List of Top 10 Leadership Books of All Time
We have a handpicked selection of best leadership books from experts in the field which might assist readers to discover for themselves the elusive recipe to be a successful leader. Below is the list of such books on leadership –
- Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader ( Get this book )
- On Becoming a Leader ( Get this book )
- Leadership and Self-Deception ( Get this book )
- Turn The Ship Around ( Get this book )
- Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results ( Get this book )
- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable ( Get this book )
- Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance ( Get this book )
- Man’s Search For Meaning ( Get this book )
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You ( Get this book )
- Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business ( Get this book )
Let us discuss each of the leadership books in detail along with its key takeaways and reviews.
#1 – Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader
by Herminia Ibarra
An unorthodox book on leadership with some bold advice for managers on how to enhance their management skills. The author strongly advocates the idea that leaders need to experiment more and learn from experience instead of being too cautious and wary of taking risks. It’s been said too often that a leader needs to act and think like a leader, but interpretations can differ, and this author offers an interesting take on how to follow this dictum.
This book stands out for the kind of practical advice afforded to the readers with stress on taking risks calculated to not only achieve more but motivate others to do better. Complete work on how to stand out and be recognized for your dynamic approach as a leader or in a position where you are entrusted with the management of people and resources.
A book on leadership with a difference which advocates on more than usual experimentation and on learning about things based on direct experience. The author offers useful, practical insights on how to be original and make it work while avoiding the fallacies of always ‘going by the rulebook’ as it were. A must-read for anyone who aspires to be a leader in business or any other sphere of life.<< Get this book >>
#2 – On Becoming a Leader
By Warren G. Bennis (Basic Books, 1989)
This book seeks to redefine leadership and analyzes what actually goes into making a true leader. The author attempts to separate management from leadership and defines some of the core qualities required for leadership and how anyone can embark on the journey to become a leader with a determined effort in the right direction. He opines that people often tend to confuse ‘managing’ for ‘leading’ when, in fact, these are two completely separate domains. As subjective as the subject might seem, he adopts more of a methodical approach for the readers to be able to follow the advice with relative ease. An interesting and inspiring leadership book that offers valuable insights into how leaders are ‘made’ rather than ‘born.’
A thought-provoking work that goes about defining the fundamentals of leadership with almost a practiced finesse. Readers would acquire a better understanding of how leadership is something unique and distinct from management, which is easy to mistake for the former. An essential read for prospective leaders, managers, and laymen alike.<< Get this book >>
#3 – Leadership and Self-Deception
By Arbinger Institute (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2002)
Developed by the Arbinger Institute, offers an interesting view on how we tend to deceive ourselves, which, in turn, limits what we can envision and achieve. The fundamental idea is that often we tend to regard others merely as objects which either help or hinder our path to success or realizing certain goals, instead of treating them as real people with their own hopes and aspirations. These two states of mind are defined as being ‘in the box’ where we are in a way boxed in by our limited vision, which restricts our ability to grow as an individual or as a leader. This is the self-deception that one needs to break away from and move ‘out of the box’ and adopt more of an inclusive view towards others—an eye-opening revelation into the psychology of leadership and its role in the success of a leader.
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A path-breaking leadership book on how self-deception can come in one’s way of realizing their true potential as a leader. It offers an important lesson in how we need to stop looking at others as merely ‘resources’ to be used for some purpose and start looking upon them as real people with goals of their own to achieve. An interesting read on leadership for those who aspire to become leaders in the true sense of the word.<< Get this book >>
#4 – Turn The Ship Around
By L. David Marquet (Portfolio, 2013)
A powerful book by a former commander of a US Navy submarine based on the real-life story of how he turned things around on their head and went ahead to realize his potential. Drawing on the lessons learned during his tenure, the author lays down the philosophy of developing leaders instead of followers, who are not afraid to question and challenge authority when needed. It is an exploration of how the idea of leadership evolves from ‘leading’ to helping others ‘lead’ in their own right and rewrite the rules in the process—a recommended read for managers and leaders in business or any other sphere of life.
Challenging conventional notions of leadership, the author shares his own unique understanding of what it means to be a leader, based on his real-life experience of leading the crew of a US Navy submarine. Learn why it is important for a leader to not only make the right choices but also to inspire others to lead for themselves, resulting in a better team effort on the whole.<< Get this book >>
#5 – Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust & Get Extraordinary Results
by Judith E. Glaser
This book is on how building up the right kind of conversations can lead to desired change and results. Based on neuroscientific research, the author expands the idea to suggest there are three levels of conversations, including transactional, positional, and transformational, which play specific roles in interactions with the people around us. Most of our conversations are limited to the first two levels, either being transactional in nature, where we are simply exchanging information or data, or positional, where we tend to advocate certain views or inquire about others, and rarely get to the transformational level of conversation where real change can happen. A spellbinding book which opens up new possibilities to discover one’s own potential and be a leader with a difference.
Learn how the right kind of conversations can change everything there is to be a leader and discover the true power of words with this work. The author has based much of this book on the latest neuroscientific advances and suggests that depending on which level of conversation you are engaged in, entirely different results can be achieved. A must-read book for anyone to hone their communication and leadership skills.<< Get this book >>
#6 – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
By Patrick M. Lencioni
In essence, leadership is a lot about building great teams and avoiding common pitfalls, which can make them underperform. Focusing specifically on that aspect, the author goes about defining five of the common ills that might plague a team and stunt its growth while outlining ways of addressing these issues effectively to set one’s house in order. Adopting a powerful storytelling style, he conveys the message wonderfully well and later summarizes the pitfalls encountered along with their remedies. A highly useful book on leadership skills and how to build and manage teams that do away with much of the usual rhetoric on the topic.
This book is on building teams and managing them the right way while working to enhance the efficiency in terms of the outcome. The author effectively utilizes a fictionalized narrative to drives home the message that leadership is not just about having a larger vision but also about being able to identify and address the challenges faced by a team. A commendable book on team building and management for anyone who works in a team or is entrusted with leading one.<< Get this book >>
#7 – Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance
Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis & Annie McKee
Delving into a little-explored area of leadership, this book discusses emotional intelligence as a driver of team performance and how it can dramatically change things around. Taking up scenarios where usual team-building efforts fail to yield desired results, the authors lay stress on identifying possible issues associated with the emotional intelligence of a team. It could be behavioral problems of some team members or management or interpersonal issues, which could ultimately affect the performance of a team adversely. The ability of leadership is challenged when it comes to managing these issues efficiently and preferably in a rather sensitive manner. An essential relook at what it takes to lead a team other than mere team building and managing, sometimes the real issues lie beneath the surface.
Going a step further than team building, the authors talk about emotional intelligence as the probable culprit behind most of the team failures, which tend to remain undiagnosed most of the time. This book discusses why it is almost an invisible concept to leaders and team managers and how an organization really needs to approach issues of this nature. A highly recommended read for today’s leaders to be able to understand the role and significance of emotional intelligence in the efficient functioning of a team.<< Get this book >>
#8 – Man’s Search For Meaning
By Viktor Frankl
A moving real-life story of grit and survival in the face of nothing less than the WWII holocaust, which will shake you to the core and, at the same time, encourage you to ask the right questions, look for a higher meaning of existence. The first part of this book primarily discusses how the prisoners of a concentration camp found meaning to survive in the face of unimaginable adversities, and the second part is devoted to a unique psychotherapeutic approach developed by the author, which he calls logotherapy, as in ‘meaning as a therapy.’ An unusual work that has inspired and motivated millions of readers across the world to find meaning to strive and survive in the face of insurmountable odds.
If leadership is about the survival and triumph of the human spirit in the face of fearsome odds, then this work is nothing less than a prized possession for anyone who aspires to lead or even simply to survive. The author, based on his own real-life experience, surmises that search for meaning and being able to identify it is the key to surviving under almost any conditions. It gives you the most important thing needed for survival, purpose, and hope.<< Get this book >>
#9 – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You
by John C. Maxwell, Zig Ziglar (Foreword)
A highly distilled version of a standard work on leadership that gets down to the task straight away and lays down specific principles one can apply diligently and consistently to excel as a leader. This book shares the accumulated wisdom of nearly three decades of experience in the field, and most of it is rather unconventional as compared with commonly held views on leadership. For instance, he suggests that ‘leaders add value by serving others’ as they acquire greater value from others by being of value to them. His ‘law of process’ is based on the fundamental idea that ‘leadership develops daily, not in a day.’ Herein lies a complete philosophy of leadership, which is simple yet highly effective but rarely ever spelled out with such clarity. In short, a recommended read for leaders and managers who are faced with new challenges every day and are looking for a fresh perspective on what leading is all about.
To lead might not be a simple thing, but now you can learn to lead without any rhetoric in this elegant yet powerful work on leadership. The author has brought on board how expertise in the field and presented well-formulated principles, which with a diligent application, would help you nurture the leader within you. A must-read for aspiring leaders in business life, politics, or elsewhere.<< Get this book >>
#10 – Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
by Charles Duhigg
A standalone best book on leadership, enhancing productivity levels at work, which pinpoints precise solutions to leadership challenges based on the latest findings in neuroscience, behavioral economics, and psychology. Important insights are offered based on experiences of leaders from diverse fields and how they discovered solutions to the challenges faced in their respective domains. A powerful guide to effectively managing how you think instead of focusing on what you think can make all the difference to the process of decision-making. The author has done a beautiful job of bringing out the finer aspects of the science of productivity, which continue to elude so many. A highly acclaimed work on what makes for the right kind of thought process for a leader and how to go about acquiring it.
A detailed treatment of the art and science of productivity which can serve as an invaluable guide for those who aspire to be the leaders of tomorrow. The author has taken painstaking efforts to synthesize scientific insights into thought processes with minute observations made by leaders in different areas of life to support the idea that it is how we think rather than what we think, which can drive us to make some of the most impactful decisions possible. A marathon guide to thinking with a difference so that we might make a difference.<< Get this book >>
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