Read Your Way Through Holiday Break

American college students looking ahead to a 3- or 4-week break over the holidays will likely cherish not studying or prepping a report during the break.

The time off is deserved, but frittering away your free time can also inhibit your business and management career objectives. Holiday periods are a great time to stay focused on long-term school and career objectives. If you are serious about striving toward your management degrees, then it’s time to start reading management and business books, and planning ahead for alternate college learning options.

But what to read? There are so many management books available in the online and printed marketplace. If you don’t have a list or you’re unsure where to start, we’re here to help!

Here are the top 20 Leadership books that ranked highest in a poll that asked “What’s the First Leadership Book You Would Give to a New Manager?” The poll was done in a 2011 LinkedIn group discussion, and was culled from nearly 700 book title recommendations.

The top-20 books are:

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
  2. Leadership and Self-Deception– Arbinger Institute
  3. The One Minute Manager– Kenneth H. Blanchard
  4. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership– John C. Maxwell
  5. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team– Patrick Lencioni
  6. First Break All the Rules– Marcus Buckingham
  7. The Leadership Challenge– Jim Kouzes
  8. The First 90 Days– Michael Watkins
  9. How to Win Friends and Influence People– Dale Carnegie
  10. Good to Great– Jim Collins
  11. It’s Your Ship– Michael Abrashoff
  12. The Speed of Trust– Stephen R. Covey
  13. Developing the Leader Within You– John C. Maxwell
  14. Who Moved My Cheese– Spencer Johnson
  15. Don’t Bring it to Work– Sylvia Lafair
  16. Leaders Without Borders– Doug Dickerson
  17. Leadership and the One Minute Manager– Kenneth H. Blanchard
  18. On Becoming a Leader– Warren Bennis
  19. The Anatomy of Peace– Arbinger Institute
  20. The Art of Possibility– Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Options for Management Students

For other students, the holiday period may also be a good time to evaluate your education, your finances, and your future. Some students are opting to gain best management practices at online universities instead of traditional institutions. As more online college credits are being accepted, there has been a growth in the number of organizations seeking to disrupt traditional college learning for students too.

At least three online college sites are gaining traction and helping to bolster the thinking that college degrees can be had without four years at an Ivy League institution. Here are three of them

  • A Washington, D.C.-based non-profit called offers 200 free, online college courses in 12 major tracks. There are no registrations or fees required to take our courses, and students will earn a completion certificate (but no accreditation) after finishing each course.
  • Another non-profit option called Peer-to-Peer University offers free, online courses and is supported by the Hewlett Foundation and Mozilla.
  • A third option is the University of the People, which is backed by the powers of the Clinton Global Initiative. University of the People charges students a one-time application fee and offers over 40 online courses.

Using your time wisely over the holidays can help bring about a fresh perspective for 2013 learning, and studying in your pursuit of a management degree.

Career Spotlight on Retail Management: Arselie Miller

What is your occupation?

I’m a Retail Sales Manager for Nestle in Southern California and manage a team of nine people.

What was your career path thus far like?

I feel like I’ve been all over the place!  Five years after graduating I have lived in three cities and held five positions in my company.  For me, I have always been somewhat involved in the food industry whether it was working in restaurants or even specialty cheese departments for part time jobs in high school and college so it seemed a natural fit that I ended up majoring in Food Marketing.  I interviewed for a position at Nestle as a college senior and was shipped up to Boston for my first role as a Retail Sales Representative (which is now the position I manage).  After a year in that role I moved to Los Angeles to work in the corporate headquarters as a Trade Analyst and then a Business Analyst for the Candy Division. After two years in those positions I was promoted to a Category Manager supporting Target and moved from 80 degree weather in California to -10 degree weather in Minneapolis. After an amazing year there I was sent back to California to begin my current role and here I am!

What is your biggest challenge as a manager?

The biggest challenge is the fact that every single person has different goals and motivations when it comes to their personal and professional life.  There is no cookie cutter way to manage everyone and it can be difficult to find the best way to interact with and motivate each individual.  My job is to identify what makes my people tick and work with them in a way that fits each person’s individual style so they will perform their best at any given task.  With a team of nine people, that’s nine different personalities to figure out, nine different goals, pressure points, interests, and aspirations.

What is the best think about being in management?

For me, I love the development side of management.  Seeing people come out of college eager and ready to learn and make their mark on the world has such an infectious level of energy attached to it.  I love working with them to channel their energies and train them on how to handle different situations and networking opportunities so they will have the skills they need to go in whichever direction their passion takes them.

Why did you choose to pursue a business degree?

Regardless of what you want to do, what you love, and which industry you want to get involved in, a knowledge of basic business skills can be the difference between success and failure.  For me, I love food, so the food industry was where I set myself up to be. A solid business foundation is critical to have when pursuing any opportunities. Whether you want to be a CEO of a major corporation or want to open your own art gallery someday, you will need to understand the basics of business to make sure your passion (and hopefully paycheck) is sustainable.

What piece of advice would you give someone that is currently in business school/college?

Explore!  You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do for the next five or 50 years of your life but you should follow your interests and see where they take you.  Especially during interviews, being prepared and ready to talk about varied experiences will help to set you apart and get your foot in the door wherever you choose to start your career.

Types of Managers: Management Styles

There are at least as many styles of management as there are managers; nevertheless, most management styles fall into one of a few broad categories. Every manager’s style includes some means of making decisions and some means of relating to subordinates. Below are the five most common management styles.

Autocratic: Autocratic or authoritarian managers lead unilaterally. They make decisions based on their own opinions and experience without taking the opinions of subordinates into account. Although authoritarian managers do not tend to be popular with employees, they make decisions quickly and efficiently. On the other hand, if an autocratic manager makes an error, the lack of input from others can make the consequences severe. Autocratic management tends to be successful in industries that rely on unskilled workers and have plenty of turnover, such as food service and retail. Highly skilled and personally motivated employees tend to chafe under this type of management.

Consultative: Like autocratic managers, consultative managers make decisions more or less unilaterally. Unlike autocratic managers, these leaders prioritize communication with employees and take their needs into account alongside the needs of the business. Consultative management still allows the manager to make decisions efficiently; in addition, the emphasis on employee interaction tends to increase employee loyalty and reduce turnover. However, employees tend to become highly dependent on their manager. Consultative managers tend to be most successful in businesses that hope to retain employees for long periods of time. Many of the best office managers use this style.

Persuasive: Persuasive managers maintain control over every aspect of the business indirectly. Instead of giving orders, these managers operate by explaining why tasks need to be carried out in a certain way. Employees tend to feel more involved in the decision-making process under this style; nevertheless, ultimate authority still rests with the manager alone. Persuasive management is a particularly helpful style when complicated tasks need to be carried out in the workplace. However, managers who rely too heavily on explaining every task in detail may see their businesses slow to a crawl.

Democratic: While a persuasive manager explains every aspect of the decision-making process to his subordinates, a democratic manager actually includes his subordinates in the process. Democratic management relies heavily on two-way communication between management and employees. This style is particularly helpful when a decision requires specialized knowledge that the manager lacks; for instance, when making an IT-related decision, a manager may need to ask an IT specialist for input. Including employees in decision-making tends to improve job satisfaction and reduce turnover. Relying on employee input for every decision, though, can greatly reduce the efficiency of the business.

Laissez-faire: In a “hands-off” management style, the manager acts as a motivator, mentor and guide to his subordinates. Individual employees manage their own sections of the business with minimal supervision. Perhaps surprisingly, this management style demands the most personal skill from the manager: If he can effectively communicate a strong vision for the business and guide his subordinates with broad expertise, a laissez-faire manager can bring out the best in his workers. Highly professional, self-motivated employees, such as salesmen and engineers, can benefit greatly from this style.

Although most managers tend to fall into one of these five categories, the most successful mangers can draw from several styles depending on the situation. Within a single office, some circumstances may call for an autocratic decision, others may call for democratic involvement from subordinates and still others may require a hands-off approach. Managers who make an effort to learn all five styles can succeed in any setting.

Further Reading:

Wall Street Journal