10 Best Books for Leaders to Read

Which is more important to a small business: a sound strategy, engaged employees, or flawless financing? The answer is “all of the above.” But behind each, is a strong leader who can drive them forward. That’s why it’s so important for small business owners to continually invest in their own leadership development. Check out some of the best books for leaders who want to improve their own leadership skills.

10 Best Books for Leaders to Read

5 Mainstream Leadership Books

These books top many reviewers’ list of top leadership books. Their place on bestseller lists attests to their appeal.

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
    This popular self-help book has sold more than 10 million copies. It outlines step-by-step principles for dealing with work or life problems. The author uses personal stories to illustrate how you can adapt to change to be more productive.
  • The New One Minute Manager – Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
    This management classic was originally published nearly 40 years ago and has been recently adapted to reflect changes in today’s business environment. It is told in a parable-style narrative making it an easy but informative read on how to effectively lead people.
  • First, Break All the Rules – Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
    Recently re-released, this book taps research on employee engagement. It challenges conventional wisdom and urges leaders to break the rules. Instead, leaders should focus on hiring for talent and building people’s strengths rather than trying to fix their weaknesses.
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership – John C. Maxwell
    This revised edition contains insights from the author’s 40-plus years of leadership successes and mistakes with interesting stories from business, politics, sports, religion, and the military. This is less of a how-to book and more of an inspirational voice.
  • On Becoming a Leader – Warren G. Bennis
    The author interviews acknowledged leaders and believes they are not born, they are made. He provides insights into the qualities leaders possess and the strategies anyone can apply to become one.

5 Lesser-Known Leadership Books

While these books may not be classics yet, they provide powerful insights into what makes a good leader.

  • The 4-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss
    The focus here is on development leadership by maximizing your work efficiency and productivity. This cutting-edge content offers practical tips and case studies of people who have followed the author’s plan and created a more successful lifestyle.
  • Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win – Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
    These two Navy Seals apply what they learned from their military service to leadership. The key is to develop high-performance teams using techniques used on the battlefield including “cover and move,” “leading up the chain,” and “decentralized command.”
  • Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink
    The author draws on four decades of research that help leaders understand what does and does not motivate people. (Hint: It’s not money.) It offers techniques that facilitate the three elements of motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
  • Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek
    In his work with organizations, the author observed that some teams pull together and others don’t. He shares true stories demonstrating that great leaders sacrifice their own comfort. They build “circles of safety” for the people in their organization.
  • Rookie Smarts – Liz Wiseman
    The author encourages leaders to be “perennial rookies”—to maintain their curiosity and take on new challenges. She emphasizes that continued learning is more important than mastery because the business environment is constantly changing.

Developing your leadership skills can be a sound investment for your small business. Make it a habit to continuously grow as a leader by starting with this reading list.

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