Books every leader should read, as recommended by the Future of Teams Conference speakers

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

On July 6, 7 & 8, Cosmic Centaurs held the second annual edition of the Cosmic Conference focused on the Future of Teams. We explored team dynamics in distributed settings and we had 1 opening keynote, 4 panel discussions and a riveting closing debate. In each session, we asked our speakers a series of rapid fire questions, one of which was “What is the one book every leader should read?”




Here are the reads our speakers recommended:


Sports Captains

In line with the sports theme of the Future of Teams conference, some of the recommendations were books written by sport coaches, athletes and experts - coincidentally, both of these books were about rugby!


Sami Moutran suggested Winning! by Clive Woodward, the coach of England’s rugby team from 1997 to 2004. Clive managed the team’s victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup and this book explores how he led his team to victory.


Paul McKinlay recommended Sevens Heaven: The Beautiful Chaos of Fiji's Olympic Dream by Ben Ryan. It is an autobiography about how the author coached Fiji’s rugby team, with the objective of taking them to the nation's first-ever Olympic medal.


Psychological Safety

Mark Mortensen, our keynote speaker, answered with The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth by Amy Edmondson - a book about how to create a psychologically safe environment where talent is not afraid to speak their minds. The book outlines how this has lasting impacts on various aspects of work including the creative process, the refinement of leadership, and the correct implementation of accountability.


Liam Martin recommends Radical Candor by Kim Scott. This book explores different ways leaders can create a culture of compassionate candor that builds a cohesive team that in turn, enables great results.


Isaac Banks suggested Perform under Pressure by Ceri Evans and we think the title says it all! The book includes clinical insights about how to gain emotional control when you need it most - when you have to perform under pressure.


Dr. Agustin Chevez believes all leaders should read Think Again by Adam Grant . This read is about the skill of rethinking and unlearning when we often tend to only listen to opinions that align with ours.


Diversity in Teams

Tom Marsden and Evelyn Tan were both part of the “What Can We Learn From (e)sports Teams” panel yet their recommendations were books about extracting the most value from diverse teams.


Tom Marsden recommended The Difference by Scott Pages, which is about how diversity in a team nurtures the individual strengths of each team member. Scott shares his research to back up the centering philosophy - that our collective wisdom exceeds the sum of its parts, and that diversity in a team can significantly improve its outcomes.


Evelyn Tan said The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, a book exploring how diverse groups can succeed by learning to function with a single mind. Coyle offers specific strategies that help with learning, as well as building collaboration and trust, leading to positive change.


Leadership

For a quick read on leadership, Noor Al Khatib suggested 5 Behavioral Biases That Trip Up Remote Managers by Torben Emmerling, Alessandro Paul, and Daniel Seyffardt. This article, published by Harvard Business Review, provides advice on how managers can use behavioral science to effectively manage their flexible teams.


We flipped the mic on Marilyn, our Founder & CEO, and had her go fr


om moderate to speaker for the panel exploring managing diversity in distributed teams. Overall, she shared two books to read. The first one, High Output Management by Andrew Grove, is all about creating highly productive teams - how to excel in the art of being an entrepreneur.


The second book is Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. It’s all about how generalists, instead of specialists, are primed to excel, as they tend to be more creative, agile, and able to make more connections than their specialized peers. She also has referenced this book in an episode of Centaur Stage Season 1 with James Piecowye.


Dr. Vinika Rao also couldn't just share one book - she shared 2 great recommendations. The first one is The Phoenix Encounter Method: Lead Like Your Business Is on Fire! by Ian Woodward, V. “Paddy" Padmanabhan, Sameer Hasija, and Ram Charan . It introduces a method of leadership where you have to imagine burning your business to the ground - and then how to turn it to its advantage, by rising from the ashes like a phoenix.


Innovation

The second book Dr. Vinika Rao recommended is No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer. It explores the concept of innovation at Netflix, and how it was underpinned by flexibility through its years of existence, from an online DVD rental service to a streaming platform.


Big ideas rarely, if ever, pop up like cartoon lightbulbs - they are often the results of long processes that team members go through. The Cycles by Bryan Cassady et. al. the book that Shayne Smart recommended is all about these cycles that lead up to innovation.


For those who are not avid readers

Madiha Naz preferred answering with a game instead of a book: Runescape, a free to play game where you can use different skills and abilities to combat.


While Joe Santos certainly gave us a lot to think about, he couldn’t boil it down to just one book.


We are very grateful to our speakers from the Future of Teams conference who not only shared with us their valuable insights on team dynamics in flexible work, but also let us know what were the reads that either helped them shape their way, or refined their leadership skills.



You can rewatch the sessions of the Future of Teams Conference on the links below:

Day 1

Session 1 - Unpacking the Challenges of Hybrid Teams

Session 2 - What We Can Learn From (e)Sports Teams

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Day 2

Session 3 - Internal Communications in Distributed Organizations

Session 4 - The Impact of Workspaces on Collaboration

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Session 5 - Managing Diversity in Distributed Teams

Session 6 - Debate: Are Remote Teams Better?

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