10 Books Leaders Need to be Reading

Leaders are readers. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to grow as a leader is to read about leadership and take the knowledge gained from your reading and apply it.

When asked about the best leadership books out there, here are the ones I recommend.

  1. Great leaders lead themselves first. You can’t lead others if you can’t leader yourself through strong personal habits. The best personal leadership book I have found is Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
  2. Leaders are influencers. For a timeless classic on influence, read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
  3. Leaders are Empathetic. Read what I believe to be the best fiction ever written. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.   Even if you read it as a student, it’s a good one to re-read, with a particular focus on the leadership lessons to apply. Also check out The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People by Kevin Leman
  4. A leader customizes his/her style based on whom he/she is leading. To understand situational leadership in order to customize, read The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard.
  5. Leaders understand how to run an organization. For insights on what makes an organization successful, read Good to Great by Jim Collins. For the entrepreneurial leader wanting to understand how to run a great start-up and/or scale and grow one, read Scale by Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel and EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey.
  6. Leaders know the most important decisions they make are people decisions. To know how to hire the best, read Who?: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.
  7. Leaders know that once they answer the Who question they need to be able to explain the Why to them. To understand the importance of Why, read Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek.
  8. Although answering Why? takes you a long way in motivating others, for more insights on motivation and building people and teams, read The Leadership Challenge byJames Kouzes and Barry Posner and Boundaries for Leaders by Henry Cloud.
  9. Leaders learn from the success and failures of others. Pick up a biography or memoir of a leader. Some good ones are: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and the biographies of different presidents and visionaries by David McCullough and Stephen Ambrose.
  10. Leaders have some good reference books to turn to when they need tools or templates to help them succeed.   Keep a copy of the The Successful Manager’s Handbook on your desk for this purpose.

Which leadership books have had the most impact on you?

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Mary Ila Ward