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15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success

15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success
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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 effective leadership.

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 — they are categorized based on the 5 rules of leadership:

  1. Lead Yourself
  2. Understand True Leadership
  3. Communicate and Motivate
  4. Keep Going
  5. Be Real

#1 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.

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    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.

      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

        #2 Understand True 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.

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            Print | eBook | Audiobook

            6. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven R. Covey

              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.

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                  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.

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                    #3 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

                          #4 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.

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                          13. Endurance, by Endurance

                            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

                            #5 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

                                More Great Books to Read

                                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’

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                                Joe Vennare

                                Joe is the co-founder of Fitt.co. He's a fitness professional and a serial entrepreneur.

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                                Last Updated on July 21, 2021

                                The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                                The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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                                No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

                                Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

                                Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

                                A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

                                Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

                                In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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                                From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

                                A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

                                For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

                                This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

                                The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

                                That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

                                Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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                                The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

                                Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

                                But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

                                The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

                                The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

                                A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

                                For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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                                But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

                                If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

                                For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

                                These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

                                For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

                                How to Make a Reminder Works for You

                                Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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                                Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

                                Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

                                My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

                                Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

                                I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

                                More on Building Habits

                                Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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                                Reference

                                [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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