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25 Books That Will Teach The Most Powerful Leadership Lessons

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

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                                                    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

                                                    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                                                    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

                                                    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

                                                    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

                                                    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

                                                    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

                                                    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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                                                    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

                                                    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

                                                    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

                                                    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

                                                    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

                                                    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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                                                    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

                                                    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

                                                    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

                                                    The Neurology of Ownership

                                                    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

                                                    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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                                                    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

                                                    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

                                                    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

                                                    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

                                                    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

                                                    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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                                                    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

                                                    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

                                                    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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                                                    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

                                                    Reference

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