MBA programmes Director Sonja Zaar’s top 5 book recommendations

“I enjoy reading,” says Sonja Zaar, Director MBA programmes and International Projects, “and I read a lot… from leadership development literature to management books to non-fiction to classic novels.”

In the following list, Ms Zaar shares her top 5 leadership development reads for the year 2011-2012, in random order. “I hope that reading these books brings you inspiration and motivation while sparking new ideas.”

Thinking, Fast and Slow
By Daniel Kahneman

Ready for a whole new look at the way our minds work and how we make decisions? Then this book is a must on your reading list, taking you on a novel tour of the mind explaining the systems that drive the way we think. Why is there more chance we’ll believe something if it’s in a bold type face? Why are judges more likely to deny parole before lunch? Why do we assume a good-looking person will be more competent? The answer lies in the two ways we make choices: fast, intuitive thinking, and slow, rational thinking. The book offers practical and enlightening insights into how our minds are tripped up by error and prejudice (even when we think we are being logical), and gives you practical techniques for slower, smarter thinking. It will enable to you make better decisions at work, at home, and in everything you do.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
By Daniel H. Pink

If you are interested in learning about the key points in motivation, this is a good book to start. The book is highly entertaining and contains many interesting real-life examples.

Drawing on decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He demonstrates that while carrots and sticks worked successfully in the twentieth century, that’s precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges. In his book, he examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action. Along the way, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing a bold way forward.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
By Chip Heath & Dan Heath

Change can be hard, unsettling, frightening. But change can also be simple, insightful, and exciting. In their book, the Heath brothers argue that we need only understand how our minds function in order to unlock shortcuts to switches in behaviour. Illustrating their ideas with scientific studies and remarkable real-life turnarounds – from the secrets of successful marriage counselling to the pile of gloves that transformed one company’s finances – they prove that deceptively simple methods can yield truly extraordinary results.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
By Simon Sinek

This book offers a rather unconventional perspective that explains why some people and organisations are more inventive, pioneering and successful than others? And why they are able to repeat their success again and again. Because the book is based on how people think and act, it has application in big business and small business, in politics and non-profit. Simon Sinek explains the framework needed for businesses to move past knowing what they do to how they do it, and then to ask the more important question – Why? Why do we do what we do? Why do we exist? Learning to ask these questions can unlock the secret to inspirational business. Sinek explains what it truly takes to lead and inspire and how anyone can learn how to do it. Drawing on a wide range of real-life stories, Sinek weaves together a clear vision of what it truly takes to lead and inspire.

The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking
By Oliver Burkeman

Thought-provoking and counter-intuitive. The Antidote is a series of journeys among people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. On the surface, they might not seem to share much else: they are philosophers and experimental psychologists, Buddhists and terrorism experts, New Age dreamers and hard-headed business consultants. What they have in common is a hunch about human psychology: that in our personal lives and the world at large, it’s our constant efforts to eliminate the negative – that cause us to feel so anxious, insecure and unhappy. And that there is an alternative negative path to happiness and success that involves embracing the things we spend our lives trying to avoid. Oliver Burkeman’s new book is a witty and fascinating read that turns decades of self-help advice on its head and forces us to rethink completely our attitudes towards failure and uncertainty.

Sonja Zaar is the Director MBA Programmes and International Projects at the Department of Postgraduate Education of Maastricht University School of Business and Economics. She holds a BA in Oriental Languages and Communication from Zuyd University of Applied Sciences and an MBA from Tilburg University. Currently she is working on her PhD research in Educational Sciences at Maastricht University.

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