50 Leadership Classics to Start Reading Right Now

50 Leadership Classics to Start Reading Right Now

Effective leadership is not something that you achieve, but rather something you develop and change throughout your life. There’s no substitute for experience, but thankfully you can borrow from others’ knowledge to improve your own. That’s where reading comes in handy. These best-selling books offer useful resources for maintaining your edge as not just a manager, but as a respected business leader.

1. The Feiner Points of Leadership: The 50 Basic Laws That Will Make People Want to Perform Better for You –Michael Feiner

Former Chief People Officer at PepsiCo and current management professor at Columbia Feiner offers 50 insightful solutions to the everyday problems that leaders face. These business “laws” cover everything from dealing with tough bosses to overcoming resistance in the workplace.

2. Forget A Mentor, Find A Sponsor: The New Way To Fast-Track Your Career –Sylvia Ann Hewlett

This helpful book is packed with reasons why you should search out sponsorships that can be mutually beneficial if you are interested in furthering your career. These more-than-mentors help you advance in your career and even get that next promotion, making them an invaluable asset.

3. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box –Arbinger Institute

Originally published in 2000, this book continues to grow in sales and is now globally praised. In its pages, the Arbinger Institute explains how self-destruction is often to blame for losing the ability to be an effective leader. The book gives unique and helpful ways to avoid destructive behavior in business.

4. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking –Susan Cain

Cain gives real-life examples of how introverts are actually some of the most influential figures of all time and how introverts can often be the most effective leaders. She explores the history of the extrovert and why they are commonly, yet incorrectly, believed to be better leaders.

5. The Starfish and The Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations –Ori Brafman & Rod A. Beckstrom

Brafman and Beckstrom’s book on leadership explore new adaptation methods and look at why traditional methods no longer work. They compare the traditional business structure to a spider that dies when you cut off the head. However, “starfish” organizations adapt and grow new limbs when pieces are cut off. They examine current established companies that have adapted to survive in today’s cutthroat business climate.

6. In Search of Excellence –Tom Peters & Robert H. Waterman, Jr.

In this business readers’ must-have work, Peters and Waterman identify and explore 8 common traits exhibited by 43 of the world’s most successful companies and offer guidance on how modern business leaders can emulate their achievements.

7. Reorganize for Resilience: Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business –Ranjay Gulati

A guide to staying successful in changing business climates, this book tells aspiring leaders how to become more effective business people. Gulati walks readers through five methods that help businesses put the customer first and stay resilient in tough markets.

8. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln –Doris Kearns Goodwin

Goodwin explains how President Lincoln overcame difficult obstacles to become one of the most famous presidents of all time. This acclaimed book discusses why and how Lincoln became president when there were more skilled and capable candidates, and how you can follow his example to become an accomplished leader.

9. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t –Simon Sinek

Sinek explores what makes people love their jobs, and how you can sculpt your leadership style to inspire those around you. To become an effective leader, Sinek postulates that you must protect your team and make them feel included. This fascinating read shares true stories from Sinek’s own life about how taking care of your employees can lead to a more productive workplace.

10. The One Minute Manager –Kenneth Blanchard

This classic management guide was written over 20 years ago, yet the quick and succinct tips still ring true today. Blanchard’s book provides a positive and concise model for first-time managers.

11. The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations –James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner

Leadership is a constantly evolving relationship that needs to be cultivated. Kouzes and Posner explore ways for you to become an excellent leader, and feature over 100 case studies of management examples from around the world.

12. Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success –Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Do you have what it takes to be a great leader? Hewlett examines what makes a leader and how you can achieve an “executive presence.” This book gives tips for using your appearance and other tools to help you be perceived as a natural leader.

13. Leadership: How to Lead Effectively, Efficiently, and Vocally in a Way People Will Follow! –Derek Stanzma

Stanzma provides an in-depth look at how to create a vision of leadership and then make it happen. Each chapter provides a detailed look at subjects like how to leave a legacy and how to manage change with composure.

14. Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow –Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

Using results from scientific studies, Rath and Conchie identify three key components that make a true leader. They also examine firsthand accounts from top CEOs and other prosperous leaders to show how unique and differing strengths can drive your success.

15. Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly –Mike Myatt

Every leader has weaknesses; this book shows how to pinpoint yours and turn them into strengths. It is based on actionable management steps to help you overcome typical failures in the business world.

16. Icons and Idiots: Straight Talk on Leadership –Bob Lutz

A former General Motors executive, Bob Lutz looks at other leaders that he worked with and how effective or ineffective their styles of management were. This uncensored book tells the hilarious and sometimes shocking true stories that Lutz encountered as a leader.

17.The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know–James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

The Truth About Leadership examines ten truths what every leader must know and the real-world issues that leaders will face in the business world, lending insight into how leadership tactics have changed over the past 30 years in the business world.

18. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change–Steven R. Covey

A best-selling leadership book for over 25 years, Seven Habits is the go-to guide for managers. Covey’s leadership guide shares stories from both his personal and professional life, and in turn can be applied to both.

19. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us -Seth Godin

Forming a tribe has been human nature for thousands of years. Godin looks at how this mindset is still prevalent, and what you can do to become the leader of your modern-day “tribe.” He examines how social media has created millions of tiny “tribes” that center around specialized topics, and how even the most unlikely person can lead these groups.

20. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead –Brené Brown

Brown explores how vulnerability in every aspect of our lives, from business to home, makes us better leaders. This book looks at how living more vulnerably can make you stronger and more courageous in the long run.

21.The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload–Daniel Levitin

In the modern world, we can become overwhelmed with the amount of data that we face everyday. Yet some people become extremely adept at multi-tasking and handling information overload. Levitin shares the secrets to becoming an organized leader by cutting through this pervasive clutter.

22.The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See –Max Bazerman

An expert in applied behavioral psychology, Bazerman examines how to evaluate decision-making information that others overlook. He studies real-world catastrophes to see where leaders went wrong, and shows you how to avoid these detrimental mistakes.

23. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success –Carolyn Dweck

Dweck focuses on how a positive mindset can turn you into an effective leader. Her pivotal book focuses on why constant growth is necessary for you to become successful.

24.  Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success –Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty

If you are a sports fan, this may be the leadership book for you. Jackson won more championships than any other coach in the history of professional sports, and he shares his insights into becoming a legendary leader in this book.

25.Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within All of Us –Tom Kelley and David Kelley

This book shows how your innate creativity can elevate your work to the next level and make you a better leader. It explores different methods of creativity and how these methods can help you solve potential business problems.

26.Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organizations –Tracy Brower

Brower uses real-world examples to show how successful managers create balance between work and home life. This guide will help your workplace increase productivity and your bottom line.

27. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders –L. David Marquet

Marquet uses his experience as a former Navy officer to give insight into why leaders should focus on cultivating new leaders from his or her followers. He explains how he turned his submarine from the worst to the first in the fleet by challenging traditional leadership tactics.

28. EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches –Dave Ramsey

This highly praised book by Dave Ramsey gives you a step-by-step guide to shaping your business into a thriving workplace.

29.The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business –Tom Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen

To succeed as a leader, you need to look at the future of your business. This book focuses on how you can prepare yourself to lead Generation Z by embracing them as the future leaders of the workplace.

30. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential –John C. Maxwell

#1 New York Times best-selling author John C. Maxwell gives you steps to make an impact and become the greatest leader in your business. If you are interested in becoming more than just a boss, this book will help you inspire and lead your team.

31.The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do –Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller

Do you know what you need to be a great leader? The Secret explores five essential concepts to form a coherent leadership plan. Blanchard’s book will benefit not only you as a leader, but all of the employees that look to you for advice.

32.What Spins the Wheels: Leadership Lessons From Our Race For Hope -Len Forkas

When he discovered his son had leukemia, Forkas faced the toughest battle of his life. He competed in a 3,000-mile solo bike race to raise money for his son’s illness, and used this personal experience to share thought-provoking lessons on leadership.

33.How Do I Keep My Employees Motivated?: The Practice of Empathy-Based Management –George Langelett

Langelett looks at how empathy can make you a more effective manager. He provides proven techniques that allow your employees to feel accepted and included.

34.Profit From the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business –Margaret H. Greenberg and Senia Maymin

This book teaches you how increase productivity and results in your workplace by using positive psychology. A more advanced text, Profit From the Positive is for managers that have tried other techniques and are looking for alternative solutions.

35.The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You–John C. Maxwell

One of the best-selling leadership books of all time, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is an invaluable toolbox of leadership tips from one of the most well known experts in the field. This book is a must-read for managers that want to improve their leadership skills.

36.A Leader’s Gift: How to Earn the Right to Be Followed–Barry Banther

Banther provides five qualities you need to embody to inspire loyalty and respect in your employees. A Leader’s Gift walks you through ways you can get the most out of your employees while keeping them motivated.

37.The Dream Manager –Matthew Kelly

Kelly creates a fictional workplace to explore how to turn an unproductive business into a functioning, successful environment. His inspiring book focuses on the “self” while providing ways to improve the lives of others.

38.Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else –Jon Gordon

Another sports-enthusiast book for learning how to become a leader, Training Camp is an inspirational fable about leadership. It tells the story of a undrafted football player that is discouraged with his career, until he meets a coach that encourages him and shows him how he can make the most of his talents.

39.The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership –James C. Hunter

A fictional story about a man who outwardly is successful, but inwardly is struggling with every role in his life, The Servant observes how one man finds leadership in unexpected places. Hunter’s book is a fun and interesting way to gain insight on becoming an effective leader.

40.Leadership by Invitation: How to RSVP and Embrace Your Role as A LEADER –Barry L. Smith and Kendra Cagle

Leadership by Invitation explains how to embrace your role as a leader and build influence with your team. Smith uses his personal struggles to document how stepping outside of your comfort zone can produce remarkable results.

41.New-School Leadership: Making a Difference in the 21st Century –D.A. Abrams

This book explores what Abrams calls the new-school leadership model. He gives an innovative and fresh approach to the ever-evolving leadership roles in business, and ways you can stay on top of a changing industry.

42.The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work –Shawn Achor

The Happiness Advantage is based on Achor’s belief that the traditional road to success is no longer applicable in today’s business world, and working hard is no longer enough to achieve happiness. The premise for his best-selling novel is that happiness fuels success, not the other way around. Achor looks at how positivity can turn you into a better and more respected leader.

43.On the Edge: The Art of High-Impact Leadership –Alison Levine and Mike Krzyzewski

Levine reflects on how her extreme sporting expeditions gave her valuable leadership lessons that translate to the business world. This book gives concrete and sometimes unconventional advice for leadership growth.

44.Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action –Simon Sinek

Sinek provides an innovative look at why some businesses stand out and are more successful. He uses his real-life experiences to share insight into effective leadership and management tactics.

45.Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer –Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell

This book examines how Sir Ernest Shackleton saved the lives of 27 men during a dangerous excursion and subsequently became known as the greatest leader to ever live. The inspirational true story is not only a great read but an excellent guide for all aspiring leaders.

46.Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence –Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, and Annie McKee

Goleman’s psychological book explores the role of emotional intelligence in leadership. Primal Leadership looks at why considering your employees feelings in the workplace will make you a more effective leader.

47.Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion–Robert Cialdini

A classic book on persuasion, Influence explains how you can get people to say, “yes” in your business. Cialdini gives you the tools to bring leadership skills to both your work life and personal life.

48.True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership –Bill George, Peter Sims

George and Sims share lessons from their interviews with more than 125 respected leaders in the business world. These interviews resulted in the creation of an effective personal development plan that will make you into a stronger leader.

49. The Maxwell Daily Reader: 365 Days of Insight to Develop the Leader Within You and Influence Those Around You John C. Maxwell

A daily guide to becoming a leader, with actionable steps you can put into practice each day. This inspirational to-do list will give you the skills to become a better manager one day at a time.

50.Thinking Fast and Slow –Daniel Kahneman

Selected as a top pick for both the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Kahneman’s book looks at how slowing down our thought process in certain situations can save us from making typical mistakes in managing. He provides practical advice for tapping into your leadership potential.

What are your favorite resources for leadership advice? Share your opinions on the most useful guides to developing your leadership skills.