, I manage creatives and developers, and I’ve found Marquet’s way of operating to work best, especially with this group.
Leaders Eat Last: Prioritizing Team’s Well-being
One resource that profoundly impacted my growth as a technology leader is Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. This book delves deep into the core of leadership in straightforward terms, focusing on the importance of team dynamics, trust, and a leader’s duty to prioritize their team’s well-being.
Sinek’s insights helped me understand the significance of serving and supporting others as a leader, creating a more cohesive and motivated team. I recommend this book to anyone in technology leadership because it provides a clear and actionable framework for effective leadership. It emphasizes the human element in tech leadership, which is often overshadowed by technical aspects.
Crossing the Chasm: Adapting New Technologies
One of the biggest challenges that technology leaders face is how to adapt new technologies to their business model. The book Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore has really helped my professional development in this area. There is a moment that many in business face in which they can see a wave of new technology that they know will hit their market but feel helpless in trying to translate its use to their industry.
Moore does an excellent job explaining how to move something from a technical trend to practical use through his concepts of market targets, whole-product encompassment, and bow-wave momentum. It is his practical approach that allows leaders to draw the simplest line from a trend to reaching their goals and prevents them from falling behind the curve. This makes Crossing the Chasm an excellent guide for professional development.
RunAsRadio: Diverse Topics and Expert Insights
I’ve probably listened to most episodes of RunAsRadio in my 20-year IT career, and the show has taught me so many new and unique ideas. The host is a veritable IT expert with deep and varied knowledge on many relevant subjects, and the guests always bring cutting-edge topics into the discussion. If you want answers on how to expand your ideas and career opportunities, delivered in an enjoyable 30-minute package, this is the podcast for you.
The Manager’s Path: Better Management and Mentoring
The Manager’s Path by Camille Fournier has helped me a lot as a tech leader. It allowed me to understand how to be managed so I can be a better manager. It also discusses a lot about mentoring subordinates and how important this process is in the development of the whole team.
I highly recommend it for people who are in tech-managerial roles, as it mainly revolves around this type of scenario. I highly recommend this book as it can help tech leaders hone their leadership skills and understand their team better. This will lead to a more collaborative team that can achieve more.
The Innovator’s Dilemma: Understanding Disruptive Innovation
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen made me understand the framework of how disruptive innovation works and how established companies can avoid being disrupted.
Christensen defines disruptive innovation as a new type of product or service that enters a market at the low end, targets underserved customers, and gradually improves over time until it displaces the existing product or service.
Disruptive innovation is often disruptive because it is initially less expensive, less powerful, and less reliable than the existing product or service. However, over time, disruptive innovations become more powerful, reliable, and easier to use, and they eventually displace the existing product or service.
Christensen argues that disruptive innovation is the biggest challenge facing established companies. Established companies are often focused on improving their existing products and services, which are targeted at their most profitable customers.
Search Engine Journal: Industry-Specific Insights
The Search Engine Journal show presented Loren Baker. What I appreciate most about Loren’s show is the diversity of topics covered, from technical SEO to content strategy, latest platform updates, and more.
They do a fantastic job interviewing true industry specialists across all facets of search marketing. I always come away from episodes with fresh strategic insights and actionable tactics to test. For example, a recent episode on voice search optimization provided lots of helpful guidelines for crafting content tailored for conversational queries. They really get into the nitty-gritty details, and I always learn something new. It’s like getting an industry MBA through podcasts, keeping your knowledge razor-sharp.
Between the non-stop news updates and constantly changing best practices, staying on top of search marketing requires some serious work. The Search Engine Journal show makes it not only possible but also entertaining along the way. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Streaming Technologies: Comprehensive Overview of Media Streaming
The most influential resource I’ve used in my professional development as a technology leader has been the book Streaming Technologies: Business and Technology for Media and Entertainment by Jason J. Rivers.
This book provides an incredibly comprehensive overview of media streaming technologies, including everything from cloud computing to CDNs to emerging trends like web-based video streaming. It brought together all the disparate pieces of knowledge I needed in one place, providing guidance on how each piece works together to create successful media streaming solutions that are efficient and effective.
The primary reason why I recommend this book is that it helped me see not only how different pieces fit together as part of a system but also the importance of having a business mindset when making decisions about streaming technology implementation.
Zero to One: Advocating Innovation and Novelty
Zero to One by Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, is an invaluable resource for aspiring technology leaders. Thiel’s experience, spanning from being a tech entrepreneur to a venture capitalist, makes the book full of profound insights. He advocates for the criticality of innovation, urging leaders to transcend mere incremental improvements and instead endeavor to create novel solutions (from zero to one).
The book is a treasure trove of strategic guidance for establishing groundbreaking startups, yet its principles hold universal applicability, offering nuanced advice that can steer tech leaders toward impactful decisions.
Overall, Zero to One not only challenges conventional business wisdom but also serves as a catalyst for visionary thinking, inspiring leaders to conceptualize and actualize transformative innovations.
Lean Startup: Framework for Efficient Innovation
A resource that has profoundly shaped my journey as a technology leader is the book Lean Startup by Eric Ries.
As the founder of 5D Vision, I found this book instrumental in my professional development. It offers a framework that promotes efficient innovation, iterative development, and market validation. I wholeheartedly recommend it to fellow tech leaders because it not only outlines a strategic approach for building successful tech companies but also encourages adaptability and learning from failure—essential qualities in the ever-evolving tech landscape.
Lean Startup is a compass for technology leaders navigating the complexities of modern business, and it’s a must-read for anyone striving to thrive in the tech world.