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If you find yourself held back at work, this reading list of the best leadership books will set you free. They will teach you what it really takes to be an inspiring and effective leader. These top leadership books will show you surprising ways to dramatically improve your odds of being a successful at leading others in the workplace.
Those of us who are looking to improve our leadership abilities through books find ourselves caught in a cycle of frustration. We keep asking that elusive question: “What is the best leadership book that will finally help me?”
But most of the management books people recommend to us have almost no impact on our lives. After reading them, we still find ourselves stuck in the same place. With nothing to show for our efforts.
Table of Contents
- Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (Incerto)
- Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America
- Outliers: The Story of Success
- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (10th Anniversary Edition)
- How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life
- The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
- Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die
- Thinking, Fast and Slow
- Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
- The One Sentence Persuasion Course – 27 Words to Make the World Do Your Bidding
- How to Win Friends & Influence People
- Trump: The Art of the Deal
- Win Your Case: How to Present, Persuade, and Prevail–Every Place, Every Time
- Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential
- Best Leadership Book On Body Language For Managers
- What Every Body Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People
Leadership Books You Are Better Off Giving To Your Competitors
Many books that claim to improve your leadership skills don’t work. These authors describe a version of success that was mostly achieved through luck. But they ascribe it to talent and ability of the famous founders and CEOs of successful companies they talk about. Then they write a book on what they have imagined drove their success. And the rest of us fall for it.
Avoid leadership books based on the lives and methods of famous CEOs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Also, books about the founders of companies like Google and Facebook. Instead, gift them to your competitors. Or people who are not nice to you.
And if you are wondering why, the first few leadership books listed here will answer this for you. But first, here are some bonus tips. Stay away from anything written by Simon Sinek. Or any leadership book that touts the “habits of successful people.”
Top Books On Business Leadership, Management And Entrepreneurship You Should Read
If you are seriously asking the question: “How can I be a better leader?” Then, set yourself free with this reading list that captures the most effective and straight-forward leadership lessons you will find.
- Initially they will make you pause. They will make you say, “Really? I doubt that would work.”
- They won’t be based on someone’s story of success. The main leadership lessons, if applied, will be predictable of success at the onset. No backward fitting narratives of someone’s lucky run.
- They may not give you answers but will teach you how to ask the right questions. A real education comes more from being able to question things the right way than from knowing answers to random things.
- They will soon produce noticeable results for you. Once you understand and implement the basic concepts, you will get immediate results which you will be able to clearly associate back to the book.
Books That Explain Why The Most Widely-Read Leadership Books Are A Waste
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Random House, New York, NY 2004.
“Fooled by Randomness” is one of the most eye-opening books you will read. It is the greatest and most profound leadership book out there. It shows how even intelligent people have fallen for false ideas on what drives success. Taleb shows how humans are probability-blind in most cases. They see patterns and causality where none exist.
The reason why leadership books, based on the abilities of a famous founder or CEO, fail for the rest of us is that it neglects to account for survivorship bias and luck. They don’t talk about the people who had the same skill set but failed to achieve the same enormous success. Luck or chance play a much bigger role in outcomes than differences in leadership skills between people.
By Scott Adams, Portfolio/Penguin, New York, NY 2019.
Our education system is geared more towards learning as much facts and concepts as possible. Few people are taught how to actually think and reason.
“Loserthink” is highly recommended for managers in the workplace and those looking to take on leadership roles. If we are willing to take stock of our own shortcomings in how we reason, we can start the process of breaking free. Only when our own internal thinking improves can we help others with their reasoning. You can read more from a book review on “Loserthink” here.
By Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY 2008.
“Outliers” shows, through the examples of Bill Gates, Canadian professional ice hockey players and the Beatles, what factors helped them find success. These are conveniently left out by other writers. But they play the biggest role in their eventual success. And again, much of that is luck.
Best Leadership Books To Increase Your Odds Of Becoming a Successful Leader
Once you realize that extreme success comes mostly through luck, you can do things to position yourself to take advantage of any fortune when it comes your way. The books in this section will show you what to do and how those things will help you become a better leader.
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (10th Anniversary Edition)
By John C. Maxwell, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN 2007.
Effective leadership invariably involves the ability to do several things well. A good leader cannot be made on just one expectational skill. You need to be good at 3-5 leadership abilities.
Now you don’t have to be in the top 99% of these skills but you must get to at least 80% proficiency. If you choose your 3-5 areas well, the combination of them will make you a formidable leader.
One of the best-selling leadership books of all time, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership,” will give you plenty of areas where you can improve as leader.
By Scott Adams, Penguin, New York, NY 2013.
Our world has become too focused on developing highly specialized individuals. Being an expert at one thing will leave you vulnerable in our current time of disruptive innovations and technology. Instead, become moderately good at as many things as possible. Become a generalist is what this books is telling us.
Adams’ book, “How To Fail At Almost Everything,” will teach you how to develop a powerful talent stack. A group of talents that when combined together will make you stand out as a leader. And if you are an entrepreneur, this book is a must-read.
Top Leadership Books For Making Sure Your Vision Gets Adopted
By Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown and Co., New York, NY 2000.
“The Tipping Point” will show you how to identify key people who you can collaborate with to spread your views and ideas. According to Gladwell, ideas spread like viruses.
They also benefit if they are more memorable and sticky. Certain psychological cues added to your proposals will draw people to them. These cues make people remember your ideas better and assign more importance to them.
By Chip Heath and Dan Heath, Random, New York, NY 2006.
“Made to Stick” also has great advice on what you can do to get better traction for your ideas. It is a supplement to Gladwell’s “Tipping Point,” and builds on similar concepts.
The Heath brothers provide an acronym “SUCCES,” to summarize their guide for getting ideas to stick:
- Simple – no complicated explanations should be needed.
- Unexpected – make sure some part of the idea gets attention through a surprise.
- Concrete – should be easy to grasp and remember later.
- Credible – develop trust for your idea by highlighting others who agree with it.
- Emotional – people decide to accept or reject an idea based on how they feel about it. Elicit the right emotion with your idea by how you present it and what words you use to explain it. Tip: The book, “Pre-Suasion,” listed below will help you with this point.
- Stories – use a story to narrate or explain part of the idea.
Best Psychology-Based Leadership Books
By Daniel Kahneman, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, NY 2011.
Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 and this book shows you why. Here, he summarizes his research that he did with his colleague, Amos Tversky. “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” will help you understand how people really think and make decisions.
Kahneman’s book will teach you most of the important cognitive biases humans have. This book is essentially the science behind how most of us think and make choices. As a leader, you have to know this if you want to better understand and develop your direct reports.
By Dan Ariely, Revised and Expanded Edition, New York, NY 2009.
“Predictably Irrational” is a book that will teach you two key concepts. One, people make decisions not on a rational basis but through quirks and other social cues. Then two, and given that, you need to tweak your approach to getting people to do things. You cater to their unconscious and irrational decision-making process rather than arguing or reasoning with them.
Best Books On Leadership To Develop Visionary Influencing And Persuasion Abilities
The best way to measure leadership is how much influence the leader wields. As a leader or entrepreneur, the ability to influence and persuade all sorts of people is critical. These leadership books on influence will show you easy ways to master this skill based on modern social psychology research.
Being influential, will increase the chances of you finding success. If you have not been exposed to the books on influence below, they will maximize your leadership, influencing and persuasion skills at work 10-fold.
By Robert B. Cialdini, Revised Edition, Collins Business Essentials, New York, NY 2007.
Robert Cialdini is widely known as the godfather of influence. And justifiably so. The reason his book should be on the top of every leader’s is that it is the basis for understanding how influence and persuasion works.
There are six basic principles of influence that explain almost all decision-making in humans. They are mental shortcuts that people use to make a choice. Cialdini explains them in an entertaining way in “Influence,” and shows you how you can use it to persuade people to do what you ask.
By Blair Warren, eBook 2012.
Another great leadership book to learn how to lead people through time-tested persuasion techniques. At first you may dismiss these as too simple to be effective. But these are some of the most powerful ways for leaders to influence people.
And the best part is that Warren made the original (shorter version) free to download and you can find it by clicking here.
If you go back up to the first few paragraphs in this article, you will notice some of Blair’s techniques there. If you feel they worked on you, imagine how effective they will be if you add them to your repertoire of leadership abilities.
By Dale Carnegie, 80th Anniversary Ed., Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 2009.
Dale Carnegie’s book is the quintessential favorite and a must-read if you want to learn ways to influence people and put it in practice. You will find it on almost anyone’s list of the best leadership books.
If you ask the million dollar question: What books should leaders read? The cover of this book provides the truthful answer — This could be the only book you need to lead you to success.
Best Business Management Books To Develop Your Negotiation Skills
By Donald J. Trump and Tony Schwart, Random House, New York, NY 1987.
Trump’s book will teach you how an entrepreneur needs to think and behave when getting what you want and leading a large organization. Professors in business schools who have never spent a day in real world of entrepreneurship, don’t get this. And cannot, therefore, teach these street-smart leadership skills in negotiation and making deals.
By Gerry Spence, St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY 2005.
Best Christian Leadership Books
By Joel Osteen, FaithWords, New York, NY 2014.
Best Leadership Book On Body Language For Managers
By Joe Navarro and Marvin Karlins, HarperCollins, New York, NY 2008.
Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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