Whether you’re a new leader or a veteran entrepreneur, a commitment to learning will help you become as effective as you can be — and there’s certainly no shortage of great leadership and management books to help you do just that.
The problem is that if you search “leadership books” on Amazon, you’ll see over 50,000 titles. So how do you know where to begin? We’re here to make it simple for you with this list of the best leadership books of all time.
“Self-awareness and self-love matter. Who we are is how we lead”
Best leadership books for personal development
If you want to become a good leader, it starts with working on yourself. Why? Effective leadership requires you to be able to manage yourself as well as others.
When you have a foundation of psychological strength, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness, it will naturally impact and improve your leadership skills.
Below are the best leadership and self-help books for anyone who wants to work on their mindset, emotional regulation, and beyond.
1. The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection is about practicing self-compassion and self-love. It asks us to embrace our own imperfections as we would anyone else’s and to accept our talents and gifts less as gifts for ourselves, and more as a gift to give to others. Once we know who we are and love who we are, we can engage others at that same level.
2. The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
The Art of Possibility teaches readers how to think divergently about the possibilities in front of them. The 12 practices for this pursuit can then open new avenues of thought and self-image. As a result, you can become a more insightful, better leader.
3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey
“If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control: myself.” ― Stephen Covey
So many of us are outwardly successful, but still find ourselves wrestling with our inner habits. Enter bestselling author Covey’s seven habits to help you become more productive, build stronger relationships, and focus on priorities.
4. The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer
The Untethered Soul is one of the most philosophical and spiritual leadership books available. It can help you pursue your inward journey by observing your ego self more objectively and dispassionately. By untethering yourself from the automatic thoughts and emotions that limit your conscious awareness, you can open the door to growth.
5. Immunity to Change, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey
This book offers an approach to change that can help you get unstuck from patterns that no longer serve you. By understanding your goals and what behaviors get in the way, you can release them and find the path forward.
6. Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg
In Lean In, former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg shares practical tips to help women succeed at home and in the workplace. The book is a compelling read backed by hard data and research, inspiring many women to take more risks and boldly pursue their goals.
7. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Victor Frankl
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This quote from the author, who survived Nazi concentration camps, sums up the essence of this book quite nicely.
8. GO: Put Your Strengths To Work, by Marcus Buckingham
Buckingham proposes that our strengths are those things that energize us (and make us stronger) and weaknesses are those things that drain our energy. Through that lens, we can look past our learned skills to our authentic talents.
9. The Five Thieves of Happiness, by John Izzo
Izzo’s main premise is that our natural state is happiness, yet there are forces at work to steal it from us. He names the five thieves as control, conceit, coveting, consumption, and comfort. Understanding the thieves lays a path back to happiness, or at least contentedness.
10. The Power of Meaning, by Emily Esfahani Smith
In The Power of Meaning, Smith teaches that ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ are not synonymous. Instead, purpose is but one of four pillars of meaning. The other three are belonging, storytelling, and transcendence. Each of us has a unique mix of these pillars that creates meaning in our lives.
Knowing that allows us to apply ourselves more consciously to increase our sense of meaning, and thus increase engagement in our work. As leaders, we may also try to understand what gives our team members meaning.
11. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
“Success in dealing with people depends on a sympathetic grasp of the other person’s viewpoint.” – Dale Carnegie
Every successful leader knows that empathy is crucial to team collaboration. If you can’t connect on a deeper level with your employees, you’ll struggle to get results from them. Carnegie’s book is a roadmap to building that skill.
12. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink
The biggest leadership challenge for many is motivating their team — and themselves. Pink’s highly-rated book breaks down the three key elements that makeup motivation (autonomy, mastery, and purpose) and how to leverage them to get results at work, at school, and at home.
13. Tomorrowmind, by Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Martin Seligman
Navigating today’s workplace can be challenging. With increasing fluctuations in workplace wellness, economic uncertainty, and work environments, flourishing can seem like an uphill battle. In their future-forward book, Seligman and our very own CPO, Gabriella Kellerman, have analyzed hundreds of thousands of workers in global industries to identify five psychological powers that are critical for workplace thriving in the 21st century. In their book, they offer actionable advice and science-backed insights to help leaders and their teams thrive.
The best leadership books for people managers
Once you know how to manage yourself and your career, you’re ready to become an effective leader and manager. This is tricky, though, because leading people is about more than practical communication skills. There are many theories on what makes a great leader.
To help you learn both, here are the best leadership and business books for anyone in charge of managing a team.
14. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, by John C. Maxwell
“True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed, or assigned. It comes only from influence, and that cannot be mandated. It must be earned.” – John C. Maxwell
Maxwell is a widely respected author and speaker with over 30 years of leadership experience. In this foundational book, he shares the core, timeless laws of leadership that you’ll be sure to reference many times over the course of your career.
15. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, by Leif Babin and Jocko Willink
In this bestselling leadership book, U.S. Navy Seal Officers Willink and Babin share lessons learned on the battlefield. Using their experience as leaders of the most highly decorated special forces unit in the Iraq war, they teach readers powerful strategies to succeed in life and at work.
16. True North, by Bill George
True North is about the art of leading others. According to George, True North is “the internal compass that guides you successfully through life. It represents who you are as a human being at your deepest level. It is your orientation point that helps you stay on track as a leader.” In short, this is a guidebook for authenticity in leadership.
17. Dare to Lead, by Brené Brown
In this book, prolific author Brené Brown works to answer the question that early-stage startups, Fortune 500 companies, and everyone in between is asking: “How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture?” The insights gained from her research will be sure to help you become a better, bolder, and more empathetic leader for your team.
18. Primal Leadership, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee
Primal Leadership is all about the importance of emotionally intelligent leadership. In addition to offering practical advice, the authors address why great leaders need self-awareness and empathy in our increasingly technologically complex and oft-uncertain world.
19. Beyond the Wall of Resistance, by Rick Maurer
Maurer is a change management advisor who understands that you have to overcome inevitable resistance in order for change to happen. He provides a compelling description of three levels of resistance: “I don’t understand it” (a knowledge gap); “I don’t like it” (an emotional gap); and “I don’t like you” (a trust gap). Then he explores strategies to make successful changes more often.
20. Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni
“Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” -Patrick Lencioni
This book is important for teams looking to overcome the five common “dysfunctions”: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. When leaders carry a clear understanding of these five behaviors and how to remedy them, they are more likely to identify and correct them.
21. The 11 Laws of Likability, by Michelle Lederman
This book explores the 11 laws that contribute to how likable someone is, and the success they will have networking and building relationships. The power in the laws comes from finding the ones most authentic to us and using them to tailor our engagement with others.
The best books for organizational leaders
The most senior business leaders in an organization are responsible for defining the company’s mission, values, culture, and strategy. The following books address many of these topics, for organizational leaders and those who want to become them.
22. Conscious Business, by Fred Kofman
“Consciousness is the main source of organizational greatness.” – Fred Kofman
This bestseller describes conscious business as transferring our conscious values as individuals into our work, and even better, into company values. It explores expressing values, understanding boundaries, communicating constructively, effective negotiations, and more.
23. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap, by Jim Collins
“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice.” – Jim Collins
Good to Great is a classic, must-read leadership book. In it, Collins outlines the research-based principles that separate consistent market segment outperformers from other companies with equal opportunity to do the same.
It also provides insights into what makes a successful leadership team, how to build a culture of discipline, and how technology and analytics can make a difference in an organization’s growth – when used correctly.
24. Start with Why, by Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek is an inspirational speaker and author best known for Start with Why. In the book, Sinek outlines his leadership theory, which is called the Golden Circle theory. Basically, he argues companies need to go beyond the practical benefits of what they offer. Instead of focusing on the “what,” they should turn their attention to “why?” This is because as Sinek says, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
25. Leaders Eat Last, by Simon Sinek
After the success of Start with Why, Sinek continued his work with the New York Times bestseller Leaders Eat Last. Using true stories from Sinek’s work with the military, big business, and beyond, the book unpacks the idea that the best leaders sacrifice for their teams. Instead of operating solely from self-interest, they foster cooperation, trust, and safety.
26. Dealing with Darwin, by Geoffrey Moore
The core of this book is about understanding what gives organizations market power, and why it is difficult to find the resources to exploit those traits. The “core vs. context” framework of this book is brilliant in its ability to define the true power of your company, how to release resources for pursuing that advantage, and the implications for managing the strengths of your organizational talent pool.
27. How to Be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram Kendi
When social injustices exist at the levels they do today, simply not being racist isn’t enough — one must be anti-racist. Kendi has a great knack for reducing this charged topic to a set of definitions and dimensions surrounding racism.
This allows for more rational, and less emotional, discussions about dealing with racist policies and ideas rather than racists. The book contains a blueprint for organizations that want to re-examine their approach to inclusion and unconscious bias.
28. Moneyball, by Michael Lewis
Moneyball is a book about market disruption and competitive strategy. It chronicles the low-budget 2002 Oakland Athletics team and how they disrupted their industry with new approaches that gave them a distinct competitive advantage. That is until the industry changed.
Disruption sounds harsh, and it can be, both to your competitors and to your team who may be stuck in “old ways.” That said, good change management creates an opportunity for added market power.
29. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben Horowitz
“That’s the hard thing about hard things—there is no formula for dealing with them.” – Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz is a successful Silicon Valley founder and investor. His book is one of the best guidebooks out there for entrepreneurs, whether they’re just starting out or raising their final round of funding. Even if you’re not building a company from scratch, Horowitz provides great insights on mindset, business strategy, and old-fashioned hard work.
Whether it’s audiobooks, e-books, or hard copies, consuming leadership books is one of the best ways to grow your skills — and your business. The most important thing is to take the time to prioritize learning from the many amazing business leaders who came before you.