What follows is a list of 10 of the best book about leadership that I have actually read. I will probably add another 10 later. There are many others that I have not read yet and that I am planning to read, but for now this is the list of my favorites.
1. The Bible.
The Bible doesn’t make most of the lists about the best books on leadership, and the Bible is a lot more than that, but I believe it to be also the best book on leadership ever written. It just takes more efforts to extract leadership lessons from the Bible than from the other books in this list, but the story of so many prophets and leaders, including, and especially, the life of the Savior, are incomparable.
2. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
“Carrots and sticks are so last century”. According to Pink, for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery and purpose.
- Autonomy is the desire to direct our own lives.
- Mastery is the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
- Purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
We have moved from a Motivation 2.0 world (rewards and punishments) to a Motivation 3.0 world (inherent satisfaction in the work itself). Routine tasks may still benefit from incentives, but for creative ones, incentives can have a limiting effect.
3. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
Why certain leaders or companies are successful, and others are not? Because “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” In Start with Why, Sinek explains that people won’t truly buy into a product, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it. When you start with the why, everything else falls into place. People are inspired by a sense of purpose (the “Why”), and that should always be communicated before the “How” and the “What”. Sinek calls this triad the golden circle.
4. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute
The “disease” of self-deception, or acting in ways contrary to what one knows is right, underlies all leadership problems in today’s organizations. Even when they are well intentioned, leaders who deceive themselves always end up undermining their own performance. Leadership and Self-Deception explains how leaders can discover their own self-deceptions and learn how to escape destructive patterns.
5. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John C. Maxwell
True leadership isn’t only a matter of having a certain job or title. To have a leadership position is only the first and the lowest level on a scale of five. In this book John C. Maxwell describes each of these stages of leadership, and shows how to master each level and rise up to the next.
The 5 Levels of Leadership are:
- Position. People follow because they have to.
- Permission. People follow because they want to.
- Production. People follow because of what you have done for
- People Development. People follow because of what you have done
for them personally.
- Pinnacle. People follow because of who you are and what you represent
6. How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This book is an old classic, a timeless bestseller. Dale Carnegie’s advice has already helped countless people to become better people and better leaders. A few quotes from the book follow:
- Do not criticize. “Criticism is futile because it puts a man on the defensive, and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a man’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses his resentment.” – Dale Carnegies.
- Give honest, sincere appreciation. “Dr. Dewey says the deepest urge in human nature is ‘the desire to be important.’”.
- Get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle. The thing here is to give to your interlocutor what he wants, and not what you want.
7. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell
In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership John C. Maxwell has combined insights learned from his 40-plus years of leadership with observations from the worlds of business, politics, sports, religion, and the military. The book is a great study of leadership that can help measure our own personal growth in leadership abilities. Each of the 21 laws has its own chapter in which John Maxwell shares personal stories and biographical sketches of some of history’s greatest leaders. It is a great and inspiring reading.
8. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
This book is the natural extension of Start with Why, expanding his ideas at the organizational level. Determining a company’s WHY is crucial, but it is only the beginning. The next step is how do you get people on board with your WHY? Through powerful and inspiring stories, Sinek describes how to support an organization’s WHY while continually adding people to the mix.
9. First, Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by M. Buckingham and C. Coffman.
This book is a result of observations based on 80,000 interviews with managers as conducted by the Gallup Organization in the last 25 years. These managers have discredited the old myths about management and devised more effective ways of obtaining and keeping talented people in their organization. Some of the key ideas are:
- The best managers reject conventional wisdom.
- The best managers treat every employee as an individual.
- The best managers never try to fix weaknesses; instead they focus on strengths and talent.
- The best managers know they are on stage everyday. They know their people are watching every move they make.
10. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
The title and the message of the book are inspired by a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt in 1910, where Roosevelt said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
According to Brené Brown, Roosevelt’s words perfectly summarize her research into why people find being vulnerable such a hard thing to do.