How do you take charge and inspire your team with integrity, authority, and enthusiasm?
Thousands of books are filled with reflections and advice on leadership. But finding one that’s interesting, insightful, practical — and an entertaining read to boot — can be tricky.
We’ve collected 15 bestsellers that are sure to help you find your style and hone your skills, whether you’re a natural or reluctant leader. And they won't put you to sleep (unless you're running low on caffeine — in which case, it's out of our hands). Here's what's on our bookshelf:
1. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
There’s a good reason you see this title on countless bookshelves: it holds timeless advice on the myriad soft skills that make a truly effective leader. Skills such as making people feel important and appreciated. This classic holds gems of advice that will make you a better leader, effective motivator, and persuasive negotiator.
2. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Over 2,000 years have passed since military leader Sun Tzu first recorded his principles on how to be a fearless leader. Not only are they still applicable, they continue to be touted by top execs across the globe. Pick up a copy for an ageless guide on effective leadership, from strategizing and logistics to conflict resolution and resource management.
The video below summarizes Sun Tzu's book in just a little over five minutes and gives key examples of his most influential philosophies and strategies.
3. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
The late Covey remains a world-renowned leadership expert, and as his most famous work, this book focuses on both personal and professional effectiveness. Covey advises that true leadership starts from within, teaching readers how to manage their inner well-being, create a personal vision, and cultivate self-control. Once you've mastered yourself, you can begin to extend your influence outward to create real relationships with those around you.
4. The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor
Did you know your brain is 30% more productive when it's happy? Shawn Achor's book collects fascinating research in positive psychology, explains why our brains work better when they’re happy, and outlines practical strategies you can use every day to improve your team's happiness and work performance. Filled with Achor's trademark humor, it's sure to become one of your dog-eared favorites. Check out our Q&A with happiness expert, Shawn Achor.
5. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John Maxwell
This revised edition of the classic is updated with two new laws, plus fresh success stories. Maxwell offers leadership advice, real-life stories, evaluation tools to reveal your strengths and weaknesses, and application exercises to improve your leadership skills.
6. The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey
Did you know that TRUST is the most significant factor in creating business success? Covey examines the effect it has on our personal and professional lives, explains how credibility can be built or destroyed, covers 13 behaviors of authentic leaders, and details practical examples on how to use trust to improve productivity and drive down costs.
7. Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
Renowned psychologist and behavioral science writer Daniel Goleman is a pioneer of emotional intelligence. This book collects over 20 years of Goleman’s writings on leadership and "organizational excellence,” including insights into the role of emotion in the workplace and the most effective ways to inspire others.
8. Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change by Kerry Patterson
A great idea alone can’t drive change; it takes influence to inspire new attitudes and behaviors. This book breaks down the science of change, supporting its findings with research and case studies. Readers also learn how to use the principles to drive real transformation in their everyday lives.
In this 2:36 video, author Patterson explains that people's behavior is influenced by six sources: values, skills, teamwork, support, incentives, and environment.
9. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman
How do some leaders drain productivity and energy from their teams, while others magnify the abilities, motivation, and success of all those around them? After analyzing 150 execs across the world, Wiseman pinpointed the 5 most important attributes of leaders who bring out the best qualities in their teams. Find them between the pages of this bestseller.
10. It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff
When Captain Abrashoff took command of the U.S.S. Benfold it had all the latest technology. But it was initially all for naught because his crew was lethargic and unmotivated. Abrashoff knew he needed to change his leadership approach to turn things around and energize his team. He was able to transform his team into a confident, motivated crew, and inspired in them a new group of problem solvers. Pick up his secrets in this compelling combination of memoir and management guide.
11. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't by Simon Sinek
Teams perform best when they feel safe — they're more creative, more open to sharing new ideas, and more confident in collaborating with their peers. Sinek uses surveys, scientific research, and case studies to show you how to develop techniques for fostering trust, cooperation, and innovation within your team.
Below is a 4:18 video of Sinek explaining the hidden dynamics that inspire leadership and trust.
12. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant
Leaders don’t just rely on hard work and talent, they need to be able to genuinely connect with people. Grant examines three workplace mentalities: (1) Takers, who ask for help without reciprocating; (2) Matchers, who contribute only when they expect help in return; and (3) Givers, who offer help to colleagues freely. Which are you — and how does it affect your success?
13. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
You might be familiar with the Heath brothers and their renowned novel, Switch. In this newer book, they investigate the psychology that drives decision making. Their insights teach readers to make better choices, both as individuals and as part of a group. Crack the spine on this one to overcome office politics, recognize opportunities, and make decisions with confidence.
14. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
What does it mean to lead well? How can managers bring out the best in their teams? Written by the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, this book lifts the curtain on day-to-day operations at one of the world's most successful studios. He also candidly describes the common business challenges faced by the studio, and explains how effective leadership carried Pixar to new heights. If you lead a creative team, don’t miss this one.
15. Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less by Robert Sutton & Huggy Lao
You've spent years nurturing a small team of all-stars, creating successful processes, and carefully cultivating group dynamics. Now that you're ready to scale, how do you maintain that success across the company as it grows? Sutton and Lao draw from their years of experience leading the Customer-Focused Innovation program at Stanford to uncover how the best leaders and teams evolve. Use their "Seven Scaling Mantras" to break through the habits and attitudes that limit growth.
Head to your local library, pick up a few of these page-turners, and start leading your team with skill and confidence. And don't forget to share your other favorite leadership reads in the comments!
Empty space on your bookshelf? Add 5 more books to your "to-read" list.