10 Must Read Leadership Books That Will Make You a Better Leader

If you want to be a great leader, then you must commit to studying all about leadership, learning about new techniques and approaches which you can look test and adopt.

Over the years I have read hundreds of books on management and leadership, some good, some not so good and some that were excellent. I want to share with you the top 10 leadership books I have read, those that have had a profound impact on my leadership, and which I now recommend to anyone who wants to improve their leadership skills.

In no particular order, here are my top 10 must read leadership books.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute.

Leadership and Self-Deception is an excellent book, but it’s not an easy read. That’s because as you go through it, you realize that you are just as much to blame as anyone for any of the poor relationships that you have. This is not an easy thing to admit, deceiving ourselves about where the blame lies is much easier, but once we accept it, we become empowered and can look to start to repair these broken or faulty relationships.

It really helps you understand and to become more accountable.

Gung Ho! Turn On the People in Any Organization by Ken Blanchard

I love Ken Blanchard’s style of writing, its simple clear and easy to understand. In Gung Ho Ken teaches you three techniques. The Spirit of the Squirrel, the Way of the Beaver and the Call of the Geese. These are easy to understand and easy to implement, and if you follow them, they will help you create engaged, empowered and motivated teams.

Leadership Paradoxes: Rethinking Leadership for an Uncertain World Richard Bolden (Editor), Morgen Witzel (Editor), Nigel Linacre (Editor).

What I love about this book is that it challenges the way you think about leadership. It present paradoxes which you may not be completely aware of, but how you see these will shape the way you view leadership. By studying these paradoxes and looking at them from different angles, they will give you some different perspectives on leadership, which will deepen your understanding.

Good To Great by Jim Collins

Good to great is an all time classic, with excellent case studies showing what it takes to lead an organization to the next level. It has some great tips on best attributes for a leader, and it also teaches some great techniques too, especially about how to get the right people on the bus.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Covey, Stephen R

This was the first book on leadership that really resonated with me, and I must have read it a dozen times, each time learning something new. The first three habits focus on self-mastery and private victories, with the next three habits focusing on public victories, and the 7th habit focusing on the renewal of our skills. This was the book that started me on the journey from Manager to Leader and is one that every aspiring leader should start with.

First, Fast, Fearless: How to Lead Like a Navy SEAL Brian “Iron Ed” Hiner

When I started to read this book, I was expecting it to be a macho book about leadership, with type A personalities leading from the front. But I couldn’t have bee more wrong. The Navy SEALs are strong proponents of selfless leadership where the team is always put first. If servant leadership can be used successfully in such stressful situations as combat, then it can definitely be a successful approach in business.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

Leadership involves leading teams and the more we can understand about what causes them to become dysfunctional, the better armed we are to prevent that from happening.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Engaging teams can be a difficult task, and too often we are under pressure to get results that we focus immediately on the what and the how trying to get our teams into solution mode as quickly as possible. In this book, Simon Sinek explains why we will have more success with our teams if we start with why. When people understand the why, then they become much more interested in the what and the how.

It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Michael Abrashoff

The first thing many leaders do coming into a new situation, is they do a quick assessment of the team, looking to see who they should keep, who they need to replace, and who do they need to bring in to improve performance.

But what if you couldn’t do that, what if you had to work with a poor performing team, and the only way to improve things, was to get the existing to perform better. That’s a much more difficult proposition, but that’s what Mike Abrashoff had to do. In this book, he teaches you the techniques that he learned and used to do just that taking a ship from lowest performer in the Pacific fleet to the top performer.

Any leader who can improve the performance of a team without changing the components of the team is always going to be in demand.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradbury & Jean Greaves

The higher the EQ a leader has, the more successful they are going to be. In this book, the authors provide a step by step guide which helps you improve in the four key areas of emotional intelligence: Self-Awareness; Self-Management; Social Awareness; and Relationship Management.

I always thought that I had good EQ, but this book really helped me to improve in a couple of these areas where I had some weaknesses, such as Self-Management.
What I like these books is that they all offer pragmatic advice, with clear instructions, which are easy to understand.

Becoming a great leadership is not an easy journey, but reading these books will give you the tools that will help to make it a lot easier.


Article first appeared in Inc.