Leaders are readers. At least that is what we have heard. Consider many highly respected leaders— Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Cuban, and virtually every President of the United States, just to name a few. What do these titans of their respective industries have in common? They read. Frequently. Even when these leaders appear to reach the top of their game, they continue to read to become better. There are many great books out there, but I have found the following list to be the best place to start in propelling you forward as a leader. Whether you enjoy consuming books through an audiobook format, or you prefer the tried-and-true flipping through physical pages, these 5 books are sure to take your leadership to the next level.
1. How To Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie
In this classic, you will learn the necessary characteristics to be an effective communicator, thus improving your leadership style. One of my favorite parts of the book describes a letter that President Abraham Lincoln wrote when he was frustrated with a Union Army General, only to leave the letter in his desk, never to be sent. If you have all of the knowledge in the world but cannot communicate and empower your team, it’s all for nothing. This book will help you harness the necessary skills to influence your team and become an effective communicator.
2. The 5 Levels of Leadership – John Maxwell
My perspective of leadership shifted when I read The 5 Levels of Leadership. In the book, Maxwell describes the 5 different levels of leadership, from position to pinnacle. He describes the difference between people following because they “have to” and people following because of who the leader is and who he/she represents. When reaching the pinnacle level, leaders understand that the ultimate level of leadership includes developing other leaders. Leading at the highest level allows no room for comparison to other individuals. Rather, leaders at the pinnacle level understand the importance of developing other leaders without fear that they will be surpassed by their protégé, but in the hope that they will. Leadership is not about you, it’s about legacy. This book will help you understand the perspective of leading at the highest level and position you to leave a legacy instead of a fond memory.
3. Good to Great – Jim Collins
In a world where most businesses fail, what are the common threads amongst the ones that succeed? Jim Collins compiled a great deal of research in this leadership classic, which has taken the business world by storm. In his research, Collins found that great businesses have leaders who understand the balance between ambition and humility. Many CEOs of great businesses are quick to give credit to their team, not to themselves. Think about it— would you want to work for a leader where you did not receive any credit for your work? Great leaders understand that they can do nothing without their team, and that giving credit to the team fosters an environment where people want to produce their best work.
4. Tribes – Seth Godin
Social media has flipped the marketing world on its head over the last decade. In Tribes, Seth Godin describes the importance of leaders and how anyone can step up and lead, whether you’ve previously considered yourself a leader or not. Additionally, he exposes the power of connectivity through the internet and how to communicate to your respective “tribe.” No longer are you limited from reaching people due to geographical location. This book will help you realize the power of “tribes” and that each one of us has something unique to give to the world. We just have to be bold enough to put it out there.
5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
Whether you are a leader in healthcare, politics, a professional organization, or your local PTA, you have one thing in common with every other leader— you interact with people. Stephen Covey shares the importance of relationships and personal development as being key factors in becoming an effective leader. He explains that leaders must lead him/herself as an individual before leading others. This includes developing character values and personal goals. Then, he discusses the important habits of working with others, which include authenticity, empathic listening, and team unity to achieve goals that could not be accomplished independently. This book will impact your personal development while creating at atmosphere of team unity.
If you want to improve your level of leadership, you can’t go wrong with reading. The underlying theme of many of these books is authenticity, so start there. Determine who you are and what strengths you have to contribute to the world. Whether you consider yourself a leader or not, you have something very unique that you can give to the world. So go out there and use your God-given talents. Start by reading.
Bonus Read: What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast – Laura Vanderkam
If you are looking for a quick read, I would strongly suggest reading this book by Laura Vanderkam. Through her research, she shares some common practices that many leaders implement in the morning. Whether you consider yourself a morning person or not, this book will show you the habits many successful people have in common.
Have you read any great leadership books? Which ones have influenced your leadership style? To participate in the conversation, please leave a comment below.