24 Leadership Books To Read Before You Die

Besides being incredibly good for your brain, reading really does make you smarter. A well-stocked bookshelf can keep you focused on important leadership and management principles—some of which you might already have learned but need reminding of, and others that can spur challenges and opportunities to grow.

To inspire or add to your own reading lists, we’ve rounded up 23 of the best leadership books on the market. Let us know what other titles you would add to this list!

How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People

Confidence

Leslie T. Giblin (1985)

When convincing others to give you what you want (money, love, goodwill, etc.), one must understand how to successfully interact with people in all areas of life.

Leslie Giblin, an expert in human relations, offers a step-by-step approach to managing relationships in a win-win fashion.

 

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredibly Voyage

endurance

Alfred Lansing (1999)

Endurance is the tale of one of the most traumatic seafaring adventures gone wrong.

Through diary entries and personal interviews, Alfred Lansing scrupulously compiled the account of polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s incredible survival for over a year on the Arctic seas, leading his sailors back to safety.

 

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t

good

Jim Collins (2001)

How do mediocre—or even good—companies become great?

Jim Collins identifies distinguishing business characteristics and leadership skills needed to bring long-term success.

 

The Emperor’s Handbook

emperor

Marcus Aurelius (2002)

As emperor of Rome from 161 to 180 A.D., Marcus Aurelius was one of the world’s most powerful and respectable leaders. The Emperor’s Handbook is a translation of Aurelius’ personal notes (never meant to be published) on life, leadership and practical everyday advice.

“A must read for business leaders. This is a fantastic achievement.” – Steve Forbes, CEO of Forbes

“All of us today would do well to take counsel from Marcus Aurelius.” – Admiral Stansfield Turner, former director of the CIA

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

Built

Jim Collins, Jerry I. Porras (2004)

What makes a company truly exceptional?

Jim Collins and Jerry Porras glean leadership insights by comparing visionary companies that have lasted a century with those that had similar chances for success but sputtered out early.

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos told Fast Company that Built to Last is his favorite business book.

Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence

primal

Daniel Goleman, Richard E. Boyatzis, Annie McKee (2004)

By developing characteristics like empathy and self-awareness, great leaders connect with others through their ability to drive emotions in a positive direction to get results.

This idea of emotional intelligence has largely changed the way people think about what it means to be smart.

 

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

7 habits

Stephen R. Covey (2004)

An internationally respected authority on leadership, Stephen Covey’s first groundbreaking novel implies true success is founded on personal and professional development habits like prioritization, empathy and self-renewal.

 

The Art of War

art of war

Sun Tzu (2005)

Written in China more than two thousand years ago, this book tells of cunning military strategies and operations that went into some of the most brilliantly executed maneuvers in Asian warfare.

These insights serve as an excellent guide to strategy, tactics and success in the world of business.

 

Developing the Leader Within You

developing

John C. Maxwell (2005)

Developing the Leader Within You is the first and most enduring work by John C. Maxwell, an evangelical Christian author, speaker and pastor who has penned more than 60 books on leadership.

Using a biblical foundation, Maxwell offers principles and practices that can help guide any kind of group setting.

 

Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization

wooden

John Wooden, Steve Jamison (2005)

Wooden on Leadership offers a glimpse inside the mind and leadership methods of America’s coaching legend, John Wooden. In his own words, “Team spirit, loyalty, enthusiasm, determination . . . Acquire and keep these traits and success should follow."

Wooden On Leadership offers valuable lessons no matter what your endeavor.” – Jim Sinegal, former CEO of Costco

“He was so much more than just a sports figure.” – Bill McDermott, Co-CEO of SAP

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

persuasion

Robert Cialdini (2006)

After 35 years of behavioral research, Dr. Robert Cialdini explains the psychology of why people say “yes” and how to apply these understandings to become a more skilled persuader and successful businessperson.

 

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

lincoln

Doris Kearns Goodwin (2006)

Recently made into an award-winning film, this biographical account of Abraham Lincoln sheds light on the president’s leadership style, his understanding of human behavior and motivation, and the way he reconciled conflicting personalities and political factions before abolishing slavery.

 

The Alchemist

alchemist

Paulo Coelho (2006)

The timeless fable of The Alchemist features a traveling shepherd boy who meets several spiritual messengers on his quest for treasure.

Through these encounters, the boy learns simple truths about listening to your heart and staying true to your dreams.

 

Liar’s Poker

wall street

Michael Lewis (2007)

In this anecdotal history of Wall Street, author Michael Lewis presents a behind-the-scenes look at his post-college experience as a bond salesman in the 1980s.

In particular Lewis describes the temptations, challenges and disappointments young leaders face today.

 

True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership

true north

Bill George, Peter Sims (2007)

Former Medtronic CEO Bill George and coauthor Peter Sims explain how to become an authentic leader by obeying your internal compass.

Based on interviews with 125 of today’s top leaders, True North includes a comprehensive personal leadership development program centered on principles of authenticity.

 

How to Win Friends & Influence People

influence

Dale Carnegie (2009)

In one of the most recognized motivational books in history, Dale Carnegie’s proven advice for effective communication and interaction leaves people feeling valued rather than manipulated.

 

Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, And Why People Follow

strengths leadership

Tom Rath and Barrie Conchie (2009)

Using Gallup surveys, interviews and first-hand accounts from successful CEOs, Strengths Based Leadership outlines a roadmap for how to lead with your talents.

 

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

ascent of money

Niall Ferguson (2009)

Niall Ferguson recounts the evolution of the world’s financial system, from ancient Mesopotamia to modern day, arguing that the development of credit and debt is just as important as any technological innovation in the rise of civilization.

“I love books on economic observations . . .This is one of the best.” – Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca-Cola

Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard

switch

Chip and Dan Heath (2010)

Lasting change is difficult to achieve, both in our professional and personal lives.

Using stories from everyday leaders, Switch teaches how to overcome obstacles to transformative change by mastering the way we approach our goals.

The Truth About Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know

Boston Restaurant

James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner (2010)

Based on 30 years of research of tried-and-true tactics from around the world, Kouzes and Posner dive into what’s at the very core of effective leadership, including credibility, values and trust.

A reporter interviewed Mike Splinter, CEO of Applied Materials at the 2013 World Economic Forum and found The Truth About Leadership is his favorite book.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High

crucial conversations

Kerry Patterson, Rob McMillan, Al Switzler (2011)

Crucial Conversations teaches how to communicate when it matters most.

Though emotions may be tense and intimidating, the best leaders step up and get results through tools like openness and persuasion.

 

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

drive

Daniel H. Pink (2011)

The heart of leadership is the ability to motivate those around us.

Daniel Pink suggests the secret to motivate peak performance lies in the deeply human need to direct our own lives, create new things and do better by ourselves and our world.

 

Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization

tribal leadership

Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright (2011)

A corporation is simply a mass of various groups coming together to form a whole. For leaders, it’s important to remember to how to assess and manage these groups in ways that will amplify overall productivity and growth.

Tribal Leadership gives amazingly insightful perspective on how people interact and succeed.” – John W. Fanning, CEO of Napster

"Tribal Leadership codifies a lot of what we’ve been doing instinctually and provides a great framework for all companies to bring company culture to the next level." - Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, as told to USA Today

The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business

innovator

Clayton M. Christensen (2011)

Innovation expert Clay Christensen examines corporate case studies to offer a set of rules for disruptive innovation.

While some companies seem to do everything right, they can still fall behind if they fail to recognize how and when to leave certain business practices behind.

 

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