Some people say that people are born leaders. That’s true to an extent. Some of the qualities you need as a leader, such as strong will, determination, and willingness to make tough decisions, are things you’re born with. Just think back to when you were in school – there were probably kids who always got picked to be the captain of the soccer team or the president of the class, sometimes, without even trying.
While having inherent leadership qualities is essential, it’s just not enough for being a good leader in the modern world. Nowadays, our society is too complex, fast-paced, and demanding for you to be able to make do with just the qualities and knowledge that comes from within you. To be a successful leader in today’s world, you need to be willing to learn, adapt and improve by all means necessary constantly.
With this article, we will try to help you on your journey toward becoming a better leader by providing a list of recommendations for great leadership books that will help you learn vital lessons and give you a new perspective of what it means to serve as a role model and lead groups of people.
Now without stalling any further, let’s see the list.
On a Journey to Find the Best Leadership Book: Our Top Eight Picks
Before we begin, we want to give you a short disclaimer. This list contains only books that we have read and reviewed, so there might be some bestsellers that you’ve heard of that are missing. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a chance! Take our recommendations and those of others to heart, and you will find books for leaders that are best suited to your personality and worldview.
“Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek
Like a few other great leadership books, this one also draws inspiration from the military and how it operates. As the author Simon Sinek explains it, the high-ranking officers are always the ones to eat last after their people have already done so, thus putting the needs of their men before their own. From this metaphor, Sinek goes on to write an incredible book about the importance of “people-first leadership,” which makes employees feel safe, supported, and respected. These feelings breed loyalty, dedication, and a desire to exceed expectations and help the company succeed. The author makes a valid point about the importance of trust and safety as keys toward excellence by giving many examples of organizations that had success because they valued their employees, not only as “people who do a job,” but as humans in general – with emotions, problems and an entire life outside of the workplace. The main point Sinek tries to make is that outstanding leadership needs sacrifice – you need to be able to place the needs of others before your own and to care about them as you would about a friend.
- “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”
- “The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”
- “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”
“Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
The military is such a great breeding ground for leaders because of the extreme conditions that people have to operate in. In this book, former commanders Jocko WiIlink and Leif Babin tell us how we can apply battlefield wisdom to our daily lives as managers by giving us a philosophy of admitting mistakes and owning up to our failures. Their notion is that we will be able to earn the respect and trust of our followers by doing so. The authors talk in length about the importance of overcoming our ego and facing reality head-on so that we can act with clarity and strength in high-pressure situations. Then they employ combat strategy and military discipline to explain the traits and approaches that are vital for effective leadership.
- “Implementing Extreme Ownership requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team.”
- “Extreme Ownership. Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”
- “Discipline equals freedom.”
“Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t” by Jim Collins
Author Jim Collins and his team of researchers made it their mission to identify 11 elite companies and understand how they manage to make the leap from “good” to “great.” This book is a terrific read for those who want to learn about great leadership and an entrepreneur wondering how to take his company to the next level. Collins introduces us to time-tested business ideas such as the Hedgehog Concept, Level 5 Leaders, and a Culture of Discipline, thus giving us methods we can implement in our daily lives as managers. If there’s one book that offers a complete framework for the success of a company, then “Good to Great” is exactly it.
- “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”
- “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”
- “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”
“21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You” by John C. Maxwell
This must-read book by John C. Maxwell shares clear guidelines that all leaders need to follow to maximize their influence and ensure that their employees are working towards achieving a common goal. The author talks about “developing leadership daily, not in a day” and how leaders need to know that not all sorts of activities need to be thought of as accomplishments. Maxwell takes the time to explain each one of his rules simply and with anecdotal examples so that they can be easily understood and implemented. Along with that, this book covers every aspect of leadership, from creating teams to establishing a legacy and even planning for succession.
- “You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with emotion … The heart comes before the head.”
- “People don’t care what you know until they know what you care.”
- “Many people view leadership the same way they view success, hoping to go as far as they can, to climb the ladder, to achieve the highest position possible for their talent. But contrary to conventional thinking, I believe the bottom line in leadership isn’t how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others. This is achieved by serving others and adding value to their lives.”
“Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversation. Whole Hearts” by Brene Brown
In “Dare to Lead,” Brown shares valuable lessons on the power of empathy and vulnerability in leadership. As a renowned “courage and shame” researcher, the author makes the case that leadership isn’t about control or status but more so about recognizing the potential in ideas and individuals so that you can lead them to success. This book can be seen as a guide to becoming a courageous and confident leader by embracing your emotions and admitting your mistakes, owning up to them, and sharing them with your employees.
- “I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.”
- “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing. It’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”
- “People are opting out of vital conversations about diversity and inclusivity because they fear looking wrong, saying something wrong, or being wrong. Choosing our own comfort over hard conversations is the epitome of privilege, and it corrodes trust and moves us away from meaningful and lasting change.”
“The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” by Ben Horowitz
Being a leader is not always about managing teams in a big organization. Sometimes, it can mean taking the leap on your own and trying to start a company and build your own path. This book by Ben Horowitz is for those who want to blaze their own trail and start their own business but are left with many unanswered questions. In “The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” the author shows the realities of entrepreneurship and talks about how you have to go about building a business from scratch. He covers everything: from learning how to make tough calls with minimum guidance to how to uncover unclear answers. The entire book serves as a comprehensive guide on leading people, building culture, and breeding success, even when you have more questions than answers available.
- “Every time I read a management or self-help book, I find myself saying, ‘That’s fine, but that wasn’t really the hard thing about the situation.’ The hard thing isn’t setting a big, hairy, audacious goal. The hard thing is laying people off when you miss the big goal. The hard thing isn’t hiring great people. The hard thing is when those ‘great people’ develop a sense of entitlement and start demanding unreasonable things. The hard thing isn’t setting up an organizational chart. The hard thing is getting people to communicate within the organization that you just designed. The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.”
- “Note to self: It’s a good idea to ask, ‘What am I not doing?’”
- “TAKE CARE OF THE PEOPLE, THE PRODUCTS, AND THE PROFITS—IN THAT ORDER.”
“Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, and Annie McKee
In the last few years, emotional intelligence has been widely discussed, and for a good reason – it’s one of the most underrated leadership skills you can have. As a leader, you need to be able to forge connections with your people so that you can learn what motivates and resonates with them. In this book, you will read more about how to navigate and identify feelings, empathize with employees, and build emotionally intelligent teams and companies. By practicing emotional intelligence, you will be able to avoid incorrect judgments and misunderstandings and relate more closely to the people you work with. Along with that, emotional intelligence helps build stronger relationships within teams and allows employees to collaborate with ease. The great thing about “Primal Leadership” is that it was written by professionals who have years of experience in both the psychology and business consulting worlds and so provide you with many real-life situations and examples that help you better understand the ideas they discuss in the book.
- “Visionary leaders help people to see how their work fits into the big picture, lending people a clear sense of not just that what they do matters, but also why.”
- “Not that leaders need to be overly ‘nice’; the emotional art of leadership includes pressing the reality of work demands without unduly upsetting people.”
- “As Erasmus, the great Renaissance thinker, reminds us, ‘The best hope of a nation lies in the proper education of its youth.’”
“On Becoming a Leader” by Warren Bennis
This classic read on leadership by Warren Bennis is perhaps the most well-read and recognizable book on leadership, and for a good reason. In it, the “Dean of Leadership Guru,” as Forbes magazine calls him, Warren Bennis argues that leaders are not born but rather made by effort and through learning. In this book, he dives deep and explores the qualities needed for good leadership and the people who exemplify them. Along with that, he offers strategies that anyone can apply in order to become the kind of leader they want to be. Over many decades, this book has served as a source of great insight to renowned leaders, and it continues to be relevant to this day, which is why it’s one of our recommended must-reads.
- “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing.”
- “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguish leaders from followers.”
- “More leaders have been made by accident, circumstance, sheer grit, or will than have been made by all the leadership courses put together.”
We’ve come to the end of our list. Is there such a thing as one best leadership book? Well, of course not. But hopefully, this article inspired you to crack open one of these classic reads and dive into the world of leadership lessons. But more than that, we sincerely hope that it reminds you that becoming a leader is a process, not an overnight success, and so you need to be patient, willing to learn, and humble on the way to achieving your goal.
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