8 Books that Canadian Business Leaders Should Read In 2024: Recommendations from the TEC Canada Community

Reading time: 6 Min

TEC Canada Book Club Vol. 1

TEC Canada consists of nearly 2000 business owners and leaders from across the country. This includes great leaders from industries such as finance, technology, construction, transportation, consulting, beauty, energy, and medicine to name a few.

We have compiled a reading list of some of the best business management books according to our members and Chairs who represent Canada’s top business talent. Dive into this selection to discover the strategies and insights that are shaping the future of business.

For Marketing and Strategy

On Competition by Michael Porter

Recommended by TEC Chair John Gardner, President and CEO of Gardner Advisory Services Inc.

On Competition is a collection of articles and essays by economist, researcher, and Harvard Business School professor, Michael Porter, which illustrates the core ideas and strategies from his research on competition and strategy. The focus is to understand how companies can achieve a competitive advantage in their industries.

Some concepts discussed in the book include the strategy of differentiation, clusters of interconnected companies and how they can increase competition and innovation, and the five competitive forces that affect profitability and strategy (new companies, new products, bargaining power with customers, bargaining power with suppliers, intensity of competition).

Porter’s work encourages a deep understanding of industry structure as a basis for strategic decision-making. It provides guidelines for developing a clear and sustainable competitive strategy that leverages a company’s unique strengths. While this might not be one of the best leadership books for new managers, it explores the nuances of a competitive market.

This is Marketing by Seth Godin

Recommended by Marc Johnson, Director of Brand and Business Development at TEC Canada

While this is technically a marketing book, it goes beyond marketing strategy and takes a wider scope of how brands can and should present themselves to their customers and connect within their community.

Changing tactics from the old concept of manipulative marketing, Seth describes a new way of thinking. He believes that successful businesses have something great to offer, so the marketing they engage in is an act of generosity rather than manipulation. When we show people who we truly are, as a brand and as individuals, it is a chance to make a connection. With this in mind, our marketing and branding efforts become more authentic and less about a quick revenue boost and more about finding our tribe.

This is why being a leader in your industry, offering something people truly need, and then giving it to them in a generous way is the best way to increase brand awareness and reputation. Seth gives numerous examples of exemplary brands who have used this method and have seen great success from it. For business leaders or those in a marketing related leadership role, we highly recommend you read this book.

For Team Building and Leadership

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Recommended by National Director of Chair Development and TEC Chair Peter Buchanan.

In one of the best leadership books available, Patrick Lencioni examines a fictional case of a company hiring a new CEO and the trials she faces upon fixing the dysfunctional team she’s put in charge of. It carefully lays out the steps included in building a team of executives that has trust, constructive conflict, commitment, accountability, and ultimately produces results.

This book focuses on the human level of leadership, but it is just as impactful as its analytical counterparts. As Lencioni and countless TEC members and Chairs can account for, great companies are made of great teams, and great teams are made of exceptional individuals who make the best decision when the time comes.

Trust is fundamental when it comes to building such a team, and Patrick Lencioni gives practical examples of how trust and lack of trust can play out in a team’s effectiveness. For those entering a new role or curious about team dynamics, this could be considered one of the best books for new CEOs and a great introduction to leadership book.

For Leadership Skills and Development

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

Recommended by TEC Chair Lindsay McMurray, President of Keels in Motion, who says this book is a staple for his members

Stanier is known for writing some of the best business coaching books. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever is a practical, hands-on guide for managers, leaders, sports coaches, or even parents looking to increase the effectiveness of their communication. The book makes a point that curiosity should be kept longer; more questions should be asked, and advice should be kept shorter to unlock the potential of employees.

He elaborates on seven core questions that any coach can apply to turn management conversations from hard and uncomfortable to easy and concise. Bungay Stanier states that developing a coaching habit helps build better relationships, delivers better results, and creates a more empowering work environment.

This is a short, humorous, and easily accessible read that opens the doors to countless other resources for leadership development.

The Advice Trap by Michael Bungay Stanier

Recommended by TEC Chair Lindsay McMurray, President of Keels in Motion, who says this book is a staple for his members

Another one of Stanier’s best book for leadership skills serves as a type of sequel to The Coaching Habit. The Advice Trap: Be Humble, Stay Curious & Change the Way You Lead Forever helps those who are struggling to change their behaviour from advice led to curiosity driven.

Bungay Stanier suggests that we habitually offer advice in leadership positions, which often shuts down opportunities for meaningful conversations and problem-solving through others’ perspectives. One could view this as a relative of the servant leadership book. It dives into why people are prone to giving advice and the barriers that prevent them from staying curious.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Recommended by TEC Chair Whitney Shaw, Vice President of Leadership, Assessment & Development at Gallagher

Essentialism is a self-help and business book that focuses on the philosophy of quality over quantity. The book encourages readers to identify what is truly essential in their lives and eliminate everything else. This process of focusing on the essentials allows individuals to be more productive, engaged, and fulfilled in their lives.

The central premise is that in a world where we are constantly overwhelmed by demands, tasks, and information, it is crucial to prioritize the tasks and activities that truly matter. McKeown outlines a systematic discipline for deciding where to best invest time and energy.

Beyond philosophical insights, McKeown also offers a practical guide for applying Essentialism in business and everyday life. Some of the strategies include how to say no gracefully, how to streamline processes, and how to reduce the noise of distractions. These are all essential tools for high performers and effective leaders.

For Business Communication

The Communication Catalyst by Mickey Connolly and Richard Rianoshek

Recommended by TEC Chair Peter Buchanan, President of Management Transitions Ltd.

The driving force behind this book is the observation that social factors are often the primary suspect responsible for loss in productivity. By social factors, authors Connolly and Rianoshek mean communication between team members, departments, leadership, and direct reports.

They offer a conversational model called “the cycle of value,” which contains three parts: align conversations, act conversations, and adjust conversations. To remain efficient or avoid setbacks, teams often seek quick fixes, understandably so. Unfortunately, without being in alignment with one another, the first step in the cycle of value, these solutions end up being temporary and fall apart, eventually resulting in decreased efficiency.

Connolly and Rianoshek argue that communication is the bedrock of business, and yet technical solutions are often the focus. TEC Canada Master Chair and National Director of Chair Development, Peter Buchanan attributes this book as one of the best books on management and leadership.

For Leading the Future

Dancing with Robots by Bill Bishop

Recommended by TEC Chair Lucy La Grassa‘s group

Dancing With Robots:The 29 Strategies For Success in The Age of Hyper-Intelligence, is more than just a book on how to implement AI into your business. It is a book about innovation beyond technology adoption, only using it as a secondary factor after a strategy for developing a hyper-intelligent business.

Bill Bishop—who is also a TEC Canada Speaker—calls this strategy new factory thinking. Opposed to old factory thinking, which is getting paid to do a service, the new way of thinking is developing a product or system that provides value while using fewer resources. This could include using robots on an assembly line rather than human labour or inventing a new product that is more efficient and hyper-intelligent like the LED light bulb.

It all starts with strategy, first a big idea, then the offer of free value for a customer network, then scaling up advanced paid programs, and finally a toolbox for customers to choose from, much like a department store or Amazon’s or Google’s multifaceted business model.

Have a favourite book that’s not on our list? We’d love to hear from you! Send us your recommendations, and we might include them in our next TEC Book Club update!

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