25 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read

Best Leadership Books

Being a leader of your team or your organisation as a whole might seem lucrative; however, it can be equally stressful. Managing a team of people from different personality, experience and background is not that simple as one cannot take a single type of approach to lead them all.

So, how do you bring in a strategy of leadership that works for all?

You need to read!!

Reading is an essential life skill that gives you invaluable insights on the human experience through limitless publications. Book consists of records of history and stories of generations of people describing their experiences, struggles and solutions to countless problems. These rich resources should be utilized by every individual young and old to hone their leadership skills.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” — Harry S Truman

That being said, I have put pen down to paper and published our list of top 25 leadership books of all time that we think can bring the best leadership skills out of you. So, without further ado, here’s our list for your consideration. 😊 

1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

– Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

First published in the year 1990, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is one of those classic leadership books which still continues to be the bestselling books. It has already sold more than 25 million copies till date and has inspired countless people including the presidents, CEOs and many people from various fields across the globe. This book gives a timeless lesson on the seven habits in leadership and success.

Author Stephen R. Covey uses anecdotes in this book to convey his principle-centred approach to solve both personal and professional challenges in one’s life. 

2. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

– John C. Maxwell

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Authored by John C. Maxwell who is a world-renowned leadership expert, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” is book by a top expert who has more than 30 years of leadership experience. This book contains everything that Maxwell has learnt about leadership through a handful of life-changing principles that can change your life.

As the title of the book suggests, there are 21 laws that the author has put as separate chapters in this book. Each of these chapters when read, understood and practised can help you in setting a direction, motivate people and inspire them with the ultimate goal of creating a leader in you that everyone would love to follow.

3. On Becoming a Leader

– Warren Bennis

On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis

The author of this book, Warren Bennis (1925-2014) was a pioneer in the field of leadership studies. Presidents, business executives and likes have used his advice to become successful leaders. “On Becoming a Leader” is based on Warren’s core belief that leaders are not born, they are made. The book consists of qualities that define leadership, people who demonstrate those qualities, and illustrates simple strategies that anyone can use to become a great leader. This classic book has served as a source of great insight for countless readers.

Famously known as the “Dean of Leadership Gurus” by Forbes magazine, Warren Bennis is a well-known and renowned name in modern leadership. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to excel in leadership qualities.

4. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

– Seth Godin

Tribes_We Need You to Lead Us

Through this book, the author Seth Godin tries to convince that everyone has an equal opportunity to start a movement. A movement to bring together a group or tribe of like-minded people and do great things. Tribes will help you to think about possible opportunities to lead your employees, investors, customers, believers or even the readers. Though not easy, this book will make it easier than you think.

Godin has been the best-selling author with more than 15 books in his name. This book from him is for those who don’t want to remain a sheep for ever, but instead have an urge to do new and exciting tasks every day.


5. The Truth About Leadership

– James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner

The Truth About Leadership

This book is a biproduct of thirty years of research of two of the biggest names, (James and Barry) in leadership. Through this book, the authors try to explore the fundamental and long-lasting truths of leadership that have remained constant regardless of context or the circumstances.

Taking experiences and learnings from three generations of leaders across the globe, this book can help the leaders to identify the real and necessary tasks. Those tasks that needs to be carried out to bring in the change required for the good of organisations as well as the community.

6. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

– Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last

“Leaders Eat Last” is the work of famous Simon Sinek, who’s an inspirational speaker having a simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership. In this book, Simon pens down his thought of a great leader as one who should sacrifice their own comfort wherever necessary to benefit those who follow them.

Using the Why at the beginning of the title, Sinek tries to illustrate his ideas in this book through fascinating true stories from military to manufacturing, and from government to investment banking. This book defines the qualities of true leadership and elucidates facts that makes a leader worth following.

7. Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead

– Sheryl Sandberg

Lean In_Women Work and the will to lead

Lean In is the work of Sherly Sandberg who’s the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook. This book has become more of a motivational Bible for women entrepreneurs and focuses on what ladies can do instead on what they are not supposed to do. The author narrates her own experiences of working in some of the world’s biggest corporations and academic researches to come up with practical solutions to the problems that women face in their workplaces.

Through this book, Sandberg tries to tackle the anxieties & preconceptions that are major roadblocks for women trying to reach the top. Readers can learn a lot from this book to make small changes in their life leading to improvements on a more universal scale.

8. Dare to Lead

– Brené Brown

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

In this New York Times bestseller book, Brené Brown tries to demonstrate through simple stories on how one can step up, live bravely and lead mindfully. The author is a research professor who’s known for her work on vulnerability and shame. She explores brave leadership qualities that makes one a courageous leader through her book “Dare to Lead”.

Brené through this book portrays that daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that the readers should bring in their lives. Through an action plan that helps the readers to apply the lessons in the book in one’s life, the author has created an easy and quick guide for all segments of readers.

9. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

– Patrick Lencioni

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team_A Leadership Fable

Through this book, Patrick Lencioni tries to prove that great results are achieved as a result of efforts of a team as a whole, and not just the leader. However, good leaders are required in every team and without which teams can suffer to perform. The detailed analysis of the five dysfunctions (absence of trust, lack of commitment, fear of conflict, avoidance of accountability, inattention to results) in this book helps leaders to avoid failures that his or her team can face as they strive to prosper & grow together.

The book outlines a powerful model with actionable steps that can be used by any leader to overcome common hurdles and build a cohesive and effective team.


10. How to Win Friends & Influence People

– Dale Carneige

How to Win Friends & Influence People

Published first in the year 1936, this classic self-help book from Dale Carneige has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide so far. The author’s advice in communication, career advancement, persuasion and influence are still relevant and important today as it was when the book was first published.

This book contains lots of advice backed by anecdotes of famous historical personalities. The author explains his philosophies using easy to understand techniques that can help one become more popular, persuasive as well as more likeable.

11. Leading Change

– John Kotter

Leading Change by John Kotter

John Kotter’s international best seller “Leading change” describes the eight-step process of managing change within an organisation with positive results. This process has now become the foundation for many leaders and companies around the world.

This book by Kotter is more relevant now than any time in the past. It serves both as a visionary guide as well as a practical toolkit showing how to approach the task of leading a change in any kind of organisation. You can imagine yourself spending a day with the world’s best expert on business leadership by reading this book

12. The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength

– Jennifer Kahnweiler

The Introverted Leader_Building on Your Quiet Strength

Through this book, the author Jennifer Kahnweiler has tried to pen down her experience & learnings that she got after having interviewed more than 100 introverted professionals. This book gives an idea about the specific challenges that these people generally face in the corporate world. There’s also great deal of advice on how they can utilize the specific sets of strengths they have to overcome limitations & become great leaders.

You can find examples of great leaders like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Arianna Huffington who were introverts at some point but now are well established leaders in their respective fields.

13. The Hard Thing About Hard Things

– Ben Horowitz

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

As the name suggests, this book from Ben Horowitz offers various techniques to help the CEOs survive the challenging times and become incredible leaders. The author who’s the cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz is also one of the most respected and experienced entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley. In this book, he takes his own story of founding, buying, running, selling, managing and investing in technology companies to provide practical wisdom and essential advice to manage the toughest problems that business schools usually doesn’t cover.

 Ben uses his trademark humour and straight talks in this book to offer great insights to experienced entrepreneurs as well as those who are aspiring to start their own ventures.

14. How to Be a Positive Leader: Small Actions, Big Impact

– Jane E. Dutton and Gretchen M. Spreitzer

How to Be a Positive Leader

How to Be a Positive Leader” is a book that tells you how to lead people in an organisation that will unlock their greatness. Based on an advanced level research complemented by multiple real-world examples from organisations, this book will explain how you can improve your leadership skills through a positive organisational behaviour.

This work by Jane and Gretchen tries to explore a full range of leadership abilities that will give leaders the courage to make positive differences in their everyday work.


15. No Bullsh*t Leadership

– Chris Hirst

No Bullshit Leadership

Author Chris Hirst is a global CEO and is widely recognized as an innovative and inspirational leader. In this book, he tries to convey the message that anyone can be a great leader, if they have the strong will to become one.

The actionable steps mentioned in this book might not be easy, but if implemented properly, one can achieve practical fail-proof tool to upgrade their leadership skills, build strong respect among the team, and ensure long lasting success for their company.

16. The Innovator’s Dilemma

– Clayton Christensen

The Innovator’s Dilemma

In this book, Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen demonstrates how the most outstanding companies in the world despite of doing everything right can still tend to lose their market leadership. In addition to proving his statement, he also teaches others how to avoid such a situation in this book.

This book is one of the bestselling influential  books on “disruptive technology” and is cited by some of the world’s best-known thought leaders, from Malcolm Gladwell to Steve Jobs. Through this captivating study of industries in multiple categories, the author introduces his ground-breaking theory of disruptive innovation. It changes the way the CEOs and managers across the globe think about innovation.

17. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ

– Daniel Goleman

Emotional Intelligence_Why It Can Matter More than IQ

The study of emotional intelligence has been a subject of intellectual debate for quite some time. Over time, there has been lots of questions regarding why people act a certain way they do emotionally. This book on Emotional Intelligence from Daniel Goleman is based on his research from the areas of psychology and neuroscience. It offers staggering new insights into our “two minds” which are rational and emotional and how they together work towards the success of our relationships, work life and even our physical health.

This book is a must read for anyone who wishes to explore the concepts and influence of Emotional Intelligence in various aspects of one’s life and make superior decisions on a daily basis.

18. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

– Daniel H. Pink

Drive_The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

This masterpiece from Daniel Pink is New York Times bestseller and provides the readers with shattering new ways to think about motivation. He suggests that great leaders should provide their teams with skills & a sense of purpose and then let them loose so that they sink or swim of their own. The conventional methods of inspiring teams with incentives – the carrot-and-stick approach, no longer works.

Through this book, Pink draws his four decades of scientific research on human motivation and reveals the mismatch between what we know scientifically and how business works. Using the elements of autonomy, mastery & purpose in true motivation, the author offers surprising and smart techniques to put them into action and change the way we think and transform our lives.

19. Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done

– Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan

Execution_The Discipline of Getting Things Done

Execution, by Larry and Ram gives sound and practical advice on how to make things happen. The authors Larry Bossidy, the legendary CEO of Honeywell International and Ram Charan, world-renowned business advisor, author and speaker, combine their experiences in this book to explain how instead of strategy or innovation, getting things done is the most important function of a business leader.

A detailed examination of three key processes of execution – people, strategy and operations and how they are linked is shown here. This book is a valuable and practical management guide for anyone who cares about business.


20. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently

– Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman

First Break All the Rules_What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently

This book by Marcus & Curt is one of the best among hundreds of books about improving organisational performance. It is based on an extensive study of more than 80,000 managers and remarkable findings from them that focuses on specific actions that managers can take to make their organisation better today. Entry level managers can use this book to get career and vital performance lessons and also how to apply them in their jobs.

In a world, where efficiently managing people makes the differentiating advantage, First, Break All the Rules is a must-read for anyone who’s in the field of managing people.

21. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

– Simon Sinek

Start with Why_How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

This is another great work from the famous Simon Sinek after his previous book “Leaders Eat Last”. Start with Why, is a global bestseller and Simon’s TED talk based on this book is the third most watched TED video of all time. The author explains why people won’t truly trust a product, service, idea or even a movement unless they understand the WHY behind it. Using a range of real-life examples, Sinek portrays a clear vision of what it takes to truly lead and inspire.

Through a lot of focus on Apple, Walmart, Southwest Airlines, and others; this book gives a lot of insight on why some individuals and companies succeed and last for a very long time, while others don’t.

22. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

– Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee

Primal Leadership_Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

This is a book that established the concept of “emotional intelligence” in the business world and made it a necessary skill for leaders. Across the world, many professionals and mangers have embraced this book supporting the importance of leadership with emotional intelligence. The book and its ideas are currently being routinely used in large organisations, universities, medical schools as well as professional training programs. It clearly highlights the impact and necessity of leadership that is self-aware motivating, empathic and collaborative in a world where things have become economically more volatile and technologically complex.

From the best-selling authors Daniel, Richard and Annie, this best-selling book is a must-read for anyone who is already in a leadership position or aspires to be a leader.

23. Wooden on Leadership

– John Wooden & Steve Jamison

This book contains the knowledge that John Wooden acquired during the 41 years of his coaching life, during which he was named as the Greatest Coach of the 20th Century by ESPN and also voted No.1 Coach of All Time by The Sporting News. He shows you how to develop the confidence, skills and competitive drive to use maximum effort and deliver peak performance when your organisation needs it the most.

This book explains step by step details of how Wooden pursued and achieved his goals by focusing on the 12 lessons in leadership and using his much-admired Pyramid of Success. It focuses on using mental, emotional and physical qualities to build a winning organisation.

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

– Jim Collins

Good to Great_Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't

Good to Great is the result of Jim Collin’s five-year project. For this work, he used a 21-member research team to read and code 6000 articles while also generating 2000 pages of interview transcripts by analysing a total of 28 companies. Here the author tries to compare and understand how some good companies become great while most others fail to make that transition.  

With vast amount of data collected for the project, the findings in this book might surprise many while also upsetting a few. This book can also be considered as a management book that’s full of vital ideas as is often regarded as one of the most important business and leadership books ever written.


25. Delivering Happiness: A path to Profits, Passion and Purpose

– Tony Hsieh

Delivering Happiness_A path to Profits Passion and Purpose

Through this book, Tony Hsieh CEO of Zappos shares the different lessons that he learnt in business as well as life, while taking his company Zappos to more than $1 billion in gross merchandise sales annually. The author reveals all the mistakes that he made at his company over years and teaches you the ways to avoid similar mistakes in your company.

Delivering Happiness also shows how Zappos adopted a very different kind of corporate culture that focused on happiness of all those around you while achieving success of the team and the organisation as a whole. If you want to apply research from the science of happiness to running a business, then this book is a must-read for you.

Let us know which one of these leadership books is your favourite and how has it helped you become a better leader in your office or your personal life. If you think that we have missed out any of the best leadership books that should be included here, please do let us know through the comments below and we would be happy to include it in our list. 🙂 

Merin is an HR professional with an MBA in Human Resource. She likes doing a lot of research and study in the field of Human Resource and can't help but share her knowledge on the same in this platform. She is also a great cook and during her free times she keeps experimenting with new dishes. Know more about Merin by clicking here.
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