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15 Leadership Books Every Future Leader Should Read (or anyone actually)

leadership books

Jack Nicholson once said, “When you stop learning, I believe you are dead!” One of the things that helps me to conquer the imposter syndrome is my ability to keep it real and tell people that I am a semi-expert.  Having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge makes it possible to learn new things, grow as a person, and create opportunities for myself and others.

It makes me cringe when people say I am an expert. Even if I had a Ph.D. in leadership books, I would not be an expert. I feel that if I say I am an expert, then my brain will switch off and say, “That’s it; you don’t need to learn anymore.” Argh! Hence the semi-expert tag.

I am always learning, every single day. I never want to stop. I love to learn. That is why I write, speak and read about leadership books all the time. I suppose when you are truly passionate about something, you love to learn about it.

Many times I’ve had people ask me, “In addition to coaching and training, what else can I do to learn more about how to improve myself? How can I learn to be a great leader that propels myself and others towards greater growth and greater opportunities?”

My answer is simple, read. Read everything you can about successful leaders and the steps that they have taken to achieve peak performance for themselves and their organizations.

The following is a list, and brief overview, of some of the best books that I have read about leadership books.

 

Good to Great by Jim Collins

First published in 2001, this book was the result of over five years of research and the intensive study of over 1,400 companies. The conclusions reached as a result of this work are still relevant today – what makes a company great, and why do so many companies remain mired in lacklustre performance and results?

Collins and his team of researchers wanted to discover what essential factors enabled good companies to transition to greatness, and outperform the market by several fold. What they found was most companies fail to make this leap because leadership kills momentum and enters a “loop of doom,’ by focusing on external causes of mediocre performance.

Companies that were able to far exceed their competition did so by focusing on building their team and recruiting talented people who are self-motivated to perform. They also focused on creating a performance “flywheel” by expending their time and resources only on those areas where they can offer something of value, something unique, where they can genuinely excel and which sets them apart from others in the marketplace.

 

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankel

Numerous leaders from every sector, including business, academia, government, the military and even the sports world, are known for their call to pursue excellence as a means of achieving peak performance. Despite their guidance, I am still asked, “Why excellence? Why does excellence matter?” Personally, I believe that it is about more than achieving your best.

At its heart, the pursuit of excellence is about finding your purpose and finding meaning in our lives. Every leader will go through tough times, but focusing on their purpose, their mission can help them to survive. It gives them the courage to make tough choices and to continue to persist despite the odds.

This is also the theme of this book, first published in 1946. This inspiring work is the story of Dr. Frankel, and his experiences in WWII and the hardships that he faced trying to survive internment in a concentration camp as everyone he knew and loved died around him.

Based on his experiences, he determined that while we have little control over what happens around us, we can control how we react to situations. He also postulated that rather than seeking to maximize the amount of money that we make, or pleasurable moments that we experience, to live a good life we should focus on finding our purpose and allowing it to define and give meaning to our lives.

 

The Truth About Leadership by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Thirty years ago, the authors published a book that has become known for literally defining what leadership is, and is not. Since that time, the authors have continued to conduct extensive research into those traits and skills that define what it means to be a leader. Their work includes conducting a leadership assessment that has received over one million responses from leaders at every level.

The current work gets to the heart of what it means to be a leader, and distils their studies down into 10 core truths about what it means to lead. While each page is filled with memorable advice and commentary, one of my favourite quotes concerns the importance of learning and skill training.

“The Truth Is That the Best Leaders Are the Best Learners. Leadership can be learned. It is an observable pattern of practices and behaviours, and a definable set of skills and abilities. Skills can be learned, and when we track the progress of people who participate in leadership development programs, we observe that they improve over time.”

 

The Extraordinary Leader by John Zenger and Joseph Folkman

First published in 2002, the main point of this work is that with training, anyone can learn how to lead. Other key points in the work include the importance of leaders focusing on following through, and that to go from being merely a good manager, to an exceptional leader, they must learn to focus on developing their strengths.

 

Drive by Daniel Pink

Being able to motivate and inspire others is a key trait of effective leaders. The difficulty with being able to influence others lies in the fact that very few, if any, of us truly understand what motivates us to take action. According to Pink, most of us aren’t really motivated by external factors, such as the potential for punishment or reward.

Pink argues that true motivation is internal, and can be divided into three areas: the desire to be self-directed, or autonomous, the desire for self-improvement to perfect our skills, or mastery, and the desire to find meaning, or purpose in the work that we perform. He makes a convincing case that leaders are most effective when they enable individuals to achieve goals that line up with these three key areas of motivation.

 

Start with the Why by Simon Sinek

Like Pink in Drive, Sinek argues that truly great leaders don’t use manipulation and intimidation to get others to act. Instead, they inspire others to work together towards a goal by focusing on why they are working towards a specific, shared purpose.

Sinek makes several valuable points in the book. One of the many worth noting is that leadership is most effective when it is focused on why the company exists. They then must bring clarity to their mission by clearly define their core values and recruiting team members that share their values. Once the “why” is defined, it is easy to see the “how” and to know what action must be taken to move forward.

 

True North by Bill George and Peter Sims

In this book, the former CEO of Medtronic guides leaders in how to use their internal compass of values and experiences to help them bring authenticity to their leadership and to learn how to create and develop their personal, genuine leadership style.

 

Tribes by Seth Godin

In this book, Godin argues that folks naturally organize into networks or groups based on shared values and experiences. Leaders are most effective when they act as facilitators and attract groups of people who share their values, their “tribes” and connect them with a common idea and purpose. In the book, Godin challenges the leaders of tribes to challenge the status quo in order to create meaningful change, provide utility and solve social problems.

 

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Dr. Brene Brown argues in her book that the way to increase engagement and make meaningful connections with others is by daring to be vulnerable and open to sharing our real inner self with others. Brown believes that rather than viewing our emotions and being vulnerable as a weakness that must be hidden, we should be open to emotions and feelings.

According to Brown, it is this openness and honesty about how we feel that empowers us, and leads to positive effects including love, empathy, a greater sense of connectedness and community, as well as being a wellspring for innovation and creativity.

 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

In this book, Pressfield discusses the many challenges faced by artists, performers, inventors and others engaged in creative endeavours as they seek to overcome the status quo and bring into being something new. The work is filled with practical advice and examples of how to overcome the naysayers, and other obstacles that threaten to block creatives as they focus on pursuing their passion and dreams.

 

Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman

In this work, Goleman focuses on the importance of leaders developing and using their emotional intelligence to increase communication, motivation, cooperation, and engagement with the people that they lead.

 

Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

This book is the result of research conducted by the Gallup organization that looked at the importance of leaders focusing on their strengths to create their leadership style. As part of the research, more than 20,000 leaders were interviewed and over 1 million work teams studied to determine why folks follow a specific leader.

Because of these studies, Rath and Conchie argue that the most effective leaders focus on improving skills related to their natural strengths and abilities, and also work to empower others to “play” to their strengths and focus on performing work that relates to areas that correspond to their natural talents and preferences. The work offers practical advice on how to recruit the right people to your team that have the right strengths, and how to meet their needs so that they continue to develop and grow their strengths and use their talents to benefit the organization.

 

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

The ability to get “outside the bubble” to gain insight and objective information is critical for leaders so that they do not fall prey to bias and blind spots. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Goodwin looks at how President Abraham Lincoln could accomplish this by assembling a cabinet comprised of people of diverse backgrounds and experiences who often belonged to separate, warring political factions and that strongly disagreed in outlook, temperament and opinion as to what was the right way forward for the President and the country.

Goodwin argues that the President, and the country, benefited from this clash of vastly different perspectives that forced the President to look at issues from unique angles, increasing the chances that novel approaches and unique solutions could be developed.

 

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

This work offers leaders practical advice on how to identify, and overcome, those self-limiting habits that can help leaders survive challenges early in their leadership careers, but which are now holding them back and preventing them from achieving their optimal performance.

 

Leadership Attitude by Sonia McDonald

So, why should you read my book? What makes it different from every other leadership books out there?

Unlike other works about leadership books, my book isn’t just about how to increase sales or improve some other area of your performance. My book is about how to discover your true self and how to use this knowledge to empower yourself to change the world. Yes, that’s right, change the world.

Creating meaningful change in the world begins with you and your attitude. It starts with confronting and overcoming self-limiting beliefs and changing your mindset.

As your mindset and view of the world changes, the way that others view you also changes. This transformation increases your ability to inspire, and lead others. Working together towards a shared goal, you and your team become an unstoppable force that can literally, should you so choose, change the world. Just be careful when you read my book, and be certain to use the power of your new mindset and attitude for good!

 

About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonaldSonia McDonald, CEO and Founder of LeadershipHQ, is an Entrepreneur, Thought Leader, Dynamic Keynote Speaker, Leadership Coach and Author of Leadership Attitude (now on BOOKTOPIA!). She was recently named in the Top 250 Influential Women Leaders across the Globe. Sonia is one of Australia’s Leading Executive Coaches. She has over 25 years of’ human resource management, leadership, and organizational development experience. She has held senior leadership roles in organizational development, learning and development, human resources and talent management fields across the globe. She is also an inspirational and dynamic leadership and neuroscience keynote speaker.

Connect with Sonia at:

1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616

www.soniamcdonald.com.au

sonia@soniamcdonald.com.au

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