We can’t go it alone. To succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace, and thrive as leaders within our organizations, we have to stand on the shoulders of giants. The best way to do this is to read up on the best thought leadership that’s available. This is why the average CEO of major companies read 60+ books a year. There’s power in utilizing passed on wisdom and the success of those who harness it is evident.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a reading list that will get you going with some of the best books in the science of management and the art of leadership.
1. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
For two and a half thousand years The Art of War has been inspiring leaders the world over. Toeing the line between philosophy and actionable advice, this book offers penetrating, but concise, insights that can be utilized by leaders of any level.
2. Eupsychian Management by Abraham Maslow
You can hardly find a course or book on management that doesn’t make some mention to Abraham Maslow or his hierarchy of needs. But for the most part it seems that people tend to stop learning about him after their first topical overview. Eupsychian Management offers readers the chance to take a deep dive into Maslow’s piercing insights on management, the world of work, and the potential it holds.
3. Principle-Centered Leadership by Dr. Stephen Covey
Long considered a must-read among influential leaders, Stephen Covey’s Principle-Centered Leadership offers a look into the principles that guide exceptional leaders. Whether you’re a new manager trying to make that leap into leadership or a well seasoned executive, this is the perfect book to sharpen your leadership mindset.
4. The Leader Habit: Master the Skills You Need to Lead — in Just Minutes a Day by Martin Lanik
Leadership, like anything else in life, is governed by the routine little behaviors we do everyday: habits. Too often, we let those little behaviors get in the way of our growth thereby keeping us stuck in our ways. Lanik’s The Leader Habit offers a clear path to mastering habits and unlocking your potential as a leader.
5. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell
Leadership isn’t just about harnessing your own power — it’s about mastering essentials that transcend any one individual. In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Maxwell lays out the tried and true elements that have brought leaders to achieve greatness. With this book you’ll find a guide that will help you develop a clear path to successful leadership.
6. Leaders: Myth and Reality by Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, and Jason Mangone
When you take up the burden leading people into life or death situations you learn or thing or two about what leadership is really about. In Leaders, we find precisely these kind of insights as it recounts the hard-earned leadership lessons of retired four-star general Stanley McChrystal.
7. Leadershift: the 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace by John C. Maxwell
Since no one is born a leader, everyone must go through a series of necessary transformations before they can earn the title. In Maxwell’s book, cleverly entitled Leadershift, we find an accessible roadmap for aspiring leaders to navigate their way to leadership.
8. The leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness by Lolly Daskal
Successful leaders know their leadership style. But, even for the most successful leaders there are aspects of that style that also hinder their growth and progress. In Daskal’s book, The Leadership Gap, she draws from years of observing and understanding what keeps leaders from achieving their fullest potential. Applying to the most successful and experienced leaders as well as the most recently promoted managers, this book gives readers uncovers the weaknesses that may be holding them back.
9. The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard
When you’re in a leadership role you don’t have much time to spare. That’s why Ken Blanchard’s book The New One Minute Manager focuses on being accessible and easy to read — offering three stories that highlight lessons that every leader should learn.
10. My Life and Work by Henry Ford
When an entire era of industrial production is named after you, you probably have some valuable things to say about leadership. This is exactly what you’ll find in Henry Ford’s autobiography detailing the lessons and leadership of his life.
11. Growing Influence: A Story of How to Lead with Character, Expertise, and Impact by Ron Price and Stacy Ennis
Sometimes the best way to gain a deeper understanding isn’t to just dive into one perspective, but understand the conversation between differing ones. In their book, Growing Influence, Ron Price and Stacy Ennis share the story of success that comes with learning from distinct viewpoints.
12. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and Richard E. Boyatzis
On the road to management you have to become very technically proficient, but once you’ve gained a leadership position you quickly come to learn that that’s not enough. Rather, to become a successful leader one must develop emotional intelligence. In their book, Primal Leadership, Goleman and Boyatzis outline the essential elements of emotional intelligence that every leader should know.
13. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
Some of the greatest leadership lessons we have to learn can only be taught through a well-told story. In Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he offers and engaging tale of a leader who struggles with dysfunction, but ultimately succeeds.
14. The Making of a Manager: How to Crush Your Job as the New Boss by Julie Zhuo
In The Making of a Manager Zhuo tells a story that is well known to everyone that has suddenly found themselves in a position of leadership. Whether that’s a story you’re currently overcoming or if you’ve been a leader for longer than you’d like to think about, The Making of a Manager offers readers valuable strategies for overcoming the pressures that come with leadership.
15. Unstoppable Influence: Be You. Be Fearless. Transform Lives. by Natasha Hazlett
We all have self-limiting beliefs that prevent us from achieving our full potential if we don’t address them. In Unstoppable Influence, Natasha Hazlett offers strategies for leaders to overcome the fears and self doubt endemic to the modern workplace.
16. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
Poor leadership comes from those who fall on the extreme ends of the leadership spectrum: either too aggressive or too meek. In Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor, she offers essential strategies for harnessing the best of both worlds and establishing outstanding leadership.
17. How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding you Back from the Next Raise, Promotion, or Job by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith
Women in the workplace face unique challenges, and both Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith are experts on overcoming unique challenges. In How Women Rise, the two authors explain the habits that hold women in the workplace back and the strategies they can use to overcome them.
18. How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life by Joanna Barsh
In this book, How Remarkable Women Lead, Joanna Barsh breaks down barriers between work and life while outlining the unique strengths women possess. She offers a model for how they can leverage their unique strengths to become better leaders.
19. The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
The success or failure of organizations rests on the shoulders of its leaders. In The Leadership Challenge Kouzes and Posner give actionable strategies for leaders to make outstanding things happen within their organizations.
20. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet
Telling the inspiring story of how one captain turned his ship from worst performing in the fleet into the best. In Marquet’s book Turn the Ship Around, Marquet offers insights in how to inspire greater morale and push through whatever challenges you face.
21. Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath
To become an effective leader you have to learn to harness the strengths you already possess. In Strengths Based Leadership, Tom Rath offers an accessible guide to utilizing the strengths you have available. When you learn to utilize your strengths well enough you’ll find your weaknesses start to matter less.
22. Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way: Timeless Strategies from the First Lady of Courage by Robin Gerber
The lives of pivotal historical figures can provide a wealth of insights for those seeking to improve their leadership at work. This is exactly what Robin Gerber’s book, Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way, offers.
23. On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis
Warren Bennis is one of the greats that you’ll find on the bookshelves of almost any seasoned leader. He’s helped guide an untold number of leaders to success with his insights. So, this easily counts as an essential read for any aspiring leader.
24. Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell
Like an explorer trekking into a hitherto uncharted frozen waste, leaders in business are constantly stepping into the unknown. In Shackleton’s Way, business leaders of all kinds will find key insights for leading themselves and others into the unknown and on to success.
25. It’s the Manager: Gallup finds the quality of managers and team leaders is the single biggest factor in your organization’s long-term success by Jim Clifton
In It’s the Manager, Jim Clifton lays out the data behind the importance of effective ground level leadership while providing actionable, data-backed, ways to achieve it in your organization.
26. The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Leaders are the people who take ownership for the outcomes. In The Dichotomy of Leadership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin challenge their readers to take the next step in their leadership through radical ownership.
27. Learning Leadership: The Five Fundamentals of Becoming an Exemplary Leader by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
Leadership, like every other skill in life, comes down to mastering certain core fundamentals. In Learning Leadership, Kouzes and Posner lay out five fundamentals necessary for outstanding leadership — offering actionable ways for you to begin down the road of mastery.
28. The Leadership Manifesto: Eight Steps for Professional Development by Bill Hicks
In The Leadership Manifesto, Bill Hicks lays out lessons from his lifetime in corporate leadership. The insights Bill provides are eminently useful regardless of whether you’re new to the game or a seasoned executive.
29. The Leadership Pipeline: How to Build the Leadership Powered Company by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel
It’s not enough for organizations to foster leadership within designated management roles, but must foster a culture of leadership from the ground up. In The Leadership Pipeline, Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter, and James Noel offer strategies that leaders can use to foster the growth of new leaders within their organizations.
30. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
As many experienced leaders come to discover, attaining high-level leadership roles and being successful within those roles require distinct sets of skills. In What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter lay out a path for leaders to lead in new and better ways.
31. Self as Coach, Self as Leader: Developing the Best in You to Develop the Best in Others by Pamela McLean
To lead and coach others, first you must start with yourself. In Self as Coach, Self as Leader, Pamela McLean, CEO of the Hudson Institute for Coaching, offers a guide for those seeking to improve in both in their leadership and in their coaching.
32. Leading With Emotional Courage: How to Have Hard Conversations, Create Accountability, And Inspire Action On Your Most Important Work by Peter Bregman
True leaders are able to connect deeply with those that follow them. This not only requires interpersonal finesse, but emotional courage as well. In Leading With Emotional Courage, Peter Bregman offers the strategies and inspiration needed to help you build the emotional courage of a leader.
33. Small Acts of Leadership: 12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact by G. Shawn Hunter
In Small Acts of Leadership, Shawn Hunter provides an antidote to the nonstop working world of instant communication. Understanding the difficulty of careful reflection in our dynamic work environments, Shawn offers solutions grounded in intentional behaviors that will help leaders bring the big picture back into focus.
34. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
In Principles: Life and Work, acclaimed author and thought leader Ray Dalio puts forward the profound insights of his entrepreneurship. In outlining the key principles that led to his success, Ray offers actionable insights for both leadership and life for people at any stage in their career.
35. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
Can you guess why I put this one last? Simon Sinek’s work and talks have taken the world of leadership by storm. In Simon’s latest work Leaders Eat Last, Simon puts forward a compelling case for ardent servant leadership based on his study of leadership in the military.