Key Takeaways:

  • Acknowledge the ongoing need for leadership development through continuous learning from various sources, including books.
  • Prioritize strategies for smooth transitions into leadership roles, leveraging insights from experienced leaders.
  • Embrace unconventional approaches in leadership, breaking traditional rules to foster innovation and success.
  • Recognize the importance of inclusive leadership, valuing diverse perspectives and experiences for effective and impactful leadership.

Who even reads leadership books anymore? You can just learn everything on the job as you go, right? But if you were to ask the top leaders out there, they will, no doubt, tell you about how much they wish they had known on their leadership journey. Not only do the best leadership books offer you advice about your professional lives, but they also give you multiple insights to apply to your personal lives as well. In this article, we have put together a list of the best leadership books to give you a headstart. From business titans to world leaders, this list covers all the insights you will need to prepare for leadership roles.

1. The First 90 Days

Author: Michal D Watkins

One of the most stressful challenges in the workplace is when you transition into a leadership role for the first time. In his book, The First 90 Days, Michael Watkins shares the secrets on how to make these transitions as smooth as possible. It offers self-assessments, checklists, and strategies on how to avoid the most common mistakes made by new leaders.

2. First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently 

Author: Gallup

Gallup, a management consulting company, studied more than 80,000 managers to understand what made the best ones stand out. They discovered that the best leaders do not hesitate to “First, Break All the Rules” held sacred by conventional wisdom. This book is perfect for people at any level of their leadership journey.

3. Legacy

Author: James Kerr

What can you learn from one of the world’s most successful national sports teams - All Blacks from New Zealand? A lot, in fact, about leadership and business. Bestselling author, coach, and speaker James Kerr shares the top 15 lessons that you can learn from this legendary team in his book Legacy. Legacy talks about everything from how to achieve world-class leading standards to creating a legacy to be proud of. Even if you are not an avid rugby fan, this is one of the best leadership books to read from the top leaders who are the best at what they do.

4. Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change

Author: Stacey Adams

Stacey Abrams is an influential and accomplished politician in the US known best for tirelessly galvanizing over 800,000 people of color to register as voters in Georgia. This book is based on years of her personal experiences on how to harness your strengths even as an outsider and lead others to do the same. It is particularly relevant for leaders outside of the traditional white male-dominant hierarchy.

5. The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

Author: Julie Zhuo

The Making of a Manager is the culmination of Julie Zhuo’s years of leadership experience. It offers crucial strategies for people with no formal management training on how to deal with pressure at work. She also shares tips on how to hire well to build the best team, how to give feedback to people to inspire them, and how to succeed in your first few months as a manager.

6. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Author: Daniel H Pink

What motivates you? According to Daniel H Pink, too many leaders mistakingly rely on motivators like money. This book stresses the need to understand how motivation works and how leaders can encourage people to produce effective and meaningful results. The book is relatively an easy read and inspires people to examine their own motivational practices.

7. Start With Why

Author: Simon Sinek

In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek poses the idea that why you do something is more important than what you do. The whole book is based on the premise that anyone can become a leader once they start questioning why they want to. Once you find the answer, Sinek says that you can encourage anyone to believe in your business and also lead employees who understand your vision. This gives your business the longevity and faith that it needs in order to survive.

8. Long Walk to Freedom

Author: Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is one of the world’s most moral and political leaders. This autobiographical work has been an inspiration for millions across the world. Not only does it speak about human rights and racial equality, but it also stresses his leadership style and how he approached struggle and adversity. This includes learning to forgive and never giving up in any part of your life.

9. How to Win Friends & Influence People

Author: Dale Carnegie

Our list wouldn’t be complete without this book that has achieved superstar status. Written in 1936, it still contains relevant advice on how to achieve your maximum potential as a leader. This includes remembering people’s names, being generous with praise, showing a genuine interest in other people, and lots more. 

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

Author: Simon Sinek

This book is the second entry by Simon Sinek on our list of the best leadership books. This book explains how the best leaders make sacrifices so that their whole team thrives. Just like in the Marine Corps where leaders are formed when they put the needs of their teammates above their own, an office (which can be like a battlefield) also requires a number of such qualities from a true leader.

11. The Four Fixations of a Brilliant Leader 

Author: Alan J Sears

This brilliant book focuses on the four main fixations of good leadership and management - vision, inspiration, development, and action. It is divided into two parts - part 1 focuses on a fictional anecdote with leadership teachings; part 2 explains the technical features and key management behaviors seen in part 1. It contains relatable leadership and easy-to-visualize scenarios that anyone can understand.

12. Leading Change 

Author: John P Kotter

In his book, Leading Change, John Kotter says that change is inevitable and we should learn to make the most of it to maximize our opportunities. He shares an 8-step process for people on how to deal with change and lead change in their organizations.

13. The Truth About Leadership 

Author: James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

This book contains ten bold and honest truths that all leaders should know. Based on 30 years of advanced research, it is proven to help leaders beyond just temporary trends and modern-day fads. It is perfect especially for Gen Zs and millennials actively transitioning to leadership roles.

14. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Author: Greg McKeown

If you’re feeling overworked yet unproductive in a fast-paced environment, this book is a perfect read. Greg McKeown is a famous business strategist known for his strategies to lead in intense, competitive environments. This book sets the criteria for what should be deemed as essential work and how leaders can channel their time and energy to achieve better results.

15. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts

Author: Brené Brown

In her book, Dare to Lead, Brené Brown calls for leaders to take responsibility and find potential in those that work around them. ‘Dare to lead’ essentially talks about tackling difficult conversations in the workplace head-on and also daring to share that power with others to see the results you need.

Lead the Way!

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