15 Best Leadership Books for Optimal Growth

Best Leadership booksWhen you think of leaders, who do you immediately think of?

Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, and Martin Luther King, Jr. may come to mind, as these individuals have all been inspirational, trustworthy, and engaging.

Effective leaders are not born. They encompass a specific set of skills that help them to lead and guide others toward a shared objective. These skills can be learned, and great leaders can be developed.

Whether you are a seasoned leader or someone wishing to step into a more senior role in your industry, check out our carefully selected list of leadership books to get you moving in the right direction effectively and efficiently.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Leadership Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or others adopt positive leadership practices and help organizations thrive.

2 Books on Leadership and Management

A problem that has plagued organizations for decades is the leaders’ “inability to be perceived as being worthy of their employees’ trust” (Jamali & Caldewell, 2023, p. 13).

The following leadership books will guide you in gaining your team members’ trust and help you succeed in the areas of leadership and management.

1. You Are the Team: 6 Simple Ways Teammates Can Go From Good to Great – Michael Rogers

You Are The Team

Are you tired of team drama, politics, and distractions?

This Amazon bestseller will empower your team to rise to its fullest potential, as extraordinary individuals make up remarkable teams.

Through compelling narratives, relatable instances, reflective exercises, and practical tasks, this book prompts a shift in your team’s perspective and provides them with the resources to enhance not only their individual performance but also that of the entire team.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t – Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last

Based on the conversation with a US Marine Corps General, this book is based on the theory that good leaders eat last, thus ensuring that the service members they care for are taken care of first.

Leaders Eat Last presents real-life accounts of military, business, and government leaders who create a “circle of safety” that protects the team from outside challenges.

Trust and cooperation are what will make a team, and Sinek provides insight on how to accomplish this feat.

Find the book on Amazon.

As we mentioned, leaders can be developed and are not necessarily born leaders.

Abdulla et al. (2023) assert that leadership development should be a social practice and one that allows for reflexivity, effective feedback, peer support, and cooperative learning. Perhaps begin a book study with other future leaders to gain the most benefit from the literature listed here.

1. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts – Brené Brown

Dare to lead

Brené Brown is known for her no-BS style of communication and decades of experience and research on emotions and leadership.

As a New York Times bestseller, her Dare to Lead leadership book does not disappoint. Four important skill sets critical for daring leadership are explained, as is embedding a culture of courage.

This book, like others listed in the article, is also available as an audiobook.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Opening Your Presence: Presenting the You You Want Others to See – Greta Muller

Opening Your Presence

Presenting yourself is an important element of being a leader.

Whether delivering critical company-wide training or just introducing a new hire to the CEO, you want to display yourself in the best light.

Number one on Forbes’s (2023) 8 Leadership Books You Should Read in 2024 list, this book is geared toward the nonprofessional speaker who aims to make a good impression.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action – Simon Sinek

Start with Why

Another gem by Sinek, this book has been the basis for a riveting TEDx talk and has been an attention grabber on TikTok.

Start With Why poses and answers the pertinent questions on what makes successful businesses thrive. What makes some individuals and organizations more profitable, influential, and innovative than others? What will improve loyalty from both employees and customers?

And when a company experiences success, why are only some organizations able to replicate their achievements? Sinek also speaks about the golden circle and what makes leaders different from others.

Find the book on Amazon.

Start with why - how great leaders inspire action - Simon Sinek

4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – Patrick Lencioni

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

If you’re looking for a very different type of leadership book, this may be the one for you.

With its parable style, this storytelling book speaks about the five disorders teams may experience and how to address them practically.

The program encompassed within this book has been described as concise and easy to follow. Exercises to bring about positive change are also included in this book.

Find the book on Amazon.

Download 3 Free Positive Leadership Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or others to adopt positive leadership practices to help individuals, teams and organizations to thrive.

3 Best Business Books for Leaders

Dunne et al.’s (2016) research concerning small business owners’ leadership style resulted in findings that indicate that leadership style affects small firm innovation. With this being said, it will be critical for business leaders to develop a keen sense of self-awareness. These books may help.

1. The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter – Michael Watkins

The First 90 Days

First on the list of Harvard Business Review’s Top 40 Essential Business Books to Read (n.d.) is an excellent resource for successful transitions titled The First 90 Days.

Transitions may include beginning a new position, experiencing a promotion, or settling into a position as CEO. This time period is crucial, and your actions could determine your success or failure.

This trusted guide includes actionable strategies to meet and exceed the expectations of your role.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success – William Thorndike

The Outsiders

A highly acclaimed book with outstanding reviews, this quick read gathers experience from eight successful, and sometimes unconventional, CEOs.

Through these stories, which have been described as both eye opening and counterintuitive, the reader will learn traits and methods for exceptional performance.

This is a must-read for those wanting to excel at capital allocation.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. Your Next Five Moves: Master the Art of Business Strategy – Patrick Bet-David

Your Next Five Moves

Another Amazon bestseller, this book helps entrepreneurs plan what’s next.

After reading this book, you should have clarity, strategies, growth tactics, skills, and insight into successful leadership. Bet-David gathers and conveys these strategies from his own principles and revelations on his journey to becoming a successful CEO.

Each chapter contains real-life examples that can be applied in a multitude of areas, including personal life.

Find the book on Amazon.

Short Leadership Books for Busy Managers

In the fast-paced realm of modern management, where time is a precious commodity, the need for concise-yet-impactful leadership books becomes paramount.

A leader must not only be able to think systematically and be able to plan, but also have the knowledge to carry out these actions (Persada & Nabella, 2023). This is why constant self-development is critical. Do you feel that your time is limited? Peruse one of the following short leadership books and choose an audiobook format for your commute.

1. Stick Together: A Simple Lesson to Build a Stronger Team – Jon Gordon and Kate Leavell

Stick Together

This quick and easy read highlights the values of successful teams.

Gordon and Leavell take you on the fictitious journey of a high school basketball coach motivating his team. He tasked his team with several missions, and gave them sticks with words etched on them to complete these missions. These exercises lead them to excel and bond as a team.

This book would be ideal for organizations, classrooms, sports teams, or any group wanting to bolster their team’s success. This resource is currently rated 4.7 stars on Amazon and has only 128 pages.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow – Tom Rath and Barrie Conchie

Strengths based leadership

In current trends, especially from a positive psychology standpoint, a strengths-based approach has been found to be beneficial for many industries. Leadership is no exception, as strengths-based leadership increases employees’ task performance (Wang et al., 2023).

Strengths Based Leadership provides insight into some of the most successful and recent organizational leaders, including the president of Ritz-Carlton and the founder of Teach for America.

This book provides actionable steps for fostering success by leaning on the strengths of your team members.

Find the book on Amazon.

A Unique Organizational Leadership Book

Leadership is one of the most widely researched constructs in the management field (Schneider, 2002). As such, it is imperative to remain current.

Organizational leadership requires specific attributes and competencies necessary for overseeing a company. To learn more about this type of leadership, we’ve selected the following book to explain more.

Transformational Leadership: A Blueprint for Real Organizational Change – Randy Dobbs

Transformational Leadership

This insightful book includes personal stories of both success and failure and is currently rated 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

The author discusses how to improve the internal structure of an organization by using the transformational leadership style of empowering others to accomplish positive change. This practical guide offers sensible suggestions and tangible examples.

These strategies hold relevance for organizations from major corporations to small businesses, as well as nonprofits, universities, hospitals, and other institutions.

Find the book on Amazon.

Personal growth, a fundamental element of positive psychological functions, involves the degree to which individuals actualize their potential and expand as individuals (Lopez et al., 2020).

Successful leaders perpetually strive for personal growth. Below are a few leadership books to guide you in your self-improvement.

1. Be Useful: Seven Tools for Life – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Be Useful

One of the Best Life Advice Books of 2023 according to Barnes & Noble (n.d.) was written by a world-renowned bodybuilder, actor, and governor. This book uncovers Schwarzenegger’s insights on living a meaningful life and demonstrates how to employ these tools to construct a fulfilling future.

From an early age, Schwarzenegger developed mental tools to escape the constraints of poverty and narrow-mindedness in his rural Austrian hometown.

These strategies are shared in this worthwhile book to help you become a leader who reaches their potential.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones – James Clear

Atomic Habits

This book made the list of top Amazon sellers for January 2024 and is a must-read for anyone with a desire to improve their life or overcome adversity.

The author shares his personal experience of overcoming challenges presented after an accident in high school.

He employed several strategies to improve the quality of his daily routine, thus improving the quality of his life. Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for success, whether that involves weight loss or climbing to the top of the corporate ladder.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy – Jon Gordon

Energy Bus

Saving the best for last, The Energy Bus is a personal favorite of mine and could be included under nearly all of the categories mentioned above.

This relatively quick read presents 10 positive secrets that can be applied to both professional and personal lives.

The book chronicles a few weeks in the life of George, a man whose job and home life are in jeopardy. He is forced to take the bus to work, where he is met with an engaging group of characters who help him turn his life around using the 10 rules.

This book is perfect for leaders and anyone wishing to turn their negative energy into positive success. Check out the video to learn more about Gordon’s vision.

Find the book on Amazon.

The power of positive leadership - Business Leadership Today TV

PositivePsychology.com’s Helpful Leadership Resources

If you’re interested in other leadership styles, please refer to Servant Leadership: How to Transform Your Leadership Style or What Is the Coaching Leadership Style? We also share a huge selection of leadership activities in the linked article.

As a leader, it is vital to have a clear mission statement to share with your team. Our worksheet Writing Your Mission Statement will assist you in brainstorming a personal mission statement that encompasses your passion, values, strengths, skills, and the direction you want to go.

Confidence is something everyone struggles with now and then; however, it is a critical characteristic of a successful leader. To build confidence, particularly in a situation that may require you to be resilient to criticism and change, complete our worksheet entitled Visualize Success. Try this worksheet to prepare for a stressful presentation or tense meeting.

If you want to empower others to motivate their teams and cultivate an environment full of resilience and positivity, you should consider this collection of 17 validated positive leadership exercises. Each of these carefully designed activities is rooted in the science and research of positive psychology. This toolkit will help you increase job satisfaction while improving productivity within your organization.

A Take-Home Message

Through the lenses of famed authors, each leadership book provides a unique perspective on leadership development, empowering individuals to cultivate their skills, inspire teams, and ultimately propel themselves toward leadership excellence.

We have curated this selection of insightful leadership books as a guiding compass for you to achieve optimum growth in leadership.

We are confident these books will establish and refine your leadership skills, and your supervisor will be impressed, and perhaps motivated, upon noticing one of these books subtly visible in your bag or resting on your desk.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Leadership Exercises for free.

  • 8 Leadership books you should read in 2024. (2023, December 22). Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelwells/2023/12/22/8-leadership-books-you-should-read-in-2024/
  • Abdulla, A., Fenech, R., Kinsella, K., Hiasat, L., Chakravarti, S., White, T., & Rajan, P. B. (2023). Leadership development in academia in the UAE: Creating a community of learning. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 45(1), 96–112.
  • Dunne, T. C., Aaron, J. R., McDowell, W. C., Urban, D. J., & Geho, P. R. (2016). The impact of leadership on small business innovativeness. Journal of Business Research, 69(11), 4876–4881.
  • Jamali, D. R., & Caldwell, C. (2023). Leadership commitment and the failure of trust–what companies must do to thrive. Business and Management Research, 12(3), 13–20.
  • Lopez, J., Perez-Rojo, G., Noriega, C., Carretero, I., Velasco, C., Martinez-Huertas, J. A., López-Frutos, P., & Galarraga, L. (2020). Psychological well-being among older adults during the COVID-19 outbreak: A comparative study of the young–old and the old–old adults. International Psychogeriatrics, 32(11), 1365–1370.
  • Persada, I. N., & Nabella, S. D. (2023). The influence of leadership, motivation and incentives on the performance of personnel of the operations section of Polda Kepri. International Journal of Accounting, Management, Economics and Social Sciences, 1(4), 403–416.
  • Schneider, M. (2002). A stakeholder model of organizational leadership. Organization Science, 13(2), 209–220.
  • The Best Books of 2023. (n.d.). Barnes & Noble. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/h/best-books-of-2023
  • Top 40 essential business books to read. (n.d.). Harvard Business Review. https://store.hbr.org/best-business-books/
  • Wang, J., van Woerkom, M., Breevaart, K., Bakker, A. B., & Xu, S. (2023). Strengths-based leadership and employee work engagement: A multi-source study. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 142.

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