There are tons of leadership books out there. But which are the best business leadership books, and how do you separate good leadership books from great leadership books? And do you even need to read a book about leadership if you’re already an effective leader? Well, the answer to that last question is simple: of course! No matter how effective you are as a leader, there is always room to improve.
Below we’ve outlined 9 top books about leadership to inspire you to evaluate and enhance your own leadership style to better yourself, your team, your business, and your community at large.
9 Top Leadership Books
1. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't
Leaders Eat Last is a top-rated leadership book written by one of the world’s foremost experts on leadership and a bestselling author who has already written some of the most popular books on leadership. In his work with organizations across the globe, Simon Sinek noticed that some teams trust each other implicitly while others are doomed to infighting, broken trust, and failure. What makes a team function optimally? The answer became clear to Sinek when he spoke with a Marine Corps general who told him, “leaders eat last.”
The team doesn’t serve the interests of the leader; the leader serves the interests of their team. True leaders sacrifice for their team. They do everything within their power to cultivate trust, cooperation, and understanding to build what Sinek refers to as a “Circle of Safety.” Sinek teaches that to be an effective leader, you must put the needs of the organization and the team above your own, be grateful, quickly give credit where credit is due, and focus on the team’s success as opposed to your own individual success.
2. How to Win Friends and Influence People
How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the most popular books on leadership. It may be nearly 100 years old, but it’s still a must-read today thanks to its enduring messages. If you haven't read it yet, you need to check out. If you have, it’s worth reading again to refresh yourself on Carnegie’s timeless insights.
Effective leaders don’t scold. Criticism puts people on the defensive and makes people feel as though they need to justify their actions. The more you criticize an employee, the more they will resent you, and the more they resent you, the less they’ll trust you. This is because human beings are not creatures of logic; we’re creatures of emotion, motivated by our own pride and vanity. When we feel attacked, we fight back.
Leaders must build their team up, not knock them down. That’s why effective leaders focus on enthusiasm, encouragement, and appreciation to motivate their team—not criticism and punishment. If you want people to follow you, it’s important they like you.
3. Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change
Stacey Abrams is one of the most prominent black female politicians in the US. Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change is a handbook for outsiders, written with the awareness of the challenges that exist for individuals who live beyond the structure of white male power, such as women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and more.
Abrams argues that knowing your own passion is the key to success. She says finding what you want to fight for is just as vital to becoming a leader as knowing how to turn thought into action. Abrams uses her vast experience, which includes launching a company, starting a daycare center for homeless teen moms, and running a successful political campaign, to break down how money, ambition, fear, and failure function in leadership.
4. The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
Grounded in research and written by top thought leaders in the field, The Leadership Challenge presents leadership as both a skill to be learned and as a relationship that must be nurtured in order to reach its full potential. The book uses interesting stories to probe the fundamental roles that great leaders fulfill and provides simple frameworks for those seeking continuous improvement.
A great leader aspires, inspires, and achieves more. Gain deep insight into leadership’s essential role in organizational health, discover how to motivate and inspire your team to break through the widespread cynicism of the modern age, learn how to navigate the shift toward team-oriented work relationships, and determine how you can leverage the electronic global village to deliver better results.
5. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
Michael Bungay Stanier
With The Coaching Habit, author Michael Bungay Stanier draws on his years of experience training over 10,000 managers from around the globe in practical, everyday coaching skills to unlock the potential of your team. This book combines insider information, research into behavioral economics and neuroscience, and interactive training tools to turn practical advice into practiced habits.
Bungay Stanier argues that by saying less and asking more, you can develop coaching methods that produce great results. This book contains seven core coaching questions:
6. The Art of Strategic Leadership: How Leaders at All Levels Prepare Themselves, Their Teams, and Organizations for the Future
Steven J. Stowell and Stephanie S. Mead
According to The Art of Strategic Leadership, strategic leadership is what modern leadership is all about. Leaders today are expected to be more proactive than ever before and anticipate every possible outcome. Strategic leadership is the ability to express a vision for the organization’s success coupled with the ability to influence others to voluntarily make decisions that improve the prospects for the organization's long-term success—all while maintaining short-term financial stability.
Instead of focusing on the skills, tools, and behaviors typically found in books about leadership, this leadership coaching book illuminates the qualities and attributes necessary to transform a business and lead strategic change. Use this book as a guide to help you assess and reflect on your own leadership style.
7. Surrounded by Idiots
We all have different communication preferences, and understanding these preferences and how to adapt and adjust your communication style is vital to a leader’s success. Leaders need to communicate with a wide range of different people and personalities on a daily basis.
Surrounded by Idiots is a popular leadership book written by communication expert Thomas Erikson that offers a simple but deeply insightful method for assessing the different personalities of people we communicate with. It also breaks down how we can adjust our own communication style to more effectively share information, praise, and constructive criticism with peers and employees alike. The book includes practical tips on how we can improve our body language, enhance written communication, and how to know when we should speak up or shut up.
There’s no one-size-fits-all communication style, and in order to effectively motivate, manage, and encourage your employees, you must be able to communicate with each individual in the way that best works for them.
8. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity
With Radical Candor, author Kim Scott, a highly successful leader at Google before moving to Apple, argues that a leader doesn’t have to resort to Obnoxious Aggression, Ruinous Empathy, or Manipulative Insincerity to get their point across—you can be kind and clear at the same time with “Radical Candor.”
Radical Candor is about caring personally and challenging directly, seeking feedback and criticism to improve your own leadership style, and providing the kind of guidance that will help the individuals on your team grow. Leaders need to be able to praise as well as criticize. If an employee isn’t performing up to the organization’s standards, it’s up to the leader to straighten them out, but in a way that leaves both the leader and the employee feeling positive.
When the relationships you have with your employees are Radically Candid, you are able to fulfill the three core responsibilities of being a boss:
9. Leading from Anywhere: The Essential Guide to Managing Remote Teams
Remote work was on the rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the number of companies offering remote options has skyrocketed in the post-pandemic world. This dramatic rise in remote work means more employees have the freedom to work from anywhere—but that also means leaders need to be able to lead from anywhere.
Leading from Anywhere, written by top business thought leader David Burkus, is comprehensive and practical, offering leaders key insights into how they can onboard new members from afar, build team trust remotely, communicate quickly and effectively, manage performance, keep team members engaged with the work and one another, and find the right work-life balance.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “but I don’t manage a remote team.” While this is a fair point, it’s just as fair to point out that remote work is showing no signs of slowing down, and with the rising number of millennials and members of Gen Z entering the workplace, leaders of all kinds are going to need to adapt and adjust their managerial style for the 2020s and beyond. If this sounds like a challenge, get a headstart on the future with this book!
Looking for more books? We crafted a list of the best leadership development books, which includes reads that will enhance both personal and professional development. Read: The Best Professional Development Books for Success.
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