Top MDT Book Recommendations

Over the past 20 years, I’ve read so many leadership and team oriented books it’s ridiculous. Does that make me a great leader? Of course not. It did however give me perspective. When I landed my first real leadership role, I was able to reach back into these books and apply wisdom to help with what I consider to be a pretty steep learning curve.

Over time, I’ve come to realize that these books have shaped me to be the person I am (and am proud to be). They are what I would give to any aspiring Leader in order for them to get a well-rounded perspective. They embody Purpose, Process, and People. They are worth reading and re-reading.

I greatly value this content and the intent of the authors. If you read any or all of these books, I promise you won’t be disappointed. Oh, and the good news is most of them are on audio. ;)

Extreme Ownership:

If you don’t know Jocko yet, you are missing out. He’s a Navy Seal with the voice of thunder! This man will inspire you, humble you and make you want want your Mommy. That said, this book takes you on a tour in Iraq under life and death circumstances. If you think your job is stressful and your team is hard to manage, well imagine getting shot at. Worse yet, imagine one of your team-members accidentally shooting another. Yeah, he goes there!

What I love about this book is that it’s not only great story telling. He gives you insight into his thinking, his fears, doubts, and failures. All of this is wrapped up in his great respect for humanity. I can’t say enough about this book!

Atomic Habits:

This book is a stark contract from Jocko’s Extreme Ownership. This is more of a book on change. We all struggle with this at times. Whether it’s your own personal change or it’s a team, habits are the foot-steps we take to get us to our destination. James Clear does such a great job of breaking down what it takes to really change our patterns.

The funny thing about this book is that it takes the best of what I’ve learned from Toyota & Lean (World Class Production Management) and applies them to human nature. He only mentions “Lean” once from what I recall, but the similarities to daily kaizen (or daily good change) are eerie to say the least. This is a more light hearted read than Extreme Ownership, but will help any person trying to change (which is everyone).

Turn The Ship Around:

I was introduced to this book during my first real organization transformation. That’s a mouthful, but what it basically means is that we flipped a company on its head and asked the leaders to re-invent themselves. The cool thing is that this story is from a leader who did just that on a submarine.

David Marquet speaks from his heart in this amazing story from Best to Worst to Best again and shows how you can trust your people. I consider this book a true north on trusting people in a team. My internal compass on this is like anyone else’s, it needs frequent calibration. I often go back to this as a reminder to how far I’ve gone off course when it comes to trust and delegation.

The Secret of Teams:

The Secret of Teams is a fun and memorable read. For me, it was one of the earliest books I read on what “great” looks like. I was lucky enough to have my first “good” team experience back in High School at a local Burger King (don’t laugh). I was shocked at how similar my Burger King experience was to these teams and how much valued I gained from that experience. Yet, many years and many teams later, I had not experienced it again. Why was it so elusive?

Once I read The Secret of Teams, I realized that great team don’t happen by accident; they’re built. Mark Miller contrasts the “best of the best” teams (Race car team, Special Forces, and Restaurant Team) in a parable format. He walks you through how each of these “High Performing Teams” built their success and then finds similarities across them. Spoiler alert…

  • Focus on Results
  • Talent Selection
  • Community

This to me is an oldy, but a goody. If you want to know what the best of the best high performing teams look like, this book is perfect!

Bonus: Own The Gap

Ok, I know I said five books, but I couldn’t help myself. This is a personal favorite of mine, but it may not be a world-wide best seller. A few years ago, I had the blessing of being able to travel to Japan to visit several amazing companies with the Shingo Institute. I was with 20 or so others on a one week learning journey.

I don’t share this to brag, rather I’m humbled at the experience. The one thing I can share that was the highlight of the trip were two presentations that book-ended the trip from Author / Speaker and general improvement guru Mike Martyn.

Mike’s transformation experience is amazing. What I really appreciated about Mike’s book and presentations was that instead of saying this is what the best organizations do, he said this is what I’ve seen work. He even admits that many organizations and strategies may look good on paper, but the ones he highlights have had repeated success.

This is the only book on my list that isn’t on audio, but I’m telling you now, this is the best overall organizational improvement book I’ve seen. My only hope is to share this knowledge to as many people as I can that are brave enough to try!


I really do hope that you enjoy these books. However, like anything else knowledge doesn’t become wisdom until you take action. So, pick one or all of them up, but whatever you do, make a change and learn from it.

If you do, please drop me a line, because I love hearing about that! Of course if you don’t learn anything from them and want to tell me about it, I’m happy to hear that too:

[email protected]

P.S. Yeah, these are amazon links. I get a tiny little commission for that. Thank you in advance!!