Top 5 Books About Leadership That Every SEO Should Read

How will these books help me become a better SEO?

The truth is, they might not. If you want to learn more about crawl strategy then check out our Screaming Frog Post. If you want to learn different tactical steps to keyword research then there are all kinds of Whiteboard Fridays to help with that. But if you want to stretch yourself beyond a single specialization, and grow into a more well-rounded marketer, these books can help.

Leadership is a critical part of advancing your career. It will make you a more effective communicator. It will help you get your ideas pushed through internally. It will make you a more compelling consultant.

If you’re totally content with where you are, then stop reading. But, if you’re itching to get a little more responsibility, hoping to be considered for a bigger account, or just starting to feel a little bored with your day to day, then consider picking up one of these books.

1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Read this book if: You think you know better than your leadership team.

More than anything, this book will help you build empathy for your managers and teach you how to more effectively communicate with them. Early in my career, I made a lot of assumptions. I had a naturally strong gut instinct and assumed that when in doubt, I could always rely on that. When I was met with a decision I didn’t understand, my first instinct was to assume whoever made the decision was wrong. Reading this book was a helpful wakeup call that there are multiple perspectives on every situation. Every decision is filled with nuance, and nothing should be taken at face value as good or bad without fully understanding it’s complexities.

Ever throw your arms up and wonder why your client did (insert crazy thing your client did)? Then yeah, you should give this book a read.

Beyond that, Ben Horowitz takes you through an eye-opening look at the early days of tech, so at the very least it’s a fun journey through the early days of the internet.

2. How to Say Anything to Anyone by Shari Harley

Read this book if: You often find yourself biting your tongue, unsure exactly how to verbalize what’s swirling in your head.

In an industry as widely misunderstood as SEO, you can easily make a case that this should be on every SEO’s bookshelf. Shari Harley provides a series of steps to follow that act as a cheat code for getting through any tough conversation. Have you ever had to give tough news to a client? Have you ever had to tell a team member you aren’t getting what you need from them? Ever had to explain why it’s really important for your dev team to prioritize those 301 redirects? This book will help!

I also call this book a must-read for anyone who’s managing anyone. Effective communication is arguably the greatest skillset you can sharpen if and when you find yourself with a direct report.

As a bonus, this is a really quick and tactical read.

3. Mindset by Carol Dweck

Read this book if: You think you’re wired a certain way.

Dweck proposes that there are two attitudes: Fixed mindset and Growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe they are what they are and there are some things they just can’t be (“I could never be a CEO, I’d never have the confidence to lead an entire company”). Those with a growth mindset believe that nothing is gifted or a given, and you can learn any skill set needed to get where you want to go (“If I want to become CEO I’ll need to work on my confidence.”)

Forget all of the ways this concept can help you personally, though the implications there are also endless. In the context of your role as an SEO, challenging assumptions is a critical part of being a good consultant. Think about how it can apply to your work with clients or internal teams. If you treat every “no” from your client as a challenge to get to “yes,” imagine how many doors you may open, what you may learn, and how much positive change you can affect.

This is a great read, and while it’s not overly long I did find it dense. Plan to chip away at it over time and take time to let the implications of Dweck’s research really soak in.

4. High Output Management by Andy Grove

Read this book if: You’re a new manager.

Ah, the breakfast factory. This book is one of my favorites of all time. The principles that Andy Grove walks through are so high impact that there is no way you can read this book as a manager and not walk away with some significant way to uplevel your approach. You could (and should!) read this book every year and walk away with a new takeaway.

That said, I would argue that even if you don’t manage a team, there are principles in this book that you can apply if you find yourself managing an SEO program. This book is all about how to get things done as efficiently and effectively as possible. Maybe that means motivating a team towards a common goal. Maybe that means thinking through the strategic bets you’ll make as part of your SEO strategy. Grove’s book can help with both!

One of the many other highlights of this book is the approach to decision making. Again, while this is a great tool for anyone managing a team of people, there are also applications to SEO. How often are we hypothesizing and analyzing data to inform a decision for our SEO strategies? All the time! Grove’s principles will help you do this more effectively.

5. The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox

Read this book if: You’ve seen Wil Reynolds on stage and thought wow, that guy could not be more different than me.

I’ve watched Wil in action for years and been in awe of the way he captures and carries a room. During my time as an Account Manager at Seer, I struggled with how to approach this as an introverted person much more keen to observe the room than lead it. If you’re asking a client for their money or their time, you’d better be able to do it with some degree of confidence.

Fox’s book is a master class in how to become something you thought you couldn’t be. If you’re thinking “No way, I couldn’t do that,” then go back to #3 and read that first. The truth is, by following Fox’s tactical advice, anyone can give the impression that they’re a charismatic leader. And if you’re trying to convince your client or team to invest in something really big, then you may need to flex your charisma to get it done.

Interested in learning more with the Seer team as an Account Manager? Get in touch with us today!

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Alisa Scharf
Alisa Scharf
VP, SEO + Generative AI