Top 10 Best Leadership Books
Since our Top 20 Best Self Help Books blog was such a huge hit, I decided to dig a little deeper into different categories of personal development to provide you even more specific lists of must read books!
The top 10 leadership books will be the first of several blogs in this “series” that will help guide you on your personal development journey. And there’s no better topic than leadership to kick it off!
As a kid in my early twenties, I was nervous, or even fearful, about the idea of being a leader. The thought of public speaking was terrifying to me. I had a lot to learn and a lot of re-wiring to do in the 6 inches between my ears before I could even “see” myself in such an influential role.
So how did I do it? Simple. I buried myself in books and applied what I learned. The following list of the top leadership books is a mixture of the bestselling leadership books of all time and the leadership books that made the biggest impact on my life.
If your favorite book is missing, let me know!
(Note: as a courtesy, each book title will lead you to Amazon.com where you can order the book)
Top 10 Best Books on Leadership
1. On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis (1989)
Professor Bennis conducts hundereds of interviews with thought leaders to answer the question: What is a good leader? Bennis didn’t just limit his interviews to executives (like many leadership books), he included entrepreneurs, psychologists, philosophers, etc… Due to his broad research and definition of leadership, this hits the top of my list.
2. The Art of War by Sun Tzu (5th century B.C.)
Who hasn’t heard of this book, right? It’s amazing to think it was written in 5th century B.C. Many generals, Presidents and CEOs have pulled knowledge from this book over hundreds of years. This book is an Ancient Chinese was manual made up of 13 sections, each highlighting a different aspect of battle strategy. This timeless classic leadership book is full of insights into how not only to set goals but also achieve them. The basic premise is to take action swiftly as a strategy versus making lists. How many of us spend much of our day preparing to prepare? Sun Tzu says “ACT!”.
3. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman (2002)
You may have heard me say, “Vulnerability is the number one quality I look for in a leader.” Goleman digs deep on this concept in this leadership book. He applies emotional intelligence to leadership and how we can use our emotions in a positive fashion to lead others. After multiple case studies, he states that leaders with “resonance,” the ability to channel emotions in a positive direction, are the most effective and inspiring leaders. This is a very interesting twist to most leadership books and is often overlooked when looking at becoming a great leader.
4. Drive by Daniel Pink (2009)
Pink is bringing motivation back into leadership while so many other are focused on leading by fear or through incentives. Now, it may sound a little wishy washy to some of you in the beginning, but as he backs it up with multiple scientific findings, you get drawn in and remember why Zig Ziglar and Jim Rohn are still popular today. This is a refreshing read on an old topic. It brought me back to basics and I hope it does the same for you! Just treat people like people and not assets.
5. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson (2011)
The genius autobiography of one of my favorite heroes! Boy, does Richard Branson know how to make a living ling, right? Ever wonder where he came up with the name “Virgin” for his first business? It was a joke between Branson and his friends about being virgins in this business world. He’s created companies all over the world following his own rules for success and with no central headquarters, ensuring no hierarchy and as little bureaucracy as possible. It’s an amazing and riveting read for a leadership book or any book, for that matter. He’s genius and a great mentor through the written word!
6. Developing the Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell (2005)
These principles and practices are available for everyday leaders in every walk of life. It is a lofty calling to lead a group—a family, a church, a nonprofit, a business—and the timeless principles in this book will bring positive change in your life and in the lives of those around you. You will learn the true definition of a leader, the traits of leadership and the difference between leadership and management.
7. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh (2009)
This fun-loving entrepreneur may be as well-known for his unconventional management principles as he is for his Zappos shoe empire. Tony Hsieh’s high-minded manifesto: The workplace can and should be a place where employees find personal fulfillment. To that end, Hsieh focuses on fostering happy, passionate, and communicative staffers. When set against the success story that is Zappos—where there’s a free Zappos library, and feel-good training seminars—it’s clear Hsieh is onto something.
8. Never Give In! The Best of Winston Churchill’s Speeches by Winston S. Churchill (2003)
This collection of speeches are a terrific reminder of Churchill’s ability to inspire. Curated by the legendary statesman’s grandson, these rousing addresses span Churchill’s career from World War I to his honorary induction as a US citizen in 1963—and teem with energy and charisma. Even in the face of grave uncertainty—an impending Nazi invasion, bombings in London—Churchill exuded resilience and courage. The speeches are also striking in their candidness. He had no speechwriters or spin-doctors.
9. Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden (2005)
Easily the most successful college basketball coach in history, 10-time NCAA champion John Wooden was beloved by UCLA players and fans as both a coach and mentor. His “Pyramid of Success,” a triangular diagram illustrating 25 behaviors he saw as critical to personal achievement, is widely cited by management consultants and teambuilders worldwide. Though Wooden authored seven leadership books, this one most pointedly applies to the workplace. Wooden offers both concrete tips—each chapter concludes with a bulleted list of actionable steps—and “big picture” inspiration.
10. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell (1998)
Maxwell provides 21 hard-hitting laws of leadership he developed over 30 years of leadership successes and mistakes. He highlights leadership lessons from the worlds of business, sports, religion, politics and military conflict.
I’m sure you can imagine, it was tough to list only 10 books. If you race through these 10, check out Harvard Business Review’s list of leadership books for young leaders which is another great group of books you should consider.
Make life an adventure!
P.S. – I’m eager to read your thoughts in the comments section. Are there any on here you haven’t read that you’ll pick up today? Is there a leadership book not on this list that you believe is a “must read” we should include?