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25 Books That Will Teach The Most Powerful Leadership Lessons

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25 Books That Will Teach The Most Powerful Leadership Lessons

You’ve heard the old saying right?

“All great leaders are readers.”

… well, it’s true. And I’m reminded of it at least once a week, when I interview an inspiring author, entrepreneur, or thought leader on my show. I ask my guests a series of questions about what contributed to their success and ability to become such great leaders. You want to know what nearly every single one of them tells me? They read books. Books are like training weights for the brain. And reading the right ones can provide you with powerful leadership lessons in a very short period of time. In this list, we’re going to go over 25 powerful books on leadership. Ready? Let’s dive in.

1. Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman

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    Primal Leadership

    . Cool title, eh? This is the original book on emotional intelligence, right here. Pick it up and learn classic lessons in dealing with people through empathy and understanding (it’s more powerful than you think.) The depth at which the authors get into the neuroscience of influence and impact is incredibly interesting. And they become especially powerful when you connect these insights to how you lead others.

    2. The Seasons of Life by Jim Rohn

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      Jim Rohn was one of the greagtest speakers and storytellers to have ever lived. Period. His books and teachings on leadership and business focused on the fundamentals of human behavior and how they have an impact on optimal performance, personally and professionally. My favorite thing about Jim Rohn’s work is his ability to take complex ideas and simplify them such that anyone could understand and apply them for immediate results. Read this book for powerful lessons in leadership and a primer on living well.

      3. The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma

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        “A Modern Fable on Real Success in Business and in Life.” The reason why this is such a powerful leadership book is because it gets down to the nitty gritty of some of those easily overlooked qualities of leadership: modesty, consideration, empathy. When those you lead begin to see you actually living the values preached by the organization or team you’re leading — that’s when you can lead without a title. Because that is when you can be confident that you’ve gained more than mere compliance; but respect. Get the book here.

        4. Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips

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          Lincoln On Leadership is more than just a list of tips from Honest Abe on how to lead (though you couldn’t go wrong with that!) This is a powerful book about how to take some of Lincoln’s most potent leadership qualities and apply them to the modern times we live in today. Read this book for classic lessons of leadership, and how to apply in the technologically-driven world of now.

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          5. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

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            Behold, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership — follow them and people will follow you. This is a powerful set of principles written by one of the foremost minds behind modern leadership thinking, John C. Maxwell. All 21 “laws” are very easy to understand, and the stories that support them make each of them actionable for us to apply within our own lives and individual leadership roles.

            6. Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath

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              Written by the people who brought you StrengthsFinder 2.0, the good folks at Gallup have also been focusing on the topic of leadership. And after studying over 1 million teams, and conducting more than 20,000 in-depth interviews with leaders, they’ve come out on the other end with more than just a few big ideas on leadership. Read this book to learn about great teams, and great leaders, and why people follow them.

              7. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry

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                Complete with a testimonial by The Dalai Lama himself, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 provides you with a modern handbook of research-driven rules on connecting with others and building relationships to help you lead. The book also comes with an emotional intelligence test to help you determine where you should focus to become a more effective and well-esteemed leader.

                8. Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marquet

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                  Written by an Navy officer David Marquet, Turn The Ship Around! is a compelling and powerful leadership read that’s sure to get you thinking about leadership in a whole new way. “To give you an idea of what you’ll find in this thought-provoking book, here’s a quote from the author himself: “Leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers.” Pick this book up for true stories and first hand accounts of what it takes to turn followers into leaders. The book comes complete with a workbook filled with tips, tools, and tactics to help you take action towards your leadership goals.

                  9. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

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                    Why is it that some teams pull together, and others don’t? You’ll learn the difference in this superbly written book with stories peppered throughout. In Leaders Eat Last, author Simon Sinek asks us to imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work, feels trusted and valued during the day, then returns home feeling fulfilled… this is not some idealistic dream, Sinek says, but something that is actually happening in various organizations across the United States. Buy the book here, get the audio summary, or text summary so you can get the key take-aways in under 20 minutes.

                    10. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

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                      The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of the most popular personal development books ever published. Essential reading for every leader. The subtitle says it all: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. It’s true. Both in life and in business. The author, Dr. Stephen Covey, provides research-driven advice gleaned from decades of data on what it takes to become as effective as possible across every dimension of life. If I were you, I’d grab a copy of the original book and the audiobook, or if you’re short on time — the 20-minute book summary by FlashNotes.

                      11. On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis

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                        Essential lessons in leadership by a foremost expert in the field, Warren Bennis (also known as “The Dean of Leadership Gurus” according to Forbes), this book provides insights on why leaders are not born, but rather, that they are made. On Becoming a Leader provides us with research on the various elements and qualities that define leadership, with real-life examples to support them. Actionable insights on how to become a better letter are also outlined.

                        12. Good to Great by Jim Collins

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                          Why is it that some leaders can take companies into the multi-million (or billion!) dollar level and beyond — and others struggle to lead the customer service department? Find out in Good To Great as author Jim Collins guides you through the best leadership practices deployed by the best businesses, companies, and organizations around the world.

                          13. Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen R. Covey

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                            Another classic by Dr. Covey on the values and virtues of true leadership. In Principle Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey gives examples of some of the greatest leaders from around the world and what they did to become so influential. In the book, he covers how these leaders would bridge gaps amongst people who might otherwise hate each other. And he shows us how to do it through meaningful communication strategies and gentle persuasion This book is best consumed via audiobook (I’ve probably listened to it over 100 times, and because it’s only about an hour long, you may end up doing the same thing too.) But if you prefer books, you can always go that route too.

                            14. Drive by Daniel H. Pink

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                              This book is packed with some of the most powerful leadership lessons you’ll ever learn. Author Daniel Pink debunks some of the biggest myths about what really motivates us at work; immediately putting Drive on every serious leader’s reading list. Drive describes the characteristics of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation — and how far too many organizations rely on extrinsic motivators, even though these are often counterproductive. Instead, Pink explains how we can best motivate ourselves and others by understanding how to utilize intrinsic motivators. Bottom line? You can’t lead anyone unless you know what moves and inspires them, and Drive is a cornerstone book on how to figure that out.

                              15. Leadership Without Easy Answers by Ronald Heifetz

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                                Making decisions is no easy task when the buck stops at your desk. If you’re the type of leader that needs to make hard decisions, then author Ronald Heifetz has the strategies to help you make them as effectively as possible. In this book, he draws on a dozen years of research from leadership professions of various degree, including: managers, officers, politicians, non-profit leaders, business leaders, and even teachers. He all this data and translates it into clear, concrete steps for anyone who needs to take the lead in — regardless of industry or title.

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                                16. Leadership from the Inside Out by Kevin Cashman

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                                  This book teaches long-term leadership principles you’ll carry with you for life. Leadership from the Inside Out is really a personal growth disguised as a business and leadership book. Packed with research, case studies, tools and strategies — this book is an excellent guide for current and aspiring leaders at every level.

                                  17. The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

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                                    Written by the most prolific management and leadership writer of his time (and perhaps, of all time), Peter R. Drucker, this is the definitive guide to getting the right things done that every leader needs to read. Get the book here. Or pickup the book summary here.

                                    18. Give and Take by Adam Grant

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                                      Most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return. Adam Grant takes a deep dive into why helping others drives our success in life and business. Packed with profound and powerful lessons in how strategic giving and contribution helps us get ahead — both personally and professionally. Pick up the summary to get the actionable insights or purchase the full book.

                                      19. A Path Appears by Nicholas D. Kristof

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                                        This is an incredibly inspiring read that will make you think hard about making a difference in the world — regardless of where you stand today. A Path Appears is a road map for anyone that wants to find and lead a life that matters. It will help you become a more effective global citizen, in your own special way. This is a book about giving and contribution — an all too forgotten leadership lesson that might be the most powerful one of them all.

                                        10. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller

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                                          The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results? Focus on your ONE thing. If you can cultivate the habit of doing this, you’ve already harnessed one of the most powerful leadership lessons out there. If you haven’t, then go get this book. Or read the book notes for the key take-aways.

                                          21. The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr

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                                            The authors of The Power of Full Engagement say that the real key to high performance isn’t about managing your time — it’s about managing your energy.  Because let’s face it — no matter how powerful your leadership title says you are, you’re powerless without your health and wellbeing. When you break it down to the basics — you find that this book provides us with a much needed crash course on a much needed topic: well-being.

                                            22. The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun

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                                              The author of The Promise of a Pencil, Adam Braun, was on what he thought was the straight-path to financial prosperity beginning from the age of sixteen, when he began working summers at hedge funds. He’d planned on embarking on a successful Wall Street career… that is, until he traveled to India and ran into a child on the streets begging for the things that most of us take for granted. When Adam asked the boy what he wanted most in the world, he replied, “A pencil.” And this is where Braun began his journey from corporate consultant to global philanthropist. This book has some unconventional — but powerful — leadership lessons to help you lead a successful and significant life.

                                              23. Zero to One by Peter Thiel, Blake Masters

                                              zero-to-one-cover

                                                The most powerful leadership lessons in this book are about building the future without being too concerned about what people think, or feeling like you’ve got to mould inspiring ideas into another boring business. Zero To One is a powerful book about leading the future — both in technology and otherwise. And because of its focus on building a brighter future for humanity by way of innovation — Zero To One also makes for excellent reading for leaders looking for better answers in the world of technology and business. Pick it up here. Or go for the book summary here.

                                                24. Start With Why by Simon Sinek

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                                                  Simon Sinek’s first book on leadership was an instant hit, because it gave easy-to-understand examples of how great leaders like MLK and the Wright Brothers defied the odds and inspired people to take action… and getting people to act, let alone inspiring them in the process, is one of the most difficult, but powerful leadership lessons anyone can learn. This book teaches you how… and why.

                                                  25. How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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                                                    Who could forget this classic? How To Win Friends & Influence People will teach you some of the powerful leadership lessons in dealing with people elegantly — even when dealing with the worst of personalities. Here are three ways to enjoy Carnegie’s timeless classic: get the original bookget the audiobook, or get the book summary.

                                                    Which book will you read first?

                                                    Now that you’ve got this list of books — and the powerful leadership lessons contained within them – there’s only one question left… Which one do you read first? Should you go out and get all of them immediately? Should you read them all at once? So many options. So little time. Ultimately, it’s totally your decision what you do with this list and how you apply it to your life and career. But if I may, here’s what I would suggest you consider as you get started:

                                                    • Subscribe to a book summary site, like FlashNotes Book Summaries to get the key-takeaways from the books on this list.
                                                    • If you’d prefer to read an entire book, I would highly suggest that you read just ONE book at a time. Sometimes, when we see something new and exciting, we have tendency to want to do/learn/read it all at once… and as we all know, this is nearly impossible to do without stressing ourselves out. So, choose a book. And then commit to reading it from start to finish.
                                                    • If you’re in a rush, try Audio books, or Audible Book Summaries.
                                                    • Finally, if you’re in a super rush, checkout some YouTube video book summaries, like this one.

                                                    Featured photo credit: race via shutterstock.com

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                                                    Dean Bokhari

                                                    Author, Entrepreneur, Podcast & TV Host

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                                                    Last Updated on October 21, 2021

                                                    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

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                                                    How to Create Your Own Ritual to Conquer Time Wasters and Laziness

                                                    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

                                                    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

                                                    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

                                                    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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                                                    Program Your Own Algorithms

                                                    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

                                                    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

                                                    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

                                                    How to Form a Ritual

                                                    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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                                                    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

                                                    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
                                                    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
                                                    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
                                                    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

                                                    Ways to Use a Ritual

                                                    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

                                                    1. Waking Up

                                                    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

                                                    2. Web Usage

                                                    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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                                                    3. Reading

                                                    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

                                                    4. Friendliness

                                                    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

                                                    5. Working

                                                    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

                                                    6. Going to the gym

                                                    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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                                                    7. Exercise

                                                    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

                                                    8. Sleeping

                                                    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

                                                    8. Weekly Reviews

                                                    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

                                                    Final Thoughts

                                                    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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                                                    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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