13 Books Leaders Must Read

August 14, 2023

13 Books Leaders Must Read

A book brings a journey to the mind and soul of every reader. It’s no surprise that as early as our toddler days, we were taught to read and listen to books. That’s because books are gateways to limitless learnings that tickle our imagination and drive development.


Even as we move up to our careers and lead teams, taking a break to read is good for you. Having your nose in a book enriches your perspective thanks to experts who share their inspiring stories. We can gain knowledge and wisdom that empower us to become great leaders. Just as American journalist Margaret Fuller said: Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.


If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you! This list will help you flick through the must-read books to grow the leader in you.

1. General Read

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Author: Angela Duckworth

Publisher: Scribner Book Company
Publication Year: May 2016
Print Length: 352 pages
Grit has been an emerging concept in the past years - and that’s what psychologist Angela Duckworth shared in her riveting book. She talked about how parents, educators, students, and business leaders succeed with focused persistence called grit. This book inspires us to go beyond our knowledge and talents because passion and commitment are the true ingredients in success.

2. Self-Improvement

Developing The Leader Within You 2.0

Author: John C. Maxwell

Publisher: HarperCollins Leadership
Publication Year: January 2019
Print Length: 224 pages
Maxwell designed a classic book that is a guide for all types of leaders in self-growth. He discussed the foundational principles for transformative leadership that he applied for more than 40 years. He reminds us that changing yourself first will positively impact those around you and the world. If you want to personally and professionally grow as a strong leader, this is for you.

3. Entrepreneur

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches

Author: Dave Ramsey

Publisher: Howard Books
Publication Year: September 2011
Print Length: 320 pages
This book is one of the many great ones from Ramsey. He gives uncomplicated and practical steps on how you can grow your business in the direction that you want it to. It’s a playbook that empowers you to become a better entrepreneurial leader. That involves handling your finances, inspiring your team, and more. Whether you have a start-up or an established business, grab a copy of this book.

4. C-level Leaders

The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

Author: Peter F. Drucker

Publisher: Harper Business
Publication Year: January 2006
Print Length: 208 pages
Drucker is a renowned management consultant and educator who imparted to the foundations of modern business corporations. In this book, he iterates that the true measure of an executive is their ability to get the right things done. He talked about the 5 essential practices that every executive leader can and must learn. The core of this book is effectiveness that you can master over time and experience.

5. Digital Leaders

The Technology Fallacy: How People Are the Real Key to Digital Transformation

Author: Gerald C. Kane, Ahn Nguyen Phillips, Jonathan Copulsky, and Garth Andrus

Publisher: The MIT Press
Publication Year: April 2019
Print Length: 280 pages
The Technology Fallacy is timely for industries going through digitalization. It stresses the importance of primarily valuing people and culture over technology. This is recommended for leaders whose organizations are working or transitioning virtually. You’ll pick up points on enabling digital collaboration with an experimental mindset.

6. Nonprofit Leaders

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

Author: Adam Grant

Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Year: March 2014
Print Length: 320 pages
Creating meaningful and sustainable contributions to people and the environment is what Give and Take is all about. Organizational psychologist Adam Grant highlights how success as a leader or organization is dependent on how we interact with others. This serves as a framework for how you can improve as a leader. It’s ideal for nonprofit leaders on the lookout for compelling researches and stories.

7. Mentorship

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change The Way You Lead Forever

Author: Michael Bungay Stanier

Publisher: Page Two
Publication Year: February 2016
Print Length: 244 pages
Coaching is a vital skill that every leader must-have. Stanier provides a thorough view of coaching as a daily habit so teams can work hard less and produce great results. With his seven essential coaching questions, you can unlock your people’s potentials. It’s a refreshing how-to manual that combines research and experiences in the art of coaching.

8. Team Growth

Herding Tigers: Be the Leader That Creative People Need

Author: Todd Henry

Publisher: Page Two
Publication Year: January 2018
Print Length: 272 pages
Herding Tiger is a superb handbook for leaders who want to know more about working vs. managing. Todd Henry tells stories and advice on how you can support your team in their skills, outputs, and processes. He notes that a leader must learn to lead with influence instead of control. Every leader and team can benefit from this read especially if you’re in the creative industry.

9. Diversity and Culture

Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage

Author: Laura Huang

Publisher: Portfolio
Publication Year: January 2020
Print Length: 272 pages
Acclaimed Harvard Business School professor Huang’s Edge is an excellent book about gaining an edge in any situation. She encourages one to find strength in weakness, and turn that into a competitive edge. As a leader, success is knowing who you are and using that knowledge strategically. This book tackles her research based on entrepreneurial intuition, persuasion, and implicit decision-making.

10. Emotional Intelligence

Primal Leadership, With a New Preface by the Authors: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

Author: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee

Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
Publication Year: November 2016
Print Length: 336 pages
Emotional intelligence is often neglected by leaders and organizations. In this book, the distinguished authors illustrate the power and necessity of leadership that’s self-aware, empathetic, and collaborative. Primal Leadership provides a good take on emotions being the heart of effective leadership. This is a must-read for understanding people skills.

11. Powerful Women

More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say)

Author: Elaine Welteroth

Publisher: Viking
Publication Year: June 2019
Print Length: 336  pages
American journalist and editor Elaine Welteroth narrates the ups and downs that she’d been through in her personal and career life. Her memoir gives you a glimpse of how she pushed forward in the media and fashion industry while toppling down obstacles. Women of any age or career stage can relate to her story. This is an inspiring book that speaks to the soul of a woman leader.

12. Words of Wisdom

How to Lead: Wisdom from the World's Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers

Author: David M. Rubenstein

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Year: September 2020
Print Length: 448 pages
How to Lead is an invaluable book on the stories and principles of influential people like Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and George Bush to name a few. Rubenstein did awesome work in compiling his interviews so that you can gain insights from top leaders. This book is worth the read if you’re in search of advice directly from the presidents, CEOs, and master performers.

13. Timeless Leadership

On Becoming a Leader

Author: Warren G. Bennis

Publisher: Basic Books
Publication Year: March 2009
Print Length: 304 pages
First published in 1989, this book is a classic read in leadership and management. Bennis is dubbed as the pioneer in the contemporary field of Leadership studies. He emphasizes in the book that leaders are made, and not born. He shared essential and timeless insights that can inspire all types of leaders. With his easy and practical style of storytelling, you’ll be challenged to look deeper into this book.

Final Thoughts

We hope that our recommended leadership books will help you grasp new knowledge and grow as a new-found leader. If reading is not your habit, maybe it’s time to turn it into one! By sparing time during a break or over the weekend, you might enjoy it and become a more effective leader with the right read.


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