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15 Inspiring Books Every Leader Should Not Miss

15 Inspiring Books Every Leader Should Not Miss

The ideas and stories we read as leaders shape us. To improve your leadership, take the time to read these important books. You will learn from the giants of history and pick up new skills that will help you to grow further.

1. “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

Good To Great Book by Jim Collins

    Jim Collins has earned a reputation as one of the best business authors and researchers of his generation. I have read several of his books and recommend starting with this title. For leaders in corporate America, this book is outstanding. In their chapter on leadership, the authors demolish the claim that egocentric CEOs are required for companies to achieve greatness.

    For an introduction to the ideas, read Good To Great by Jim Collins, an article that provides an overview of the book’s key ideas.

    Buy “Good to Great” on Amazon.

    2. “Getting Things Done” by David Allen

    Getting Things Done by David Allen

      Self-management and organization are essential for leaders. While some leaders have assistants to aid them, an assistant cannot help if you do not provide direction on what you want.

      David Allen’s classic book on organization provides a comprehensive system to organize your life and stay focused on priorities. After all, if you are distracted with your email inbox, you will never have the capacity to develop your people.

      Buy “Getting Things Done” on Amazon.

      3. “Washington: A Life” by Ron Chernow

      Washington A Life by Ron Chernow

        Leaders study other leaders. Washington himself studied Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. This sweeping 800 page biography ranks as one of the best biographies I have ever read.

        As America’s first president and a central leader during the Revolutionary War, Washington holds a special place in the history of world leadership. Yet, I was most surprised to learn that Washington often avoided taking leadership roles because he was concerned that he would be labelled a dictator or would-be king.

        The book is also excellent in showing how Washington dealt with teams during the war and the presidency.

        Buy “Washington: A Life” on Amazon.

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        4. “Mastery” by Robert Greene

        Mastery by Robert Greene

          Leadership (and power) comes in many forms. In this book, Robert Greene explains how to become a master in a given field. The book covers mastery from a variety of approaches.

          For example, Green strongly encourages aspiring masters to apprentice themselves to masters who can teach them new skills and accelerate their growth. Whether you seek to achieve excellence in art, technology, business or another field, do yourself a favor and read this book.

          Buy “Mastery” on Amazon.

          5. “Developing The Leader Within You” by John C. Maxwell

          Developing The Leader Within You by John C Maxwell

            “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” – John C. Maxwell

            Maxwell has made a name for himself as one of America’s top experts on leadership. I read this book last year when a friend gave it to me. Why should you read this book?

            Maxwell makes the point that leadership ability starts with your character and abilities. One of my favorite observations from the book: that problem solving is the quickest way to gain leadership. The book is also full of thought provoking comments and workbook style sections to help you put the ideas into action.

            Buy “Developing The Leader Within You” on Amazon.

            6. “Churchill: A Life” by Sir Martin Gilbert

            Churchill A Life by Sir Martin Gilbert

              “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill

              This one volume biography of Churchill offers an outstanding introduction to one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. Written by Churchill’s official biographer, this book is a serious read that took me weeks to work through.

              Gilbert works through Churchill’s long career – in the Army, in the House of Commons and his leadership during the World Wars. For leaders seeking inspiration, I recommend studying Churchill for several reasons.

              First, Churchill was a master public speaker and writer: he won the Noble Prize in Literature in 1953. So his works are definitely worth studying.

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              Second, Churchill faced the challenge of leading his country through terrible wars: if you are working through a difficult task, Churchill can inspire you.

              Buy “Churchill: A Life” on Amazon.

              7. “The Effective Executive” by Peter F. Drucker

              The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

                Peter Drucker (1909-2005) was one of the most influential management thinkers in American history. This short book is an excellent companion to “Getting Things Done” referenced above. This book provides clear recommendations to help leaders master their time and make decisions effectively.

                These key skills separate top leaders from those who struggle to make an impact. Mark Horstman, the co-founder of the Manager Tools consulting firm, has read this classic book multiple times.

                Buy “The Effective Executive” on Amazon.

                8. “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath

                Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

                  Published in 2007, this book is a must read for leaders seeking to communicate a message to the world. Whether you are launching a new product, fundraising for a cause or simply making an impact, “Made To Stick” is well worth reading.

                  For example, memorable ideas tend to be unexpected or have some surprising aspect. To learn the other key aspects of why some ideas fail and others succeed, read the book.

                  Buy “Made To Stick” on Amazon.

                  9. “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

                  Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

                    After seeing this book recommended over and over again, I finally read this book in December 2014. And it is no wonder this book comes so highly recommended.

                    Frankl shares his experience of enduring concentration camps during the Second World War and what he learned from the experience. For leaders who are struggling through a time of great suffering, Frankl’s book may be exactly what you need to gain a new perspective.

                    Buy “Man’s Search for Meaning” on Amazon.

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                    10. “The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World” by Niall Ferguson

                    The Ascent of Money

                      Leaders need to know how the world of money works. For those seeking the big picture perspective, Ferguson’s book is one of the best books I have read on economic history. He explains the long relationship between risk and money.

                      In addition, he also looks at the history of bubbles – the Dot Com bubble of 2000 and the housing bubble of the 2000s are only the latest installments in a much longer story. Reading books like this gives leaders the ability to ask better questions and handle money more effectively.

                      Buy “The Ascent of Money” by Amazon.

                      11. “Tribes” by Seth Godin

                      Tribes Book Cover

                        Godin first made his name as a marketing expert and has now moved on to broader questions of leadership and personal development. “Tribes” makes the point that digital tools allow almost anyone to become a leader. Godin shows that resources and tools are no longer the main restriction on leaders.

                        Instead, leaders are only limited by their courage to stand up and organize a tribe around their shared interests. If you are looking for a book with practical ideas that you can read in a few days, “Tribes” is the book for you.

                        Getting started leading a tribe doesn’t have to be difficult because we are living in project world. You don’t need outside funding to start a project or a tribe, you simply need ideas and some digital tools.

                        Buy “Tribes” on Amazon.

                        12. “The Success Principles: How To Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be” by Jack Canfield

                        The Success Principles

                          Jack Canfield’s books and training programs have changed the lives of people around the world. I started by listening to this book on audio from Audible.com a few months ago. However, I found the book so valuable that I was happy to go on and buy the 10th anniversary edition in book form.

                          The principles in the book – such as “Take 100% responsibility for your life” – are absolutely essential for leaders to absorb and practice. The book combines both foundation principles (e.g. on goal setting, visualization etc) and tactical recommendations on networking and advice to help you achieve your financial goals.

                          Buy “The Success Principles” from Amazon.

                          13. “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” by Walter Isaacson

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                          The Innovators Book Cover

                            As leaders, we regularly make use of digital technology. Yet, do you ever wonder where all our technological marvels came from? In this sweeping book of history, Isaacson introduces the reader to the many innovators that made the digital age possible.

                            For leaders, the greatest lesson from this book is how often teams and cooperation made a difference. Very few technologies of note were solely created and promoted by a single individual – that means we can all do to improve our team work skills.

                            Buy “The Innovators” on Amazon.

                            14. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni

                            The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

                              What comes to mind when you think of teams? Do you think of a group of people coming together to achieve a challenging program? Or, do you think of a group that struggles to get real work done?

                              When you lead people, especially if you are a leader of leaders, mastering the art of team work matters. Lencioni explains the factors that prevents teams from operating at a high level, such as a fear of results and a lack of trust.

                              If you struggle with most business books, you will probably enjoy Lencioni’s style. He shares his principles through stories that are engaging and entertaining to read.

                              Buy “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” from Amazon.

                              15. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

                              How To Win Friends and Influence People

                                This classic book appears on many lists of top business books for a good reason. It is an excellent introduction to the people skills leaders need. Modern readers may find some of the language and examples in the book out of date, but do not let that stop you from reading.

                                Carnegie’s book offers great tips to help you relate to other people (especially helpful if you are in sales or management). After all, making that connection with other people is a key leadership quality.

                                Buy “How To Win Friends and Influence People” on Amazon.

                                Featured photo credit: Untitled/ Joe St.Pierre via flickr.com

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                                Bruce Harpham

                                Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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                                Last Updated on January 13, 2020

                                50 Motivational Quotes for Work to Inspire Success

                                50 Motivational Quotes for Work to Inspire Success

                                Let’s face it – no matter how excited you are about a new project or priority in your life, there will always be days when your motivation lags. Days when – despite all the progress you’ve made in the past – it just sounds easier to sit on the couch playing video games than to buckle down and crank out the work needed to meet your goals.

                                In order to be successful, you must be able to motivate yourself past these humps. Whenever you feel your drive and determination lagging, turn to these motivational quotes for work to provide the extra spark of passion needed to keep you on track.

                                Quotes about Goal Setting

                                Whether you’re still in the planning phases of your business or whether you’re plotting a plan of attack to bring about your long-range vision, setting good goals is a critical part of succeeding in business.

                                Check out these quotes for extra inspiration on how to turn your dreams into reality:

                                quote-Benjamin-E.-Mays-the-tragedy-in-life-doesnt-lie-in-106113

                                  “The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.”– Benjamin Mays


                                  “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.”–Mark Victor Hansen


                                  “Give yourself an even greater challenge than the one you are trying to master and you will develop the powers necessary to overcome the original difficulty.”–William J. Bennett – The Book of Virtues


                                  “The entrepreneur is essentially a visualizer and actualizer… He can visualize something, and when he visualizes it he sees exactly how to make it happen.”–Robert L. Schwartz

                                  Quotes about Achieving Excellence in Work

                                  Once you’ve got your goals together, you’ll need to put in 110% of your effort in order to transform these visions into reality. To increase your motivation to work at a consistently high level, take a look at the following words of wisdom:

                                  “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”–Aristotle


                                  “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.”–Charles R. Swindoll

                                  Desire is the key to motivation

                                    “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”–Mario Andretti


                                    “The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.”–Pearl Buck


                                    “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”–Vince Lombardi

                                    Quotes about Determination and Persistence

                                    Since every business or other endeavor is bound to hit some rough patches, it’s often a person’s level of determination and patience that brings about either success or failure. These positive quotes give you an extra boost of encouragement:

                                    “Enter every activity without giving mental recognition to the possibility of defeat. Concentrate on your strengths, instead of your weaknesses… on your powers, instead of your problems.”–Paul J. Meyer


                                    “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”–Hal Borland


                                    “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”–Calvin Coolidge

                                    quote-Thomas-Fuller-an-invincible-determination-can-accomplish-almost-anything-92190

                                      “An invincible determination can accomplish almost anything and in this lies the great distinction between great men and little men.”–Thomas Fuller

                                      Quotes about Leadership

                                      Whether you use it to engage your employees, to encourage teamwork or motivate others to follow your unique way of thinking, leadership is crucial. Take your leadership cues from these renowned leaders’ famous sayings:

                                      “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” –Warren G. Bennis


                                      “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”–John Kenneth Galbraith

                                      Leadership is not magnetic personality

                                        “Leadership is not magnetic personality — that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’ — that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”–Peter F. Drucker


                                        “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already.”–John Buchan


                                        “High sentiments always win in the end. The leaders who offer blood, toil, tears and sweat always get more out of their followers than those who offer safety and a good time. When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic.”–George Orwell

                                        Quotes for Success

                                        Think of success as a holistic process – one which results from the combination of goal-setting, excellence, patience, determination and leadership you prioritize throughout your career. These highly successful people provide you with an excellent source of motivation:

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                                        “Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.”–Stephen Covey


                                        “Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”–Norman Vincent Peale

                                        Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.

                                          “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”–Winston Churchill


                                          “Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.”–John Maxwell


                                          “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure or you can learn from it, So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because remember that’s where you will find success.”– Thomas J. Watson


                                          “The great successful men of the world have used their imagination.  They think ahead and create their mental picture in all its details, filling in here, adding a little there, altering this a bit and that a bit, but steadily building – steadily building.”–Robert Collier


                                          “It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it.”–Arnold Toynbee

                                          Sports Quotes for Athletes

                                          You don’t need to be a Michael Jordan-caliber athlete to draw inspiration from the following quotes. Even if you’re just a recreational player or someone who’s using sports as a means to get back in shape after long periods of inactivity, the following motivational sports quotes will encourage you:

                                          “My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is a weakness, then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.”–Michael Jordan


                                          “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”–Lance Armstrong

                                          Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths.

                                            “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.”–Arnold Schwarzenegger


                                            “I know what I have to do, and I’m going to do whatever it takes. If I do it, I’ll come out a winner, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else does.”–Florence Griffith Joyner


                                            “Every time you stay out late; every time you sleep in; every time you miss a workout; every time you don’t give 100% – You make it that much easier for me to beat you.”–Unknown


                                            “If you are hurt, whether in mind or body, don’t nurse your bruises. Get up and light-heartedly, courageously, good temperedly get ready for the next encounter. This is the only way to take life – this is also ‘playing’ the game!”–Emily Post


                                            “We must train from the inside out. Using our strengths to attack and nullify any weaknesses. It’s not about denying a weakness may exist but about denying its right to persist.”–Vince McConnell

                                            Quotes to Motivate Learning

                                            Committing yourself to pursuing knowledge in a single area is a tremendous endeavor – one that often seems overwhelming given the depth and breadth of information that’s available today. Keep the following motivational quotes in mind if you’re learning:

                                            “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”–George Washington Carver

                                            quote-William-Arthur-Ward-if-you-can-imagine-it-you-can-36189

                                              “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”–William Arthur Ward


                                              “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”– Aristotle


                                              “Success is not the key to happiness.Happiness is the key to success.If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”–Albert Schweitzer


                                              “Wear your learning, like your watch, in a private pocket: and do not pull it out and strike it, merely to show that you have one.”–Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield


                                              “He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.”–Chinese Proverb


                                              “Study while others are sleeping; work while others are loafing; prepare while others are playing; and dream while others are wishing.”–William Arthur Ward


                                              “Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled ‘This could change your life’.”–Helen Exley


                                              “A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.”–Chinese Proverb

                                              All-Time Favorite Positive Quotes

                                              Finally, whatever your goals are in life, you can’t go wrong by taking the advice of the following famous motivational quotes:

                                              “Change your thoughts and you change your world.”–Norman Vincent Peale


                                              “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinion drowned your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”–Steve Jobs


                                              “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”–Maria Robinson


                                              “Out of clutter, find Simplicity. From discord, find Harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies Opportunity.”–Albert Einstein


                                              “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”–Lyndon Johnson

                                              If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.

                                                “If we did all the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”–Thomas Edison


                                                “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”–Wayne Gretzky


                                                “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”–Winston Churchill


                                                “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson

                                                Final Thoughts

                                                To use these motivational quotes effectively, find the one that speaks to you. Although all of the phrases listed above can be considered “motivational,” only you can decide which one resonates with you most directly.

                                                Next, take the quote you’ve settled on and copy it onto small index cards or other pieces of paper that can be stored around your home and workspace.

                                                If you’re creative, you can create inspiration boards, signs or other decorative displays featuring your favorite motivational quotes – really, though, the most important thing is that your chosen phrase be accessible in a variety of different places. This will make it easy to access and review whenever you feel your motivation slipping away.

                                                More Inspiring Quotes

                                                Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

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