So you just landed a great job in Big Law. Or you finally found your dream job in fashion, or filmmaking, or software development. Maybe you became an accidental accountant, discovered you love retailing, or figured out a way to take that museum job and still pay your rent. Whatever your circumstances, if you work in an organization, there are five classic business books you must read.
Prior to anyone “leaning in” or “thinking like a freak,” these writers were sharing wisdom the old fashioned way. Each one of these business books for Millennials will help you better understand how organizations work and how you can be productive within them, whatever the trends and times.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, 1936
Long before your parents were born (or even your grandparents!), Dale Carnegie was telling business people how to succeed. His number one “Big Secret“ — Make people feel important. Not only does Carnegie give readers a handful of straightforward tips for gaining influence, he even starts his book off with nine suggestions on how to get the most out of reading it. There is no better way to spend $14 than to pick up a copy.
The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker, 1966
Forgive the exclusive use of male pronouns and the underlying assumption that its readers are men. Drucker wrote this gem of a book back in 1966, before feminism’s second wave. It’s chock full of great tips and advice for ways you can be effective, even in a dysfunctional organizational environment. You do it by focusing on what you are able to affect and ignoring what’s beyond your sphere of influence. My favorite nugget: “Do first things first, and second things not at all.”
Gods of Management by Charles Handy, 1978
In this brilliant little book Handy, considered one of the world’s most influential living management thinkers, presents four models that describe basic organizational structures and cultures. Each model is named for a Greek god whose characteristics are associated with a particular type of organization. Once you understand the four types, you will have a very useful tool for quickly sizing up any organization you walk into. This is one of the best little tricks you will ever pull out of your tool kit.
On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis, 1989
If Drucker is the father of management (and he is), the late Warren Bennis is the father of leadership. This early book on the topic asserted a hopeful idea — leaders are made, not born. If you wanted to become a leader, Bennis showed you how. He bemoaned the short-term thinking of contemporary CEOs but in 2009 said he was optimistic about Millennials, calling you “the Crucible Generation” because of the global environmental challenges you face.
Comparing Millennials to his own “Greatest Generation,” Bennis wrote, “The truth may be that history, in its kindness, gave this new generation a grand crucible challenge, as it did my own. The young of today have been summoned to receive that same kindness through the collective failures of their elders.”
The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman, 1999
When I finished the last page of The Lexus and the Olive Tree I knew one thing for sure: I would never read a newspaper the same way again. I didn’t mean that I would be using e-readers or apps; I meant that Friedman’s book had utterly changed the way I understood the world. It explained so much. The lay-offs and low wages. Crummy service jobs and cheap tee shirts. Why nothing was made in America anymore and why some people in the Middle East resorted to terrorism. Friedman’s analysis of globalization is still relevant, although I suggest that you temper his enthusiasm by reading another excellent book (almost a classic), Globalization and Its Discontents by Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz (2003).