Want to know a secret ingredient for being a better leader? Reading. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “Read to lead.” And it’s true! Leaders are readers. In fact, business giant Warren Buffet reads more than 500 pages a week. And Elon Musk read the whole encyclopedia more than once as a kid. Media mogul Oprah Winfrey even calls reading her path to freedom and started Oprah’s Book Club to encourage her fans to read along with her.
Besides helping you learn how to be a great leader, reading increases your vocabulary, reduces stress and improves your memory. Really, we can’t think of any downside to making reading part of your daily routine—except maybe the difficulty you’ll have choosing between all the great leadership books available. That’s why we put together this list of the 21 best leadership books—to eliminate any excuses and help you get started.
Books on Leadership and Management
1. Good to Great by Jim Collins
In this classic business book, Jim Collins presents a blueprint for transforming good companies into great ones that produce long-term results. You’ll see where key business concepts like the flywheel, doom loop and technology accelerators began. And you’ll learn how they can inspire your leadership and management strategy and practice.
Every business goes through five distinct stages. Find out which stage your business is in with our free assessment.
Related article: What Is a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal)?
2. EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey
Warning: If you’re looking for business theory from someone who’s never had to make payroll, this isn’t the leadership and management book for you. EntreLeadership is one of the top bestselling Dave Ramsey business books because it brings theory and practice together. You’ll learn the real-life, tactical principles Dave used to grow his business from a card table in his living room into a national brand.
“You’re the one person you can change the easiest. You can decide to grow. Grow your abilities, your character, your education, and your capacity . . . You get to decide what you are. Starting now. Ready, set, go.”
3. Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler
What do you do when you need to have a serious talk with someone, but emotions run strong and your opinions clash? The Crucial Conversations authors say your options are to: clam up and avoid the conversation, mess up your approach and make things worse, or step up skillfully and courageously to say what you need to say in a way that gets positive results. This leadership book shares principles to help you listen well, make talking safe, persuade others, and turn important conversations (even the ones you dread) into wins.
Related article: How to Communicate Effectively
4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
All teams are potentially dysfunctional. Patrick Lencioni unpacks this hard truth then walks through a fable to illustrate absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results. Then he gives you straightforward steps to overcome dysfunction and build a stronger company culture and unified team.
Related article: What Is Company Culture?
5. Leadership Strategy and Tactics by Jocko Willink
Retired Navy SEAL Commander Jocko Willink speaks directly to real-life situations leaders face every day. In this practical field guide, you’ll get insights on these and other challenges: how to lead your former peers, what to do when you don’t get the leadership position you wanted, and how to overcome imposter syndrome—that nagging doubt that tells you maybe you’re not cut out to lead your team.
Leadership Books for New Leaders
6. Boundaries for Leaders by Dr. Henry Cloud
Coauthor of the classic bestseller Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud explains seven leadership boundaries the best leaders rely on to improve their performance and increase their personal and career satisfaction.
“. . . it's critical for leaders to set the conditions that make people's brains perform at their highest levels. How do great leaders do this? One way is through the creation of ‘boundaries’—the structures that determine what will exist and what will not.”
7. Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Are you looking for a deeper sense of purpose in your work? Before you get to what you want to do and how you plan to get it done, Simon Sinek says you need to know your why. This book will help you tap into the mission that gets you excited and gives you meaning and fulfillment.
Related article: How to Write a Company Mission Statement
8. The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
This top leadership book by John C. Maxwell unpacks the principle that leadership is influence—nothing more, nothing less. He provides clear, easy-to-understand steps you can take to create a game plan for your leadership development.
“If people can increase their influence with others, they can lead more effectively.”
9. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Our habits are those consistent, unconscious patterns that shape our character and influence how effective (or ineffective) we are. In what has become one of the most timeless leadership books ever written, Stephen Covey unpacks the power of fairness, integrity, honesty and human dignity to help you change your habits and become a better version of you.
Related article: How Keystone Habits Can Improve Your Life
10. The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni
A hard but critical part of your job as a leader is getting the right team members on the right seats of the bus in your organization (and sometimes helping the wrong ones off the bus). To help you find, hire and develop ideal team members, Patrick Lencioni breaks down three things every employee should be: hungry, humble and smart.
Leadership Development Books
11. Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute
Strap in for a raw, honest look at how leaders cheat themselves out of being their best by failing to do what they know is right. You’ll learn how to break destructive patterns so you can improve teamwork, trust, communication, motivation and leadership.
“When trapped in self-deception, we live and work as if trapped in a box. We can’t see the reality around us—we’re blind to the self-serving motivations that are sabotaging us on the job and at home.”
12. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
On the cover of this top leadership book is this bold statement: “The only book you need to lead you to success.” Guaranteed success? Sign us up! Grab your copy to learn time-tested techniques for handling relationships well and winning people over as you lead (and succeed).
13. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Although it’s not your traditional leadership “how to” book, you’ll be gripped by psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s account of his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi death camps during World War II. You’ll also gain valuable lessons for spiritual survival. We think it’s one of the best books on leadership because it will inspire you to find significance in life, even in the face of pain.
14. Visioneering by Andy Stanley
Author Andy Stanley wrote Visioneering as a guide to help people create and fulfill a life of purpose through a clear vision. Stanley challenges you to answer this question: What kind of a journey is my life? Then you’ll work through what could be in your life and business and how to set a well-defined destination using inspiration, conviction, action, determination, and completion to stay on track.
Related article: Vision Casting: 7 Reasons Why It Matters
15. Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards
Let’s be real—no matter what your role is, you’ll always deal with people. And the sharper your people skills are, the better and more productive you’ll be as a leader. In this leadership book, author Vanessa Van Edwards teaches you people skills you never learned in school—like how to make a killer first impression, build rapport quickly, and hold your own in negotiations, interviews, parties and pitches.
Related article: Communication Styles: How to Talk to Your Team
Personal Development Audio Books
Traditional books—the print ones you can hold, highlight and keep on your bookshelf—are great. But when you’re on the go, audiobooks are the ultimate business-leader wingman. They’ll keep you company during your morning commute, won’t judge you for taking them on a run, and will help you squeeze in time you didn’t think you had for personal growth. That’s why we’ve added this bonus short list of leadership and personal development audiobooks you can add to your playlist. Enjoy!
16. The Power to Change by Craig Groeschel
Topic: Mastering the Habits That Matter Most
17. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer
Topic: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World
18. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
Topic: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
“A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.”
19. Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin
Topic: Ten Commandments for Making Money
20. Own Your Past, Change Your Future by Dr. John Delony
Topic: A Not-So-Complicated Approach to Relationships, Mental Health and Wellness
21. The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter
Topic: Embrace Discomfort to Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self
Related article: America’s Labor Shortage: What Is It and What Can We Do About It?
What’s Next: Read to Lead (and Listen to Learn)
For more leadership book recommendations, check out the EntreLeadership Reading Guide, with 100 book titles on topics like hiring, business strategy, sales, leadership and more! Also check out The EntreLeadership Podcast where you’ll get practical advice from some of the very authors listed above. You’ll also have a chance to call in to podcast host Dave Ramsey for straight-talking answers to your leadership and business questions.