Blog/ Venue Management

10 Must-Read Books for Venue Management Leaders

10 must-read leadership book for venue managers

If you’re the owner or operator of an attractions business, performing to the best of your ability is the key to success — for your organization, employees, customers, and yourself. 

You’ve probably already read leadership and management classics like Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  However, the 21st century requires a fresh look at managing the modern workplace, engaging employees, and delivering exceptional guest experiences. 

We’ve rounded up our ten favorite modern books on leadership, including specifics for managers in the hospitality, entertainment, and attraction industries, so you can more confidently lead your organization.  

1. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. (National Geographic Books, 2018), Brené Brown

The highly influential author of Daring Greatly and advocate for personal development via vulnerability penned this #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller as a guide for developing true leadership. Based on extensive research and real-world experience as a Ph.D. in Social Work, Brown introduces the four pillars of “courageous leadership.” Each pillar is explored and presented as learnable skills that any leader can adopt and incorporate—if they dare to be open.      

2. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't (Penguin Publishing Group, 2017, Paperback), Simon Sinek

The follow-up to Sinek’s bestselling business leadership books Start With Why and Together is Better, Leaders Eat Last is a must-read for managers looking to cultivate a cohesive employee and work culture. Analyzing the practical successes and failures of a variety of organizations and drawing from sciences including psychology, sociology, and biology, Sinek uncovers the secrets to fostering trust, loyalty, and productivity amongst teams.  

3. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups (Bantam, 2018), Daniel Coyle

Critically acclaimed and well-reviewed by readers, this New York Times bestseller is a study in successful team and workplace culture. Evaluating a breadth of organizations including an NBA team, comedy troupe, military group, and even a band of jewel thieves, Coyle finds the common skills, environments, and leadership styles that make each unit a winning combination working toward a singular goal.  

4. Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity (St. Martin’s Press, 2017), Kim Scott

Written by a former executive at Google and Apple, Radical Candor offers insights for managers in creating an environment of constructive criticism, feedback, and growth. With her experiences at high-stakes, high-tech companies and startups at the core, Scott gives practical examples and actionable advice for being the best possible manager without being mean.  

5. Engage, Inspire, Lead: Riding the Waves of Life and Leadership Lessons from My 43-Year Career with the Walt Disney Company (BrightRay Publishing, 2022), Jim MacPhee

With over four decades of experience at Walt Disney World—beginning as a boat driver and rising to the rank of COO—MacPhee uses his tenure at The Happiest Place on Earth to create a roadmap for leaders—specifically those in the attractions industry. Drawing on his time as an operations executive and leading tens of thousands of cast members, MacPhee speaks to what it means to provide inspired experiences from motivated employees.  

6. Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others (Simon & Schuster, 2022), Stephen M. R. Covey

Penned by the son of the late 7 Habits writer, Stephen M. R. Covey—a bestselling author and highly acclaimed speaker of business and leadership principles in his own right—Trust and Inspire aims to affect a revolutionary shift in management style for the modern organization. With a focus on managing remote and dispersed workers, this book will give you the tools needed to bring out the best in your workforce—wherever they are.  

7. Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney (Currency, 2008), Lee Cockerell

Part memoir, part management guide, this gem from the former Executive Vice President of Walt Disney World is a must-read for leaders in venue management or family attractions. From his humble beginnings in the Midwest to running operations at Disney World, Cockerell examines what it means to create an experiential environment that visitors love and employees love working within.  

8. Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus: How to Get Big Things Done in YOUR "Workshop"...All Year Long (Simple Truths, 2018, Hardcover - Enhanced), Eric Harvey

Written from the perspective of the North Pole’s most prominent manager, Leadership Secrets invites you to implement Santa Claus’s strategies for better team building, customer service, and overall amusement leadership. In addition to spotlighting the most common missteps managers can make, Harvey offers practical solutions and advice—specifically for leaders who rely on a team effort like attraction venue operators.

9. The Hospitality Mentality (Paperback, 2023, Morgan James LLC), Joshua Liebman

"The Hospitality Mentality" by Josh Liebman is a compelling guide that delves into the heart of exceptional customer service within the hospitality industry. Drawing upon the author's extensive experience and insights, this book unravels the key principles and strategies for creating memorable guest experiences. From understanding the importance of exceeding expectations to fostering a culture of genuine care and attentiveness, Liebman offers practical wisdom and real-world examples that can transform businesses into beacons of hospitality excellence. Whether you're a seasoned hospitality professional or just beginning your journey in the field, "The Hospitality Mentality" provides valuable lessons on consistently providing outstanding service and elevating the overall guest experience, making it a must-read for anyone seeking to excel in this industry.

To hear more great insights from Josh, check out clips from his time as host of ROLLER’s Guest Experience Show podcast here.

10. Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect (Optimism Press, 2022), Will Guidera  

From the co-owner of a two-star brasserie that would be crowned as “the best restaurant in the world,” Unreasonable Hospitality brings lessons in remarkable guest service from the kitchen, dining room, and front-of-house to aspiring leaders in any industry. Sharing the highs, lows, struggles, and solutions that came along the journey of transforming a restaurant into an iconic institution through the power of exceeded expectations, Guidera offers unique insights into helming a winning customer experience.    

Bonus Read:

Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, and the Untold Story of America's Most Dangerous Amusement Park (Penguin Books, 2020), Andy Mulvhill and Jake Rossen

Think of this outrageous history of America’s most infamous amusement park as an anti-guide to operating an attraction. Based in New Jersey and popular with only the most adventurous thrillseekers in the 80s and 90s, Action Park gained national attention as a destination where accidents and ambulances were a daily occurance. Co-authored by the son of founder Gene Mulvhill, this profile offers a humorous, heart-tugging, and head-scratching insight into venue management gone horribly awry.

As you dive into these pages, you'll find the tools and strategies to lead and create a workplace culture that fosters trust, loyalty, and productivity. With these tips, you can stay ahead of the curve, embrace the wisdom of these authors, and confidently steer your attractions business to new heights.

If you want to take it one step further to learn how ROLLER can help you save time, increase revenue, and delight your guests, get in touch