Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on October 16, 2018

15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success

15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success

Reading is an essential life skill. It’s how we record our history and share stories. Sure, there are countless books jam-packed from cover to cover with valuable facts. But there are also limitless volumes containing invaluable insights on the human experience.

Generations of people have scribed their experiences and struggles, their emotions and confessions onto blank pages, thereby transforming them into rich resources. Given this truth, it’s disheartening to report that global literacy rates are in decline.[1] Individuals young and old all around the world are reading less, less absorbedly.

According to author John Coleman, this lack of literature extends into the business world and all the way up the corporate ladder.[2] In his experience, “business people seem to be reading less.” Which is bad news considering the fact that “broad reading habits are often a defining characteristic of our greatest leaders.”

Perhaps it’s because reading has been shown to improve communication,[3] emotional intelligence,[4] organizational effectiveness, and to reduce stress.[5] All of which are critical requirements for an effective leader.

Now that you’ve been sufficiently convinced of the importance of reading, you’re probably wondering what you should be reading. You might also be thinking that you don’t have the time. Well, the truth is that you do have the time:

“Reading must become as natural as eating and breathing to you.”

You don’t have to read 52 books in a year, but you do have to make time for more reading. And when you do, this list of the 15 best leadership books to read will inform and inspire you to become a great leader.

Lead Yourself

Before you can lead someone else, a group of people, or a company, you must be able to lead yourself. That means discipline, self-actualization, sense of purpose, and humility.

1. Meditations

by Marcus Aurelius

    Although Aurelius was writing for himself, the surviving text is a road map to living a better life. By removing the excess, Aurelius shows us all how to rise above distractions to maintain our principles. Rooted in Stoic philosophy, Meditations is practical advice for controlling your thoughts, emotions, and actions to remove stress from your life.

    Print | eBook

    2. Man’s Search for Meaning

    by Viktor Frankel

      This book recounts Viktor Frankel’s experience in Auschwitz, the Nazi prison camp, during the Holocaust. Through all the pain and suffering Frankel was able to maintain perspective and conclude that there “must be meaning in suffering.” He reminds us that the meaning of life is to define that meaning for ourselves through action.

      Advertising

      Print | eBook | Audiobook

      3. The Alchemist

      by Paulo Coelho

        Life is a journey. Each one of us should be trying to follow our own personal legend (that is, what you have always wanted to accomplish). The tale of Santiago, a shepherd boy, reveals what happens when we pursue our own legend: “the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

        Print | eBook | Audiobook

        Defining Leadership

        After building your foundation from which to lead, it’s important to understand exactly what leadership is and how it’s applied. It’s also helpful to study other successful leaders and businesses.

        4. The Truth About Leadership

        by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

          There are some things that will always play a role in effective leadership. Trust, credibility, and ethics are among those things. Kouzes and Posner reveal 30 years of research that support these and other core principles.

          Print | eBook | Audiobook

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

          by Jim Collins

            Some companies succeed, but most fail. Jim Collins evaluated thousands of articles and interview transcripts to figure out why exactly that is. Then he packaged it all into this book to show you what traits you’ll need to build a great company.

            Print | eBook | Audiobook

            6. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

            by Steven R. Covey

            Advertising

              Seven Habits is a timeless lesson in leadership and success. By changing your mindset to embrace an alternative perspective, Covey walks you through the self-mastery Paradigm Shift. This process is broken down into Independence, Interdependence, and Continual Improvement, resulting in meaningful and consistent growth.

              Print | eBook | Audiobook

              7. Delivering Happiness

              by Tony Hsieh

                As CEO of Zappo, Tony Hsieh built a massively successful business by doing what everyone else talks about: putting the customer first and hiring the right people. Serving customers and company culture were the main focus. As a result employees and customers were happy and satisfied. Hsieh was able to dismantle traditional corporate leadership and deliver happiness and loads of profit along the way

                Print | eBook

                8. The Innovator’s Dilemma

                by Clayton Christensen

                  Here Harvard professor and businessman Clayton Christensen lays out the path to “disruptive innovation.” This, as described by Christensen, requires rejecting the needs of the customer right now in favor of adopting new methods and technologies that will meet their needs in the future. Early adopters and innovators get ahead; all of the others fall behind.

                  Print

                  9. Tribes

                  by Seth Godin

                    Start by reading Tribes and then continue on reading everything Godin has written. From his blog to his books and everything in between, Godin is sharing a winning formula for stepping outside of the status quo to do meaningful work. It’s this kind of work that will inspire others to follow, help you get noticed, and leave a legacy long after you’re gone.

                    Print | eBook | Audiobook

                    Advertising

                    Communicate and Motivate

                    To lead you must inspire others to follow your example or orders. It helps if you’re able to attract, engage, and encourage employees, business partners, and potential clients to get on board with your plan or proposal.

                    10. Drive

                    by Daniel H. Pink

                      The ability to motivate is central to leadership. That’s what makes Pink’s book so valuable. Packed with the secrets of motivation, Pink suggests we move away from rewards and punishment, opting for meaningful work, mastery, and autonomy instead.

                      Print | eBook | Audiobook

                      11. How to Win Friends and Influence People

                      by Dale Carnegie

                        Everyone wants to feel important. In Win Friends Carnegie shows you how to use that in your favor to make people like you and win people over. It’s a book about how to communicate and interact with people in a meaningful way. It all comes down to showing interest in the people you interact with and the work that they are doing. If you make that connection you will have won a friend.

                        Print | eBook | Audiobook

                        12. Team of Rivals

                        by Doris Kearns Goodwin

                          If Abe Lincoln can unite his cabinet and the country around abolishing slavery amidst war, you can probably reconcile conflicting personalities in your company. Meshing people of divergent ideologies into a team or group is an admirable leadership trait. In Team of Rivals Kearns Goodwin recounts the story of how Lincoln surrounded himself with the best people, despite their differences. He was humble and unafraid to be challenged: two traits that will serve every leader.

                          Print | eBook | Audiobook

                          Keep Going

                          Sometimes things don’t go as planned. If and when that happens, you’ll have to pick yourself up and start all over again. Perseverance and resilience are mandatory.

                          13. Endurance

                          by Endurance

                          Advertising

                            In 1914, explorer Edward Shackleton undertook an expedition to the South Pole. Although the mission was a failure, the resulting story of survival in the ice-bound Antarctic seas serves as a guide post for leaders confronted with adversity.

                            Print | eBook | Audiobook

                            Be Real

                            No one can fake leadership. And, if they can, it won’t last long. Acknowledging fear and vulnerability are far more valuable leadership skills than being cold or shut-off.

                            14. Daring Greatly

                            by Brené Brown

                              Being vulnerable doesn’t have to be a weakness. Fear and shame shouldn’t prevent us from daring to do big things. Instead, Brown tells us that it’s most important to show up; to try and to fail. Because coming up short is better than never having tried at all.

                              Print | eBook | Audiobook

                              15. The War of Art

                              by Steve Pressfield

                                Anything you create is going to require one heck of a battle: that’s the war of art. Every single person in the world who has written a book, published an article, started a business, or made “art” has been scared out of their mind. Procrastination, fear, and self-doubt strike everyone. The only way to beat them is to make stuff and share it with the world.

                                Print | eBook | Audiobook

                                Featured photo credit: Quino Al via unsplash.com

                                Reference

                                [1] Sustainable Development Goals: Data for the Sustainable Development Goals
                                [2] Harvard Business Review: For Those Who Want to Lead, Read
                                [3] Adv Child Dev Behav: Does reading make you smarter? Literacy and the development of verbal intelligence.
                                [4] Harvard Business review: What Makes a Leader?
                                [5] Telegraph: Reading ‘can help reduce stress’

                                More by this author

                                15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success Google App Launcher on Mac? Get the Beta Now Public Transit Goes Green; Really Green Mapping The History Of Global Protests Nike’s New High-Tech, Surf-Inspired Sweatshirt

                                Trending in Productivity

                                1 11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits 2 How Your Attitude Determines Your Success 3 How to Ask for Help When You Need It Most 4 How Much Do You Need to Give Up to Start Over? 5 Is It Really Better to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone?

                                Read Next

                                Advertising
                                Advertising
                                Advertising

                                Last Updated on March 21, 2019

                                11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                                11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                                Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

                                You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

                                But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

                                To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

                                It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

                                “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

                                The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

                                In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

                                Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

                                1. Start Small

                                The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

                                Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

                                Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

                                Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

                                Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

                                Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

                                It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

                                Do less today to do more in a year.

                                2. Stay Small

                                There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

                                Advertising

                                But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

                                If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

                                When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

                                I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

                                Why?

                                Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

                                The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

                                Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

                                3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

                                No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

                                There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

                                What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

                                Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

                                This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

                                This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

                                4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

                                When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

                                There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

                                Peter Drucker said,

                                “What you track is what you do.”

                                So track it to do it — it really helps.

                                But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

                                5. Measure Once, Do Twice

                                Peter Drucker also said,

                                “What you measure is what you improve.”

                                So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

                                For reading, it’s 20 pages.
                                For writing, it’s 500 words.
                                For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
                                For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

                                Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

                                6. All Days Make a Difference

                                Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

                                Will two? They won’t.

                                Will three? They won’t.

                                Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

                                What happened? Which one made you fit?

                                The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

                                No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

                                7. They Are Never Fully Automated

                                Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

                                But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

                                What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

                                It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

                                Advertising

                                The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

                                It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

                                It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

                                8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

                                Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

                                Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

                                When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

                                The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

                                Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

                                9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

                                The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

                                Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

                                You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

                                But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

                                So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

                                If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

                                This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

                                The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

                                Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

                                10. Punish Yourself

                                Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

                                Advertising

                                I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

                                It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

                                You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

                                No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

                                The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

                                But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

                                11. Reward Yourself

                                When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

                                Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

                                The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

                                After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

                                If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

                                Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

                                If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

                                In the End, It Matters

                                What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

                                When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

                                And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

                                “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

                                Keep going.

                                Advertising

                                More Resources to Help You Build Habits

                                Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

                                Reference

                                [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
                                [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
                                [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
                                [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

                                Read Next