Good leadership does not happen overnight. It's a skill you constantly hone and improve over time. And that's an exciting journey to embark on!
The good news is that countless leadership books are out there, ready to be your guides and mentors.
Another great way to boost your leadership is by attending one of the top 2024 leadership conferences. Check out our complete guide.
These books offer a wealth of practical advice and inspiration from experts and influential figures who have led successful teams, initiated change, and navigated organizations through difficult times.
Whether you are new to a management position, refining your approach, or seeking to inspire others more effectively, the right leadership book can provide a thought-provoking and enlightening guide on the qualities and practices defining great leaders.
In this article, I'm sharing the best books on leadership. Here is the shortlist:
Section A: Leadership books to understand leadership concepts, strategies, and principles
- 1. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
- 2. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Joko Willink and Leif Babin
- 3. On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis
- 4. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet
Section B: Leadership books about personal growth, effectiveness, and productivity in a leadership context
- 5. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John C. Maxwell
- 6. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Dr. Brené Brown
- 7. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute
- 8. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee
- 9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
- 10. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker
Section C: Leadership books about people management
- 11. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
- 12. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
- 13. First, Break All The Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
- 14. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman
Section D: Leadership books about team dynamics, building trust and effective working environments
- 15. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright
- 16. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
- 17. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
- 18. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni
Section E: Leadership books about innovations and changes
- 19. The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen
- 20. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't by Jim Collins
- 21. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
Besides a summary, I will suggest some beginner-level actions from the books’ core lessons, so that you can take advantage of them, even if you haven't finished reading them yet.
Let’s dive in!
Section A: Leadership books to understand leadership concepts, strategies, and principles
Perspectives on ideal leadership styles may change over time, but there are some tried and true principles that are always applicable.
These leadership books contain insights and frameworks from respected experts that can help improve your leadership capabilities.
Whether you're a seasoned leader or just starting out, these books offer valuable lessons to help elevate your managerial skills and abilities.
1. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
About the Author: John C. Maxwell is a well-known global leadership expert, speaker, and author. He is highly respected for his practical and insightful approach to leadership.
Book Length: 336 pages
Amazon Review: 4.7/5 (8,175 ratings)
"The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" by John C. Maxwell is a timeless book that offers invaluable insights for forward-thinking leaders who aspire to inspire and guide others toward a shared vision.
The book distills decades of experience into 21 essential laws of leadership, each backed by practical examples and actionable advice.
- The Law of the Lid: Leadership ability determines a person's level of effectiveness.
- The Law of Influence: The true measure of leadership is influence - nothing more, nothing less.
- The Law of Process: Leadership develops daily, not in a day.
- The Law of Navigation: Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course.
- The Law of Addition: Leaders add value by serving others.
- The Law of Solid Ground: Trust is the foundation of leadership.
- The Law of Respect: People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves.
- The Law of Intuition: Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias.
- The Law of Magnetism: Who you are is who you attract.
- The Law of Connection: Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.
- The Law of the Inner Circle: A leader's potential is determined by those closest to him.
- The Law of Empowerment: Only secure leaders give power to others.
- The Law of the Picture: People do what people see.
- The Law of Buy-in: People buy into the leader, then the vision.
- The Law of Victory: Leaders find a way for the team to win.
- The Law of the Big Mo: Momentum is a leader's best friend.
- The Law of Priorities: Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment.
- The Law of Sacrifice: A leader must give up to go up.
- The Law of Timing: When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go.
- The Law of Explosive Growth: To add growth, lead followers - to multiply, lead leaders.
- The Law of Legacy: A leader's lasting value is measured by succession.
These laws are designed to be both standalone lessons and parts of a cohesive whole, allowing you to either delve into specific laws as needed or read through the entire book for a comprehensive understanding of leadership.
If you aspire to be a leader who not only achieves success but also inspires and elevates those around you, this book is a must-read.
One simple action from this book: Focus on the Law of Process to understand how daily actions and decisions shape your path as a leader.
Today, identify one leadership area you want to improve – it could be communication, decision-making, or empathy. Commit to a small, daily action to develop in that area to build up your leadership philosophy.
“The higher you want to climb, the more you need leadership. The greater the impact you want to make, the greater your influence needs to be.”
“Becoming a leader is a lot like investing successfully in the stock market. If your hope is to make a fortune in a day, you’re not going to be successful.”
2. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Joko Willink and Leif Babin
About the Author: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are both former U.S. Navy SEAL officers. After their military service, they co-founded Echelon Front, a leadership consulting firm, where they use their SEAL experiences to teach leadership principles.
Book length: 384 pages
Amazon review: 4.8/5 (35,752 ratings)
"Extreme Ownership" by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin is an essential read for someone who is always on the lookout for strategies that not only enhance your leadership skills but also resonate with the ethos of responsibility and teamwork.
The book emphasizes the concept of full responsibility (extreme ownership). It guides you through practical advice on how to lead and win in any environment, be it military, business, or personal life.
As you navigate the complexities of modern leadership, embracing this principle means taking responsibility for your team's actions and empowering them to own their roles fully. Agency and autonomy at work will lead to better performance and reduce workplace stress.
The book is structured into three parts:
- Part One: Winning the War Within - This section establishes the foundational principle of "Extreme Ownership" and covers concepts like 'No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders' and 'Believe,' highlighting the importance of leader responsibility and the power of belief in a mission.
- Part Two: The Laws of Combat - The authors introduce four critical laws: Cover and Move, Simple, Prioritize and Execute, and Decentralized Command. It translates complex combat strategies into applicable leadership principles for any organization.
- Part Three: Sustaining Victory - The final part focuses on strategies to maintain and sustain success over the long term. It includes lessons on planning, leading up and down the chain of command, and the dichotomy of leadership.
One simple action from this book: In your next communication, whether it's an email, a meeting, or a project plan, focus on clarity and simplicity. Remove jargon, break down complex ideas, and ensure your message is easily understandable.
This small improvement can significantly enhance the effectiveness of team communication, foster informed decisions, and empower your team members to take charge of their roles.
“Total responsibility for failure is a difficult thing to accept, and taking ownership when things go wrong requires extraordinary humility and courage. But doing just that is an absolute necessity to learning, growing as a leader, and improving a team’s performance.”
“Leaders must always operate with the understanding that they are part of something greater than themselves and their own personal interests.”
3. On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis
About the Author: Warren Bennis was a renowned leadership scholar and author who focused on the human aspects of leadership, such as self-awareness, adaptability, and vision.
Book Length: 304 pages
Amazon Review: 4.4/5 (652 ratings)
Warren Bennis’ “On Becoming a Leader” is considered a classic in leadership literature and is widely recommended for anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of effective leadership.
In this book, Warren explores the process of becoming a leader, arguing that leadership is not so much a set of innate traits but rather a skill that can be developed and honed.
It covers various aspects of leadership through a series of themes and ideas:
- Understanding the Basics of Leadership: Foundational qualities and skills essential for effective leadership, including vision, passion, integrity, and self-awareness.
- The Difference Between Leaders and Managers: Leadership is about doing the right things, while management is about doing things right.
- The Development of a Leader: The importance of lifelong learning, experience, and the ability to adapt and grow.
- The Context of Leadership: Leadership does not exist in a vacuum, and external factors (like organizational culture and societal changes) can influence leadership.
- The Future of Leadership: Future challenges and opportunities for leaders, considering the evolving nature of the global business environment and organizational structures.
One simple action from this book: At the end of your day, take a few minutes to reflect on one key decision you made. Ask yourself: Why did I make this decision? How did my personal values, biases, or experiences influence it? Write down your thoughts.
This practice of daily reflection will sharpen your self-awareness, helping you understand how your unique perspective shapes your leadership style. Over time, these reflections can guide you toward more mindful and authentic leadership decisions.
“More leaders have been made by accident, circumstance, sheer grit, or will than have been made by all the leadership courses put together.”
“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
4. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet
About the Author: L. David Marquet is a former U.S. Navy officer and leadership expert with 28 years of experience. His work has made a significant impact on leadership thought, especially in how it challenges traditional, hierarchical leadership models in favor of more collaborative and empowering approaches.
Book Length: 272 pages
Amazon Review: 4.7/5 (8,661 ratings)
"Turn the Ship Around" by L. David Marquet presents a transformative approach to leadership. The main idea is to empower individuals to foster a culture of proactive problem-solving and innovation rather than commanding them.
Marquet's experience as a submarine captain illustrates how shifting from a traditional leader-follower model to a leader-leader model leads to a more effective and engaged organization.
- Starting Over: Introduces the idea of giving control rather than taking control.
- Control: Practical steps taken to shift the control and decision-making process down the chain of command.
- Competence: Discusses the importance of technical competence in the crew, ensuring they have the knowledge and skills to make good decisions.
- Clarity: Highlights the importance of a clear vision and shared values in empowering team members.
The book provides a blueprint for creating environments where team members have the autonomy to make decisions, improving organizational performance, and enhancing team members' job satisfaction and growth.
One simple action from this book: Ask your team member, "What do you think we should do?" in a situation where you'd normally give instructions. It's a practical step towards creating an environment of shared leadership, encouraging autonomy and initiative.
“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.”
“The problem with specifying the method along with the goal is one of diminished control. Provide your people with the objective and let them figure out the method.”
Section B: Leadership books about personal growth, effectiveness, and productivity in a leadership context
To become a great leader, you must work on yourself first.
This collection of books focuses on personal growth and development to help you leave a meaningful legacy as a leader.
Instead of offering general theories or quick fixes, these books unfold inner obstacles preventing you from creating a vibrant and successful team culture.
Get ready, because they will challenge you to take a closer look at yourself and chart a path forward from the inside out!
5. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John C. Maxwell
About the Author: John C. Maxwell
"John has been a mentor and teacher for me for many years and what I love most about him is that he has pushed and helped me personally go through the 5 Levels of Leadership!"―Kevin Turner, COO, Microsoft
Book Length: 304 pages
Amazon Review: 4.7/5 (4,249 ratings)
Maxwell's "The 5 Levels of Leadership" presents a tiered approach to becoming an effective leader, detailing five distinct levels of growth and effectiveness.
- Position: Leadership because of a title or position. This is the basic starting point for all leaders.
- Permission: Leadership because people choose to follow. At this level, relationships are developed, and trust is earned.
- Production: Effective leaders produce results, which gains them credibility and influence.
- People Development: Leaders at this level empower others, helping them develop their own leadership abilities.
- Pinnacle: The highest level, where leaders develop a legacy of leadership by developing other leaders and making a lasting impact.
This book will help you understand where you currently stand in your leadership journey and provide a clear roadmap for achieving your full potential. It’s an essential read for anyone committed to personal and professional leadership growth.
One simple action from this book: Take a moment to identify one leadership trait you admire in a leader you respect. Observe how this trait manifests in their actions and how you can imitate it.
“Good leadership isn’t about advancing yourself. It’s about advancing your team.”
“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.”
6. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. By Dr. Brené Brown
About the Author: Dr. Brené Brown is a research professor and bestselling author known for her work on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She holds the Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston, and is a leading voice in leadership and organizational behavior.
Book Length: 320 pages
Amazon Review: 4.7/5 (20,113 ratings)
"Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown is a compelling exploration of leadership that combines vulnerability with strength. The book's main idea is that true leadership requires emotional courage, the willingness to tackle tough conversations, and the capacity to lead with empathy and authenticity.
Dr. Brown uses research and real-world examples to offer a refreshing perspective that challenges leaders to embrace vulnerability and empathy as tools for creating a more inclusive and effective workplace. The book is divided into four sections:
- Rumbling with Vulnerability: Emphasizes the importance of vulnerability in leadership.
- Living into Our Values: Explores the significance of identifying and standing by one’s values, which is essential for authentic leadership.
- Braving Trust: Delves into the elements of trust and how to build an environment of trustworthiness in teams and organizations.
- Learning to Rise: Focuses on resilience and the ability to recover and learn from failures and setbacks.
"Dare to Lead" is a valuable resource for those who aspire to lead with greater understanding, empathy, and courage and want to transform your working culture into a more human-centric one.
One simple action from this book: Start your next team meeting by sharing something you're grateful for, either within the team or in your work. This practice sets a tone of positivity and openness, creating an environment where team members feel valued and connected.
“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.”
“Daring leaders must care for and be connected to the people they lead.”
7. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute
About the Author: The Arbinger Institute is a global consultancy renowned for its work in organizational psychology, conflict resolution, and leadership. The institute comprises a team of scholars and consultants specializing in human behavior psychology and its impact on interpersonal and organizational dynamics.
Book Length: 240 pages
Amazon Review: 4.7/5 (3,413 ratings)
"Leadership and Self-Deception" by the Arbinger Institute is a thought-provoking leadership book that delves into how self-deception can impede effective leadership.
The book's central idea is about 'being in the box,' a metaphor for the self-created barriers that limit our understanding of ourselves and others. These barriers lead to a lack of empathy and understanding, resulting in poor leadership and strained relationships.
It is divided into three main parts:
- Self-Deception and the "Box": This section explains how this state affects behavior and decision-making, leading to a cycle of poor leadership and strained relationships.
- How We Get In the Box: This part delves deeper into the mechanics of self-deception, illustrating how individuals trap themselves in the "box" through their actions and attitudes.
- How We Get Out of the Box: The final section offers strategies for escaping the "box."
This book particularly benefits leaders and managers seeking to understand and overcome personal barriers to improve your leadership skills and create more positive and productive team environments.
One simple action from this book: Think back on a recent interaction with a team member and try to understand how your perceptions and biases might have affected the encounter. This reflection can help you recognize when you're being close-minded and promote greater self-awareness, paving the way for more genuine and successful leadership.
“Leadership is not about being right; it is about creating an environment where the best ideas and solutions can emerge.”
“Self-deception prevents us from seeing our own blind spots and limits our potential for growth.”
8. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee
About the Author: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee are renowned psychologists and researchers in emotional intelligence and leadership.
- Daniel Goleman is a psychologist and science journalist famous for pioneering the concept of emotional intelligence. His work merges psychology and neuroscience, particularly focusing on how emotional intelligence influences leadership and organizational success.
- Richard Boyatzis is a distinguished professor and expert in emotional intelligence, behavior change, and organizational effectiveness.
- Annie McKee is an esteemed advisor, author, and executive coach, specializing in leadership, emotional intelligence, and organizational culture. Her work centers on the human aspects of leadership and effective management.
Book Length: 336 pages
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 (1,514 ratings)
"Primal Leadership" by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee presents a groundbreaking view of leadership through the lens of emotional intelligence (EI).
The authors argue that emotionally intelligent leaders can resonate more deeply with their teams, driving motivation and fostering a positive work environment.
They explore how different leadership styles, powered by EI, can profoundly impact an organization's climate and success.
The book provides practical insights on developing your EI to become more effective, making this very helpful if you’re looking to enhance your leadership skills in ways that go beyond traditional management techniques, focusing on the human side of leading.
One simple action from this book: A small act of acknowledgment can positively influence the emotional climate of your team. Send personalized appreciation messages to your team members, acknowledging their specific contributions or the positive impact they've had.
>> Here are 101 employee recognition ideas you can try today!
“There are many dimensions and sides to emotional intelligence. But empathy is the most important one.”
“Constructive criticism always helps a person to grow on the right path, instead of being lost in the room of faults.”
9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
About the Author: Stephen R. Covey was a respected leadership authority, consultant, and author with impressive academic credentials, including an MBA from Harvard. He was also a professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University.
Book Length: 464 pages
Amazon Review: 4.8/5 (12,274 ratings)
"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen R. Covey outlines a principle-centered approach to personal and professional effectiveness.
The book is structured around a progression of habits that guide you from dependence to independence, and ultimately to interdependence. Each habit is explored in detail in its own chapter, with personal anecdotes, relevant examples, and practical advice.
- Independence: The first three habits (Be Proactive; Begin with the End in Mind; Put First Things First) focus on self-mastery and moving from dependence to independence. They are about personal vision, leadership, and management.
- Interdependence: The next three habits (Think Win-Win; Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood; Synergize) address interdependence, improving relationships and teamwork.
- Continuous Improvement: The last habit (Sharpen the Saw) focuses on continuous growth and improvement in all areas of life.
At the end of each chapter, there are exercises or reflections to apply what you have learned and reflect on your personal growth.
One simple action from this book: All lessons are highly applicable. But a habit you can easily add to your routine from today is about “Put First Things First.”
Start your day by writing down the two most important tasks you need to accomplish. This practice helps prioritize your day's activities, ensuring you focus on what truly matters and aligns with your personal and professional goals.
“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”
“We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.”
10. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker
About the Author: Peter F. Drucker, the founder of modern management, authored numerous books and articles on principles and strategies for long-term effectiveness in businesses and organizations.
Book Length: 240 pages
Amazon Review: 4.5/5 (3,232 ratings)
"The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker provides practical advice to help executives optimize effectiveness and productivity. He outlines essential practices that help you become efficient (doing things right) and a lot more effective (doing the right things):
- Time Management: Time is the foundation of effectiveness. Executives should know where your time goes and work systematically at allocating your time.
- Focus on Contributions: Executives should focus on what you can contribute to the organization, shifting focus from efforts to results.
- Making Strengths Productive: Building on strengths, both your own and those of your colleagues, team members, and the organization.
- Setting the Right Priorities: This involves concentrating on areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results.
- Effective Decision-Making: Following a clear process for decision-making and ensuring that decisions are action-oriented.
Each chapter, dedicated to one of these key practices, is filled with practical advice and real-world examples, making the concepts readily applicable to your leadership role.
One simple action from this book: Take a moment today to track and reflect on your time usage. The purpose is to observe how you allocate your time throughout the day and evaluate whether these activities align with and contribute to your key goals. This simple exercise can provide significant insights into your effectiveness as a leader and guide you towards more impactful use of your time.
>> Check out the best time management apps for personal use and advanced time management tools for team use.
“The motivation of the knowledge worker depends on his being effective; on his being able to achieve. If effectiveness is lacking in his work, his commitment to work and to contribution will soon wither and he’ll become a time server going through the motions from 9-5.”
“Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results. By themselves, they only set limits to what can be attained.”
Section C: Leadership books about people management
Great leaders ignite greatness in others. This section contains leadership books that are carefully curated to offer you the most effective and expert-proven practices to inspire, motivate, and cultivate your team's talent.
11. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
About the Author: Simon Sinek, an acclaimed motivational speaker and author, is renowned for his inspiring talks on leadership and motivation. He is a trained ethnographer with a unique perspective on organizational psychology and market leadership.
Book Length: 256 pages
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 (35,736 ratings)
"Start with Why" by Simon Sinek is a book that can transform your leadership approach. The core principle is to ignite a shared passion and purpose that deeply resonates with every team member.
Sinek's model of "The Golden Circle" - why (the core belief or purpose), how (the processes or systems that manifest the belief), and what (the results or products of the belief) - explains that people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
Understanding and communicating the purpose or belief behind actions—why something is done—inspires people to follow and engage.
The book uses case studies from Apple, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Wright brothers, among others, to illustrate how starting with 'why' creates powerful, influential leadership and successful organizations.
One simple action from this book: Take a moment today to articulate why you do what you do. Why are you passionate about your role? Why does your organization exist beyond making money?
Once you have your 'Why,' share it with your team.
This exercise will clarify your own purpose and help to align and inspire your team around a shared vision.
"People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe"
"Leadership requires two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate it."
12. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
About the Author: Kenneth Blanchard is a renowned American author, leadership expert, and business consultant. With a Ph.D. in education and a career spanning several decades, he is best known for his situational leadership model and his accessible, story-based writing style.
Spencer Johnson, a physician, and writer, was known for his remarkable ability to simplify complex subjects and create engaging, helpful narratives. Johnson's background in medicine and psychology added depth to his exploration of personal and organizational behavior.
Book Length: 112 pages
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 (5,710 ratings)
"The One Minute Manager" by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson is a concise book that presents a simple yet effective leadership and people management model.
The authors propose a strategic twist to your routines by condensing management activities into focused, one-minute interactions: One-Minute Goals, One-Minute Praisings, and One-Minute Reprimands.
This approach streamlines your management process and significantly amplifies the impact of your interactions.
If you’re on the way to creating an environment of efficiency and positivity, this book is a must-read. Each of the three key principles is explained through the story, with examples and dialogues so that you will easily understand how they can be applied in day-to-day management.
One simple action from this book: Review the current list of tasks your team is working on and assess if clear, concise goals are set and communicated clearly to them. These goals should be specific, measurable, and achievable within a short timeframe – ideally achievable in a minute's read or explanation.
"Goals begin behaviors, consequences maintain them.”
"People who feel good about themselves produce good results.”
“Help people reach their full potential. Catch them doing something right.”
13. First, Break All The Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
About the Author: Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman are both widely respected consultants and researchers in the field of people management and engagement.
Book Length: 368 pages
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 (2,534 ratings)
Based on extensive research of more than 80,000 managers conducted by the Gallup Organization, the book challenges conventional wisdom about management practices and provides insights into what makes a great manager.
The authors identify key findings from their research, which involved interviews with thousands of managers across different industries. They conclude that great managers break commonly-held management rules and instead follow unique approaches for their team members’ strengths and needs.
The book is structured around several core principles:
- Selecting for Talent: Emphasizing the importance of choosing talents based on their potential rather than experience or intelligence.
- Defining the Right Outcomes: Shifting focus from how tasks are accomplished to the results.
- Focusing on Strengths: Encouraging managers to focus on developing employees' strengths rather than trying to correct their weaknesses.
- Finding the Right Fit: The importance of placing employees in roles where they can excel.
One simple action from this book: Try personal user manual sessions to get to know each team member's strengths and motivations.
“The greatest managers in the world don't have much in common - except that they break almost every rule governing conventional wisdom in business today.”
“Don't expect people to change. Managers have the power to change the game.”
14. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman
About the Author: Liz Wiseman is a leadership expert and President of The Wiseman Group, a research and development firm in Silicon Valley. She helps leaders amplify and harness the talent and intelligence within their organizations.
Book Length: 384 pages
Amazon Review: 4.7/5 (2,345 ratings)
"Multipliers" by Liz Wiseman is an insightful book that explores how some leaders, known as 'Multipliers,' effectively amplify the intelligence and capabilities of the people around them.
Contrasting them with 'Diminishers' who suppress or underutilize the talent in their teams, Wiseman illustrates how ‘Multipliers’ foster an environment of growth, innovation, and productivity.
Multipliers are described as not only genius makers but also as fierce debaters, talent magnets, liberators, and challengers who provoke and drive their teams to achieve extraordinary results.
The book details how these leaders think and operate, inspiring others to stretch their abilities and deliver more than they thought possible. There are two main parts:
- The Multiplier Effect: This section explains how Multipliers have a positive and amplifying effect on their team's intelligence and capabilities, while Diminishers tend to suppress or diminish these same qualities.
- The Five Disciplines of the Multiplier:
- The Talent Magnet: Attracting talented people and using them at their highest point of contribution.
- The Liberator: Creating an intense environment that requires people's best thinking.
- The Challenger: Defining opportunities that cause people to stretch.
- The Debate Maker: Driving sound decisions through rigorous debate.
- The Investor: Instilling ownership and accountability for results.
Chapter by chapter, it will show you the what, why, and how you can cultivate these behaviors in yourself to become Multipliers.
One simple action from this book: Try incorporating "growth-focused" one-on-one questions in your next meeting. Ask something like, "What new skill would you like to develop, and how can I support you in that?" This encourages your team members to think about their personal and professional development, fostering an environment where growth is prioritized and supported.
“Multipliers aren’t “feel-good” managers. They look into people and find capability, and they want to access all of it. They utilize people to their fullest. They see a lot, so they expect a lot.”
“It isn't how much you know that matters. What matters is how much access you have to what other people know. It isn't just how intelligent your team members are; it is how much of that intelligence you can draw out and put to use.”
Section D: Leadership books about team dynamics, building trust, and effective working environments
Creating a positive workplace culture is essential for long-term success and innovation. And leaders play a significant role in shaping that culture.
These leadership books offer evidence-based frameworks, case studies, and actionable advice for reinforcing shared values, encouraging collaboration, breaking down silos, and leveraging diverse team dynamics.
If you're looking for guidance on how to intentionally build a positive workplace culture that ignites growth, collaboration, and success, this section is for you.
15. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright
About the Author: Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright are well-respected consultants and thought leaders in organizational management and culture.
- Dave Logan is a professor, best-selling author, and management consultant, known for his work in organizational culture, transformation, and tribal leadership.
- John King is a senior partner and co-founder of CultureSync, a management consulting firm specializing in cultural change, strategy, and negotiation. King's work focuses on enhancing leadership capabilities and understanding organizational group dynamics.
- Halee Fischer-Wright is a physician, business consultant, and speaker with a unique blend of medical and management expertise. Her experience in both clinical practice and as a business leader provides a practical perspective on organizational effectiveness and leadership.
Book Length: 303 pages
Amazon Review: 4.5/5 (1,657 ratings)
"Tribal Leadership" by Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright offers a unique perspective on organizational success through the lens of tribal dynamics. The book's central premise is that organizations are comprised of small, naturally forming "tribes," each with its own culture.
The authors categorize these tribes into five stages, providing a framework for leaders to understand and enhance their organization's tribal culture:
- Stage One - "Life Sucks": Dominated by despair and hostility, this stage sees individuals feeling disconnected and acting out destructively.
- Stage Two - "My Life Sucks": Characterized by apathy and disengagement, people here do the minimum, feeling resigned to their limitations.
- Stage Three - "I'm Great (and you're not)": Focused on individual achievement, this stage breeds competition and a sense of personal superiority.
- Stage Four - "We're Great": Marked by teamwork and unity, individuals at this stage are driven by shared success and strong collaboration.
- Stage Five - "Life is Great": This rare stage is defined by a collective sense of wonder and a commitment to contributing to the greater good.
The goal is to progress toward innovative and thriving teams, as described in the last stage. By understanding these stages and the behaviors of different tribal groups, you can harness the natural groups within your organizations to improve collaboration, employee engagement, and overall performance.
This book will guide you through understanding and advancing your team's interpersonal and cultural stages. This is a must-read if you seek to transform your organization's culture and harness the power of team dynamics.
One simple action from this book: Take notes over a week on your team's communication and behavior. Compare these observations with the descriptions of the five tribal stages to identify where your team currently stands. This will provide a clear starting point for targeted cultural improvements.
“The quality of our culture depends on the quality of our relationships.”
“Leadership is not about being in control, it's about creating an environment where everyone can contribute their best.”
16. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
About the Author: Patrick Lencioni is a renowned American author, consultant, and speaker, primarily known for his work in the fields of business management, particularly team management and organizational health. He is the founder and president of The Table Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders improve their organizations' health.
Book Length: 229 pages
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 (12,925 ratings)
"The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable" by Patrick Lencioni delves into the challenges teams face in achieving cohesion and effectiveness.
Lencioni presents his insights through a fictional narrative, focusing on five fundamental dysfunctions that can derail teams:
- Absence of Trust: The fear of being vulnerable with team members prevents the building of trust within the team.
- Fear of Conflict: Teams that lack trust cannot engage in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas.
- Lack of Commitment: Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions.
- Avoidance of Accountability: Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven individuals hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
- Inattention to Results: Failure to hold one another accountable leads to an environment where team members put their individual needs (ego, career advancement, etc.) above the collective goals of the team.
The book provides an easy-to-understand and relatable approach to team dynamics. Lencioni highlights the common pitfalls that teams face and offers practical strategies for overcoming these challenges.
The fable format makes the concepts easy to understand and relevant, allowing you to see how these dysfunctions can manifest in real-world situations.
If you are looking to tackle internal challenges and foster a cohesive and high-functioning team, don’t skip this book. The model remains timeless and as relevant now as they were when first published in 2002.
One simple action from this book: Ask each team member to anonymously write down one improvement they think the team needs. Collecting these anonymous notes helps understand the team's challenges in a straightforward, pressure-free way, enabling you to address issues effectively.
“Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they're doing it because they care about the team.”
“Great teams do not hold back with one another. They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”
“The enemy of accountability is ambiguity.”
17. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
About the Author: Simon Sinek
Book Length: 368 pages
Amazon Review: 4.7/5 (15,502 ratings)
"Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek explores the dynamics of successful leadership and teamwork.
Sinek delves into the psychology and biology that underpin how leaders can create an environment of trust and cooperation. He argues that great leaders prioritize the well-being of their team members, which in turn fosters loyalty and a collaborative team spirit.
With real-world examples and scientific research, the book emphasizes the human aspect of leadership and will show you how empathy, selflessness, and a sense of safety among team members can lead to more successful and resilient organizations.
It covers different aspects of team dynamics and leadership, such as creating a safe environment, biological influences, and challenges of modern workplaces.
One simple action from this book: Incorporate regular check-ins with your team members, not just about work tasks but also about their well-being.
“Let us all be the leaders we wish we had.”
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”
“Returning from work feeling inspired, safe, fulfilled, and grateful is a natural human right to which we are all entitled and not a modern luxury that only a few lucky ones are able to find.”
18. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni
About the Author: Patrick Lencioni is the founder of The Table Group, a management consulting firm specializing in executive team development and organizational health. He is known for his insightful advice on building cohesive teams and creating healthy organizational cultures.
Book Length: 240 pages
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 (3,781 ratings)
"The Advantage" by Patrick Lencioni presents a compelling case for prioritizing organizational health over other business metrics.
Lencioni argues that a healthy organization, characterized by clarity, cohesion, and communication, is the key to achieving and sustaining long-term success. He asserts that healthy organizations outperform their competitors not just financially, but in terms of employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and adaptability.
The book is structured around four key disciplines Lencioni deems essential for organizational health:
- Build a Cohesive Leadership Team: Emphasizing the importance of trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and results among team members.
- Create Clarity: Focusing on the need for a leadership team to be clear and aligned on the organization’s mission, values, strategy, goals, and roles.
- Overcommunicate Clarity: Discussing the necessity of communicating the key messages repeatedly and clearly to ensure alignment throughout the organization.
- Reinforce Clarity: Highlighting the importance of establishing systems and processes to reinforce what has been decided, including human systems like hiring, performance management, and rewards.
Lencioni combines his extensive consulting experience with real-world examples to illustrate how these principles can be applied to create a healthy organization.
The book is praised for its practicality and straightforward approach, providing leaders and managers with tangible strategies to improve their organization's health and, as a result, its performance.
One simple action from this book: Your meetings can tell much about your company culture. As Lencioni said: "If someone were to offer me one single piece of evidence to evaluate the health of an organization, I would want to observe the leadership team during a meeting."
Does everyone feel comfortable voicing their opinions? How are conflicts navigated? Whether decisions are made collectively? And most importantly, do the meetings stay focused on the main objectives? How are action items determined and assigned afterward? Spend your effort to make meetings effective for all. They reflect the core values and operational health of your team.
>> Check out our complete guide for achieving meeting purposes (with tools, templates, and examples)
“When there is trust, conflict becomes nothing but the pursuit of truth, an attempt to find the best possible answer.”
“If you could get all the people in the organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”
Section E: Leadership books about innovations and changes
As the famous quote goes: "The only constant is change."
With the rapid evolution of technology, global integration, and shifting consumer preferences, it's essential to have access to wisdom and insights that can help you stay competitive and succeed in this ever-changing environment.
The leadership books in this section are curated to provide you with valuable knowledge and practical tips that can help you scale new heights and sustain your competitiveness.
19. The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M. Christensen
About the Author: Clayton M. Christensen was a professor at Harvard Business School and is best known for his work on disruptive innovation, a theory that has had a profound impact on how companies and industries think about innovation and growth.
Book Length: 288 pages
Amazon Review: 4.5/5 (3,689 ratings)
"The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton M. Christensen is a seminal work in the field of business management. It addresses the challenges established companies face when they encounter disruptive innovation.
Christensen explores why successful firms often fail to stay on top of their industries when confronted with certain types of technological changes that create new markets and value networks.
The book distinguishes the concepts of 'sustaining' and 'disruptive' technologies as:
- Sustaining technologies are improvements made to existing products that help them perform better, just like what we expect from them.
- On the other hand, disruptive technologies are new and initially not as good as the existing products, but they are cheaper or more convenient. They can eventually become more popular and replace the established products because they meet the changing needs of customers in ways that the existing products can't.
Christensen provides a framework for you to recognize the signs of disruptive innovation and strategies to respond effectively. The book is a must-read for business leaders, strategists, and anyone involved in managing innovation.
One simple action from this book: Allocate time to explore emerging trends and technologies in your industry. This can be as simple as reading articles, attending webinars, or participating in industry forums.
Keeping abreast of these developments helps in spotting potential disruptive innovations early, aligning with Christensen's advice for staying adaptable in a rapidly evolving market.
“Managers of established companies have always been confronted with the challenge of how to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in their organizations while at the same time being prepared to embrace disruptive technologies.”
“The most disruptive innovations often come from individuals who are not bound by existing industry knowledge or practices.”
20. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't by Jim Collins
About the Author: Jim Collins is a renowned business consultant, author, and lecturer who focuses on company sustainability and growth. He teaches at Stanford's Graduate School of Business and has dedicated his career to studying what makes companies excel over time through extensive research and analysis.
Book Length: 400 pages
Amazon Review: 4.5/5 (8,541 ratings)
"Good to Great" by Jim Collins explores what distinguishes top-performing companies from their average counterparts.
Collins and his research team conducted an extensive study to identify companies that made a transition from good to great performance and sustained it over time. The key findings are distilled into several core principles that these successful companies share.
One of the main concepts introduced in the book is the idea of “Level 5 Leadership” - leaders who combine personal humility with professional will. These leaders prioritize the success of the organization over their own ego.
The book also emphasizes the importance of having the right people in the right positions ('First Who, Then What'), a culture of discipline, the use of technology as an accelerator rather than a driver, and the concept of the 'Hedgehog Principle' (focusing on what the company can be best at).
Collins' evidence-based guidelines help you transform an average organization into an outstanding one, making this a universally relevant guide for leaders and managers.
“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”
“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”
21. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
About the Author: Ben Horowitz is a respected entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and technology leader. He co-founded Andreessen Horowitz and has been involved in the growth of numerous successful startups.
Book Length: 304 pages
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 (13,748 ratings)
"The Hard Thing About Hard Things" by Ben Horowitz offers an unvarnished insight into the challenges of starting and running a company.
Drawing from his own experiences as a startup founder and venture capitalist, Horowitz offers valuable advice and hard-earned wisdom on navigating the toughest problems business leaders might face.
The book is structured as a collection of lessons and stories from Horowitz's journey. Key themes include:
- The Struggle: The relentless challenges and pressures of running a startup and how to manage them.
- Building and Managing a Team: Insights on hiring, firing, and nurturing talent in a high-stakes business environment.
- Leading a Startup: The complexities of making critical decisions, often with incomplete information and high risks.
- Handling Crises: Guidance on navigating through crises, from product failures to managing one's psychology as a leader.
Horowitz illustrates that often, the right course of action is not the easiest one, and being a successful leader means being able to confront these challenges head-on. "The Hard Thing About Hard Things" is acclaimed for its no-nonsense approach and relevance to leaders facing real-world business challenges.
“Until you make the effort to get to know someone or something, you don’t know anything.”
“Spend zero time on what you could have done, and devote all of your time on what you might do.”
“There are only two ways for a manager to improve the output of an employee: motivation and training.”
The Bottom Line
The journey of becoming an exceptional leader is ongoing. And the right resources can make all the difference.
The leadership books I've shared in this article are more than just collections of pages; they are windows into the minds of those who have mastered the art of leadership.
I hope this guide will help you choose the books that meet your needs, apply their lessons, and witness your leadership journey transform not only your career but also the lives of those you lead.