Engineering Leadership Reads

A list of resources that I have found useful in navigating my work as an engineering manager and executive. The initial list was for a colleague who moved into their first engineering management role, and I’ve continued expanding it in the four years since. I still add to it occasionally, last updated on: December 6, 2021.

Books

Primers to Engineering Management & Leadership

  • Julie Zhuo: The Making of a Manager. Solid primer on management.
  • Camille Fournier: The Manager’s Path, if you haven’t read it yet, I’d recommend starting with this one, as it covers the basics of Engineering Management and how to progress from there. It also works just as a book to look things up in from time to time.
  • Melissa & Johnathan Nightingale: How f*cked up is your management? An uncomfortable conversation about modern leadership. If you want to get a rough idea on how to be a good leader, learn about how to D&I, hiring, growing, managing up and out, feedback, and leading when it’s hard, and you’re okay with swear words, then I’d really recommend this book.
  • Brené Brown: Daring Greatly. This book only has one chapter on management, but the book really shaped me in many unexpected personal and professional ways, and changed some things fundamentally for me.
  • HBR guide to managing up and across: It’s a skill, and this guide has a ton of information on managing into all directions, and how to develop the skills to do it well, highly recommend.

Special-subject books

  • Elad Gil: High Growth Handbook. Your company is growing fast and you want to learn from others who have done it before you? This is for you. I don’t agree with everything in here, but it provides useful direction and nudges in a time that’s often quite chaotic.
  • Michael Bungay Stanier: The Coaching Habit. Great book on coaching-style management (which I’m a huge proponent of).

Strategy

  • Fred Pelard: How to be strategic
  • Richard Rumelt: Good Strategy – Bad Strategy.

Delivery

  • Marty Cagan: Inspired, Empowered. Very good books on delivery, in particular for leaders in product organisations.
  • Mik Kersten: Project to Product. Offers useful approaches for a challenge many teams struggle with: how to get from a project- to a product mindset and delivery approach.

Leading leaders & organisations

  • Liz Wiseman: Multipliers – How the best leaders make everyone smart. Great book on growing leaders around you.
  • Patrick Lencioni: The Advantage – Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. Really liked this on how to build strong organisations and teams.
  • Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais: Team Topologies. A classic already. I particularly love the approach of defining interfaces and interaction patterns between teams
  • Robert Anderson & William Adams: Scaling organisations. Great mix of inspirational content and practical tips for leadership in high-growth times.

Communication

  • Kim Scott: Radical Candor. Great book on building relationships, trust, and strong feedback culture.
  • Kerry Patterson: Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. Good on communication when things get tough.
  • Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen: Difficult conversations – How to discuss what matters most. Very good book about communication in general, and how to talk about what hard things, and what really matters.

Newsletters

  • CTO Craft’s weekly newsletter is a well-rounded collection of tech leadership topics, from agile, engineering & product, to leadership & self-management, to culture & people.
  • Lead Developer with a regular collection of original content on all things engineering leadership.
  • Melissa Perri‘s newsletter is aimed at Product Managers, and as someone who works with Product Managers a lot, I found it a really good resource.
  • Jonathan and Melissa Nightingale have a very good and frank newsletter on difficult leadership questions.
  • Lara Hogan has a great newsletter, and her blog is a deep resource for leadership-related content
  • Software Lead Weekly often has good content on a variety of subjects.
  • The Engineering Managers Slack is a great community. I only follow a few channels there, but sometimes find discussions there really useful (and have also used it to ask for advice in the past).
  • Inclusion at work. Great and important reads.
  • Josh Radnor has a very good newsletter with musings that have nothing to do with engineering leadership, which is even more of a reason to read it.

Articles on transition into management

What to expect from moving into management

What to do as you start out

Culture

Organising work

Meetings

On Feedback

Further reading materials

Should I move from maker to manager, or not?

Over the years, I had many conversations with folks who were interested in management-type roles, but not always sure whether these roles would be for them (and that’s okay, there’s only so much of an accurate impression that your imagination of working such a role can give you). Here are some posts that I think describe the differences well: