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If you’re anything like me, you like to read for both pleasure and for self-development. 

Throughout my time in leadership roles, I found a good book to be as impactful as leadership conferences and useful in providing practical advice and inspiration to get the best out of my teams and myself.

The shortlist:

  1. 5 Dysfunctions of A Team - Patrick Lencioni
  2. Good to Great - Jim Collins
  3. Why Leaders Eat Last - Simon Sinek
  4. Dare to Lead - Brene Brown
  5. The Ideal Team Player - Patrick Lencioni
  6. Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace - John C. Maxwell
  7. Leadership and Self-Deception- The Arbinger Institute
  8. Primed to Perform - Neel Doshi
  9. Business Made Simple - Donald Miller
  10. 7 habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
  11. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action - Simon Sinek
  12. The Talent Shift - Berta Aldrich
  13. Radical Candor - Kim Scott
  14. Valuable Change - Brendon Baker
  15. The Leader's Secret Code - Ian Mills
  16. Detox. Managing Insecurity in the workplace - Melanie Pump
  17. Choosing Courage - Jim Detert
  18. The CEO Next Door- Elena L. Botelho, Kim R. Powell, Tahl Raz
  19. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead - Sheryl Sandberg
  20. True North: Leading Authentically in Today's Workplace, Emerging Leader Edition - Zach Clayton, Bill George, David Gergen
  21. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High - Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, Emily Gregory
  22. How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie
  23. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - John C. Maxwell
  24. Dare to Serve - Cheryl Bachelder
  25. Meditations - Marcus Aurelius

25 Best Leadership Books

The five dysfunctions of a team book cover

1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Author: Patrick Lencioni

Fictional literature may not be everybody’s cup of tea when it comes to career development books, but I love this because Lencioni takes you on a journey with the main character who hurdles every possible challenge new leaders are bound to face. It’s a perfectly written parable that sticks in the memory and helps you when dealing with those challenges yourself.

Good to great book cover

2. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t

Author: Jim Collins

Good To Great was written for companies that don’t necessarily have a history of magic and inspiration. Collins long wondered if such companies have what it takes to shine the way so many companies do. In this book, you’ll learn everything Collins picked up from years of intensive research into organizations considered to be the best of the best.

Leaders eat last book cover

3. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Some Others Don’t

Author: Simon Sinek

World-famous motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, talks about how important it is for leaders to set the tone for the organization by putting their people first. In Leaders Eat Last, you’ll learn about more than just making people feel happy about their jobs and fulfilled in their role. You’ll learn the science behind human behavior and proven ways to successfully achieve lasting change. Leaders Eat Last is a good read for leaders at all levels, working in any type of organization.

Dare to lead book cover

4. Dare To Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

Author: Brené Brown

Dare To Lead is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and was named one of the Books of the Year by Bloomberg. It gives readers a look into the minds of leaders celebrated as change makers and culture shifters. This book puts a strong focus on empathy, connection, and courage as the building blocks of a brave and daring leader. Dare To Lead is for leaders who are ready to change the game.

The ideal team player book cover

5. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues

Author: Patrick Lencion

Another one from Lencioni. Here, he addresses what readers of The Five Dysfunctions of A Team pointed out as a lack of emphasis on the characteristics an individual must have to be part of a successful team. As such, The Ideal Team Player teaches readers how to help talented team members become team players instead of losing them.

Leadershift book cover

6. Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace

Author: John C. Maxwell

Part of being a leader is being adaptable and open to learning (hey, that’s why you’re here, right?). Here legendary leader and author, John C. Maxwell, shares eleven shifts he made over the course of his career to strengthen and sustain his leadership abilities and run organizations more effectively.

Leadership and self deception book cover

7. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box

Author: The Arbinger Institute

Another story-driven book, Leadership and Self-deception tells the tale of a leader facing challenges at work and at home due to his lack of self-awareness. Throughout the narrative, you’ll be provided with tools, assessments, and frameworks to understand your leadership style and help you change your focus regarding how you interact with others and approach problems. Indeed, it will help you to ‘get outside your box’!

Primed to perform book cover

8. Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation

Authors: Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor

Primed to Perform is the book to read for those of you who enjoy learning about the wonders of human psychology and how it can be used to the advantage of building and leading teams. Readers will learn how to develop a system to create high-performing teams and to sustain them.

Business made simple book cover

9. Business Made Simple: 60 Days to Master Leadership, Sales, Marketing, Execution, Management, Personal Productivity and More

Author: Donald Miller

Miller is a favorite of mine. This is the perfect book for leaders at the helm of booming businesses who suddenly realize they need formal systems in place. Business Made Simple teaches readers the foundations of running a business and the skills to fully understand it, realize its potential, and grow and expand it. he does a spectacular job at making what seem to be daunting business topics easy to understand by just about everyone.

The 7 habits of highly effective people book cover

10. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Author: Stephen R. Covey

More than just being New York Times bestseller, this book was also named The #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century. 40 million people have taken heed of Stephen Covey’s writings and have learned what it takes to transform their lives. You will find this useful if you’re a new leader looking to step up and take charge of your new role and of your new team.

Start with why book cover

11. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Author: Simon Sinek

Another famous leadership book from Sinkek, this one focuses on what sets influential leaders and the organizations they run apart. As the name suggests, it’s about uniting people behind a shared vision and goal that transcends money and speaks to people’s higher needs.

Winning the talent shift book cover

12. Winning the Talent Shift: Three Steps to Unleashing the New High-Performance Workplace

Author: Berta Aldrich

This book is for new leaders in organizations with a diverse workforce. Berta, a friend and podcast guest, guides readers through the common challenges and barriers within the workplace so that everyone can unlock and realize their full potential. It’s based on her own experienced, and research, and presents solutions to the most common problems that diverse organizations fail at.

Radical candor book cover

13. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Author: Kim Scott

This award-winning book is available in 20 languages and gives readers a good look into the mind of Kim Scott. She taught you the value of finding balance between being one thing and its opposite, and how one or the other is to be used depending on what the situation calls for. Kim puts an emphasis on the work to be done in creating a compassionate work environment that will help you achieve your goals whether it be for the team or for the organization.

Valuable change book cover

14. Valuable Change: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Change Pays Off

Author: Brendon Baker

Driving real change is never easy but Brendon Baker says it can be simplified. He outlines the hard skills necessary to lead your organization into a future without stacks of paper containing information no one knows what to do with and without people talking in a language of a world that’s all their own. It’s a guide to maximizing possibilities and transforming your organization into a well-oiled machine that runs on processes that are simple and easy.

The leaders secret code book cover

15. The Leader’s Secret Code: The Belief Systems That Distinguish Winners

Authors: Ian Mills, Mark Ridley, Ben Laker, Adam Pacifico

This book is based on interviews with various industry leaders, from a multitude of cultures and contexts, where the authors share what rituals and practices they have and what drives and motivates them. The result is what the authors call The Leader’s Secret Code to high-performing teams and unparalleled success in leadership and in management.

Detox book cover

16. Detox: Managing Insecurity in the Workplace

Author: Melanie Pump

If you like learning from people who have turned their lives around, here’s one you should not miss! Previous podcast guest, Melanie Pump, talks about how the work environment deeply affects the way people feel about how much they should contribute, how far they would go for the company, and even thinking of ways to improve the environment. She proposes healthy ways to create a work environment that encourages everyone to play bigger roles and do so much more.

Choosing courage book cover

17. Choosing Courage: The Everyday Guide to Being Brave at Work

Author: Jim Detert

Being a leader can be tough and so, traditionally, a lot of people choose to act tough or like they know everything to compensate for—well—not knowing everything. But was of behaving is suboptimal, indeed even dangerous, in modern-day organizations. In Choose Courage, Dertert demonstrates how everyone, including leaders, can learn to be courageous through (appropriately) showing vulnerability and voicing their authentic voice and opinions. In doing so, you’ll achieve a greater impact at work.

The ceo next door book cover

18. The CEO Next Door: The 4 Behaviors that Transform Ordinary People into World-Class Leaders

Authors: Elena L. Botelho, Kim R. Powell, Tahl Raz

This book distills research into the data of over 2,000 leaders, 13,000 hours of interviews, and 2 decades of leadership consultancy to answer the question “What really makes leaders successful?” Is being focused on leadership from a young ages, or attending a top university? There are some myths busted this book!

Lean in book cover

19. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

This book was written to help prepare women for leadership roles, shedding light on topics such as gender inequality, how to ‘lean in’ and grab opportunities when they arise, and also how to balance career and family life. However, despite the focus on women leaders, it also serves as a good leadership career development guide for both sexes. “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

True north book cover

20. True North: Leading Authentically in Today’s Workplace, Emerging Leader Edition

Authors: Zach Clayton, Bill George, David Gergen

It’s arguably never been a more difficult period to be a leader. With the world seemingly lurching from one major crisis to the next, how can one remain focused, avoid knee-jerk reactions and steer the course? This book focused on how to lead with your values as your North Star and make a difference in the world.

Crucial conversations (third edition) book cover

21. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

Authors: Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, Emily Gregory

Creating consensus through conflict is part and parcel of being of a leader. This book will give you tools to help you keep your head when all others are losing theirs and get the conversation back on track. It will also teach you how to be more persuasive and communicate more effectively in the real and digital realsm. Useful for both professional and personal life!

How to win friends & influence people book cover

22. How to Win Friends and Influence People

Author: Dale Carnegie

Carnegie grew up in the late19th/early 20th Century, a patririachal time in which the authoritative leadership style reigned supreme. His famous book lays out some timeless truths about fundamentals of human nature and, by knowing them, being able to influence others and get them to like you (as opposed to simple just ordering them around).

The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership book cover

23. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: 25th Anniversary: Follow Them and People Will Follow You

Author: John C. Maxwell

Like a list of tenets, Maxwell lays out 21 laws of leadership that delve in what it means to be a leader—for example influence, prioritization and the ability to develop and serve others. It’s not a step-by-step on how to be a better leader, but he does provide useful activities and a leadership assessment tool to help you identify area of focus for development.

Dare to serve book cover

24. Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others

Author: Cheryl Bachelder

Dare To Serve is all about servant leadership. In it, Bachelder attributes her success in turning around the struggling food chain, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, to fostering a servant leadership culture based on getting to know people, empowering them, setting a bold vision, and providing an environment for personal growth.

Meditations book cover

25. Meditations

Author: Marcus Aurelius

The emperor from Gladiator really existed and will certainly be remembered as a philosopher! Meditations is Aurelius’s reflections on two decades of being one of the most powerful men in history and leading the Roman empire through continuous war and a civil revolt. It summarizes his thoughts on human nature, values, stoicism, the role of the leader, and the meaning of life itself.

That’s enough to be getting on with for now! I Got any books you’d like to recommend? Leave a note in the comments or in the People Managing People community, a place for leaders to connect and share knowledge.

Some further recourses to help you develop as a leader:

By David Rice

David Rice is a long time journalist and editor who specializes in covering human resources and leadership topics. His career has seen him focus on a variety of industries for both print and digital publications in the United States and UK.