Preparing for a leadership role is a huge responsibility. Many of the leadership lessons I learned in my first year as an executive came from consuming content from inspiring leaders who prepared me for new challenges ahead. Here are some of the top resources that have helped me in my quest to develop better leadership skills.

Preparing for a Leadership Role: Fall to your highest level of preparation

Stepping into my role as the VP of Sales at CCB Technology, I knew I had some work to do. When I heard the line, “you fall to your highest level of preparation” I began absorbing as much advice as I could with the goal of being someone worthy of followers.*

*Clarification: when I say ‘followers’ I’m not talking about social media type followers that think my posts are funny or ‘like’ them. I’m talking about people that look to me as a leader – not because of a title that changed in January – but because of influence.

Over the last nine months, I’ve read 13 books, listened to 100s of hours of podcasts and had several face-to-face discussions regarding leadership and how to not mess it up. Quickly I learned that no one has it all figured out, but I also learned that these resources were going to be invaluable for me.

Here are a few books and podcasts that I’ve found particularly helpful this year.

1. Entreleadership, book and podcast

This has been the knowledge base I’ve referred the most to people this year. To me, the Entreleadership podcast is one of the most content-rich I’ve found. It’s an interview style format focusing exclusively on excellence in leadership. Their tagline is “of leaders, by leaders and for leaders”. The book was written by Dave Ramsey and is what the podcast was born out of. Definitely worth the time of any entrepreneur, executive or someone aspiring to be. It’s a holistic approach to leading people with stories of how Dave failed & stumbled forward to land where he is today.

If you want to get a serious shot of leadership adrenaline, check out their Summit conference. Patrick Booth, President of CCB Technology, and I went in May and both agreed it was the best convention we’d ever attended. (We’ve just secured Chris Hogan, leadership and financial expert at Ramsey Solutions, as one of our keynote speakers for our 2019 TechShowcase.)

2. Building a Storybrand, book and podcast

Star Wars, Tommy Boy and just about any other movie follow the same line of storytelling – and we love it! Donald Miller works through the ‘Storybrand framework’ in his book and teaches us how to tell a story that will keep people listening. Humor, practical application and genuine approachability come across in both the book and the podcast.

My favorite line from Don is, If you confuse, you’ll lose. Noise is the enemy and creating a clear message is the best way to grow your business.” This is how he starts every podcast and the theme is continued throughout each episode. A major takeaway I’ve gotten from Storybrand is, “The key is to be seen, heard and understood”.

Self-reflection and some social experimenting revealed that most people didn’t understand what CCB did after talking with me. The uncomfortable next question was, “Does that mean my team isn’t communicating clearly either?” *gulp*

4. The Ideal Team Player, book

Business books can be painstakingly boring. This book isn’t. Patrick Lencioni lays out a fable of a family business going through a transition of leadership. It’s written in a way that helps the reader learn along with the characters instead of being in a lecture hall with a professor. (Spoiler alert!!) Here are the ingredients for an ideal team player: Humble, Hungry, Smart. Don’t worry, I knew the punchline before I got the book as well and it made reading the book even better.

How do these work together? All in equal portions? What questions should be asked to know if someone’s an ideal team player? Wait…am I an ideal team player? *eyes shifting around the room, palms sweating a little*

5. 200 Proof Leadership, podcast

This is a ‘get in and get out’ type of listen. Alex Wickell is the only voice you’ll hear with this one: no frills – no filler. Each episode takes a leadership topic and breaks it down in 15 minutes or less. In honor of Alex’s format, this is the shortest section.

6. Never Split Difference-Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It, book

No matter how well you prepare, there will inevitably be surprises in life. This seems especially true when goals are big, and the stakes are high. In his book, Chris Voss, former FBI hostage negotiator and founder of Black Swan Group, outlines negotiation tactics that he used during his 24-year tenure with the FBI as a hostage negotiator. Yes – part of being a leader is negotiating.

Here are some others to check out:

  1. The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast
  2. Crush It! book by Gary Vaynerchuk
  3. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People book by Vanessa Van Edwards
  4. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business book by Gino Wickman
  5. The Secret to Success book by Eric Thomas

Change can be crazy hard

Most of us will need a ton of help in preparing for a leadership role if we’re going to be successful. I NEED to surround myself with people that complement my weaknesses. I MUST ask colleagues ‘how am I doing?’ and then listen to uncomfortably honest responses. I HAVE to learn from others who are further ahead than I am. If I don’t…it’s a matter of time before pride will creep in and I’ll be off course.

True story: I recently went to a friend and asked for feedback about starting a podcast, the response was priceless. “Having a podcast is this generation’s lower-back tattoo.” After wiping the tears from my eyes because of laughter I read more of the email and realized I now have to go through with it. (Then I moved the email to my ‘Bad Day’ folder for future use.)

New leadership podcast

CCB has always cared about the people (and missions) behind the technology we represent, and this podcast is one way to showcase folks we admire that are right here in our own backyard.

So we’re launching a podcast highlighting local businesses, their leaders and the “why” behind the “what” they do. We’ll cover topics like: servant leadership, when to launch your small business idea, steps to re-branding your company, how a communications plan impacts a business plan, and marketing to Millennials – oh, and the dos and don’ts of lower back tats.

I hope you gleaned a thing or two from this blog. Please consider shooting me a message on resources you’ve picked up or your thoughts on what I’ve written. As you’ve read, I can appreciate candid feedback, especially when laced with humor. Connect with me at Linkedin and Instagram.

The last thing I’ve got for you is taken from the 200 Proof Leadership podcast and something I find encouragement in. “No one becomes a great leader overnight. Be patient with yourself and take the next step in the right direction.”

Pumped for my podcast? I’ll let you know when it launches.