The success of a business, no matter the size, often depends on its leadership. Being in charge of a team can certainly be daunting at times. Even some of the greatest leaders look for a roadmap and turn to the world’s best business leadership books to guide them.
For women in particular, there are unfortunately fewer examples of business leaders to look up to. Women comprise only 19.% of the board members for the country’s top 500 companies, and a mere 8.5% of the highest-paid positions in Canada’s top 100 companies. But nearly 85% of surveyed Canadian women are interested in leading a business. One problem is, many fear they aren’t natural leaders, and they don’t know where to begin. We’re here to help Candian women bridge the gap.
Business experts will all tell you that natural-born leaders are a myth. The fact is, anyone can become a business leader as long as they commit to learning how. One way to learn is by reading up on effective leadership techniques that can be easily implemented in any workplace, and following the example of other fearless female leaders. In and of itself, the act of reading has been shown to improve emotional intelligence, organization and communication — all characteristics that make up a good leader.
There is no shortage of books available on the subject of leadership and it can be difficult to narrow down which ones are right for you. To save you valuable time, here are the top leadership books, including the best business leadership books, that can help maximize your leadership style, improve business, shatter the glass ceiling, and enhance your personal and professional life.
Best leadership books 2020
1. Clearer, Closer, Better: How Successful People See the World by Emily Balcetis (February 2020)
When it comes to success, perception is key. In this psychology book on leadership, award-winning social psychologist Emily Balcetis provides insight on four visual tactics she discovered through studying vision science, cognitive research, and motivational psychology. Clearer, Closer, Better claims to help expand your mind, so that you can see boundless possibilities.
2. More Myself: A Journey by Alicia Keys (March 2020)
This book is filled with sage wisdom from female powerhouse, Alicia Keys. In her intimate book, the award-winning musician, actor, producer, activist and entrepreneur reveals how she became the fearless performer and leader that she is.
3. No Time For Spectators: The Lessons That Mattered Most From West Point To The West Wing by Martin Dempsey (May 2020)
After spending more than four decades in the American military and serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey certainly knows a thing or two about leadership. Military leadership book No Time For Spectators: The Lessons That Mattered Most From West Point To The West Wing, is one of the latest leadership books to spark action and productivity based on mutual expectations.
What books do great leaders read
1. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue – Recommended by Oprah Winfrey
This Oprah-approved novel is a top leadership book, and is inspirational for anyone — whether you’re a student, corporate executive or prospective entrepreneur. This fictional book tells the story of a Cameroonian couple’s journey to New York City to explore the business world in the wake of a financial crisis.
2. Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks – Recommended by Bill Gates
This is a top leadership book, recommended by Bill Gates, who said it is one of the best business books he has ever read. New Yorker contributor John Brooks tells 12 stories from Wall Street that provide insight into the dramatic and unpredictable inner workings of the financial industry.
3. Becoming by Michelle Obama – Recommended by Barack Obama
Obama may be biased, but he’s not wrong for recommending his wife’s memoir, Becoming, as one of his favourite books. This #1 New York Times Bestseller follows the fascinating life story of Michelle Obama, from the south side of Chicago all the way to the White House and beyond. She has established herself as a role model and strong leader to women all around the world.
Best leadership books for new leaders
Listeners of Ryan Hawk’s Learning Leader Show podcast can now expand their knowledge even further by reading his new book Welcome to Management. This book is a guide for newly promoted managers to help them become effective in their elevated roles. With case studies, interviews and personal anecdotes from Hawk himself, Welcome to Management just might be one of the best leadership development books out there right now.
2. Great Leaders Have No Rules: Contrarian Leadership Principles to Transform Your Team and Business by Kevin Kruse
According to Kevin Kruse, almost everything we’ve been taught about leadership is wrong. So throw out the leadership rules and grab Great Leaders Have No Rules instead. Kevin Kruse will teach you “how to be both the boss everyone wants to work for and the high achiever every CEO wants to hire.”
3. The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo
After getting the initial promotion, panic sets in and it’s hard to know where to start. The Making of a Manager is one of the best leadership books for new leaders because it’s packed with useful tips (and illustrations!) to become the manager you wish you had.
Best leadership books on accountability
1. Accountability Leadership: How Great Leaders Build a High Performance Culture of Accountability and Responsibility by Di Worrall
Accountability Leadership is one of the best leadership books on accountability, winning best leadership book at the 2015 Indie Excellence Awards. Di Worrall introduces an accountability plan that will become the “secret weapon” to your company’s success.
2. Leadership Without Excuses: How to Create Accountability and High-Performace (Instead of Just Talking About It) by Jeff Grimshaw and Gregg Baron
The key to good leadership? Stop making excuses. Leadership Without Excuses outlines three types of workers: “saints,” “sinners,” and “save-ables” to explain how to bring the best out in each and demand accountability.
3. Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture by Greg Bustin
Author Greg Bustin surveyed more than 3,200 renowned executives and in the process, uncovered the Seven Pillars of Accountability that are essential for effective leadership. This is one of the best business leadership books for leaders who want advice on how to take action that will grow their business.
Best leadership books from a psychology point of view
1. The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
This top business psychology book explores how both mundane and life-altering choices shape our lives and our careers. Iyengar reveals her fascinating research into the art of decision making, while encouraging readers to consider why they’ve made the choices they have.
2. The New Psychology of Leadership: Identity, Influence and Power by S. Alexander Haslam, Stephen D. Reicher and Michael J. Platow
The New Psychology of Leadership is an award-winning psychology leadership book that argues leaders need to foster a group identity amongst their team in order to succeed. This new psychological approach to leadership is the product of two decades of research showing that “we” is the most important word a leader can use.
3. The Inner Winner: Performance Psychology Tactics That Give You An Unfair Advantage by Simon Hazeldine
The Inner Winner lays out proven performance psychology tactics leaders can use to enhance business. Simon Hazeldine writes about how you can get focused, gain confidence and cope with stress using self-hypnosis. Hazeldine demonstrates that the most powerful performance enhancer of all is your mind.
Best book on leadership from a management perspective
1. Leading the Unleadable: How to Manage Mavericks, Cynics, Divas, and Other Difficult People by Alan Willett
For every great manager, there is at least one difficult employee. Leadership management book Leading the Unleadable teaches managers how to turn difficult employees into productive team players.
2. Management Mess to Leadership Success: 30 Challenges to Become the Leader You Would Want to Follow by Scott Jeffrey Miller
Scott Jeffrey Miller has gained a lot of wisdom from his imperfect journey through management and shares them in Management Mess to Leadership Success. This leadership management book provides stellar management tips and is packed with humour on every page.
In this top management leadership book, Gallup presents findings from his revolutionary study of more than 80,000 managers. Read it to find out what separates the greatest managers from all the rest.
Best leadership books of the past decade
1. Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace by John C. Maxwell
In Leadershift, author John C. Maxwell teaches readers how to adapt their leadership style to embrace inevitable change and maintain resilience in the face of uncertainty.
2. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
In what is arguably the best leadership book for women, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg examines why women are slower to achieve leadership status than men. She also explains what women can do to fearlessly go after that position.
3. Extreme Ownership: How Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
In this military leadership book, two of the most highly-decorated US Navy SEAL officers share leadership tips they learned out on the battlefield that can easily apply to your office job.
Best leadership books of all time
1. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Whether you’re in business or not, you’ve most likely heard of this classic read. There’s a reason Good to Great is widely regarded as one of the best leadership books of all time. Over the course of the novel, Collins explores and explains how some companies shift from being good to great, while others fail to do so. According to the author, a critical factor in building a successful company, is a humble yet driven leader.
2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
This book was first published in 1989, and it remains one of the most famous leadership books of all time. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey outlines a step-by-step guide for living a holistic life, led by principles that ensure resilience, wisdom, and power. Covey believes his principle-centred method is the key to success, both personally and professionally.
3. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker
The Effective Executive is a timeless book on leadership and management, and is strongly recommended as an essential leadership book to read for all working professionals. In this book, Drucker explores the role of the executive, and outlines five practices that are critical to business effectiveness.
Bestselling leadership books
1. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
Simon Sinek is well-known for his books on leadership. In this famous work, Sinek answers questions that many of us often wonder, including: why are some people and organizations more influential, innovative and profitable than others? By studying some of the greatest leaders throughout history, Sinek unveils that they all think, act, and communicate in the same fashion. Above all, Sinek contends that every great leader started by simply asking “Why?”
2. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown
This No. 1 New York Times bestselling leadership book delves into the true meaning of being a leader. Based on her research with 150 global C-suite executives, author Brené Brown explains that being a daring leader is not about status or power; rather, it’s about recognizing the potential in other people and their ideas.
3. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger
In this memoir, Robert Iger, the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, reveals the many lessons he has learned over the course of his career. This popular leadership book shows how Iger reinvented one of the most iconic companies in the world, at a time when the beloved Disney brand was starting to deteriorate. Iger shares his experiences at the helm of 200,000 employees, and how taking big risks, leading with fairness and inspiring others were all critical to his success.
Best leadership books for entrepreneurs
1. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman
Entrepreneurship is no easy endeavour. In this book on entrepreneurial leadership, Gino Wickman outlines common problems faced by entrepreneurs, and how you can avoid them. Traction shares a practical framework for running your business with more enjoyment, focus, growth and success.
2. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks
Facing your fears is one of the first steps to achieving success as an entrepreneur. New York Times bestselling author and psychologist, Gay Hendricks, explains how to overcome false fears and beliefs that block entrepeneurs from ultimately reaching their goals.
3. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
Thinking about starting a business? If so, this is a must-read. History demonstrates that most startups fail, but Eric Ries claims that these failures are preventable. In The Lean Startup, Ries outlines classic problems that startups face, as well as practical solutions. Through The Lean Startup approach, new businesses will experience increased innovation, human creativity and capital efficiency.
Best leadership books for sales managers
1. Sell or be Sold: How to Get Your Way in Business and in Life by Grant Cardone
This bestselling leadership book on sales explains that everything in life can and should be treated as a sale. Sales expert and author Grant Cardone contends that knowing the principles of selling will benefit you in all aspects of your life. He shares how to master the art of selling in any industry, and how to accept rejection and turn around negative circumstances.
2. Sales Management. Simplified: The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team by Mike Weinberg
Sales Management, Simplified is a top sales leadership book that tells it like it is. Expert sales consultant Mike Weinberg calls out the many problems that plague sales managers, providing useful insight on how these issues can be transformed into success. The book explains that sales problems typically start with how the sales team is led, making this a must-read for sales managers and executives.
3. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink
Bestselling author Daniel Pink explores the power of selling in our everyday lives. To Sell Is Human explains that regardless of industry, everyone spends their days trying to sell ideas to others; in some way, we are all in sales. This top sales leadership book offers a fresh perspective on the art of selling, accompanied by useful tips for doing it efficiently and effectively.
You can start your journey to becoming a better leader today — all you have to do is hit the books. By reading some of the best business leadership books, you will be better equipped to tackle daily dilemmas and larger challenges — particularly as a female leader — both at work and at home. One of the key messages reinforced in many of these top leadership books is to start somewhere — and a good book is always a good place to start.
About the Author:
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