I’m not ashamed to admit that most of my role models are actually authors of personal and professional development books. I knew early on I would be a life-long learner. My multi-passionate personality coupled with my desire to always learn something new has served me greatly in my business. I truly believe the key to being a successful leader is understanding the importance of consistent and life-long learning and being able to extract principles and concepts to apply to your life and business. Great leaders are armed with a library of books waiting to be devoured and ready to apply the content and principles to their daily lives. Knowing I have a wealth of knowledge available at my fingertips at any given moment is so incredibly empowering.
While this is certainly not a comprehensive list, it provides a great starting point addressing areas of leadership that will make the biggest impact in your life today. I’ve narrowed my growing list down to the 13 books that cover the skills and lessons every successful leader embodies. Most, if not all, are highly recommended, popular and frequently referenced books for quite obvious reasons that their titles happen to give away. The authors of these books wrote them in a way that speaks to leaders regardless where you’re at in your personal development journey. If you’re transitioning into a leadership role or have been in one for an extended period of time, these books have proven applicable many times throughout my life, many of them receiving ‘bible status’ for how often I reference them in my daily life.
I welcome you to explore my list and add your own personal favorites in the comments below!
1. From Good to Great – Jim Collins
What makes a company more successful than their competitors and what key concepts can be applied to your business today to achieve that level of success? Collins presents the details of a 5-year study he conducted of companies once operating below average to achieving consistent levels of success. He breaks down concepts surrounding leadership, strategic management, and culture to help you make the leap from mediocrity to greatness by applying these key concepts to your life and business.
2. The ONE Thing – Gary Keller
Our day-to-day is riddled with overwhelming to-do lists that seem never-ending. We’re multi-tasking three different goals at one time and feel like we’re not making any progress. If this is you, this book will absolutely change your life. Keller does an amazing job at breaking down the importance of focusing on the smaller goals, one goal at a time. By reducing our attention to one area it eliminates the overwhelm allowing us to achieve great progress towards our big-picture vision and goals.
3. Influence – Bert Cialdini
This highly recommended book teaches you the core principles to master the art of persuasion in your life and business. These communication hacks are highly ethical and non-manipulative and are guaranteed to help you develop better relationships with anyone you encounter. It’s like that quote: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower. Cialdini breaks down the seven core principles paired with examples and how they can be applied to relationships, business, and your personal life. The seven principles are reciprocation, commitment, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. I found it interesting to learn more about the psychological compliance methods salespeople, marketers and car salesmen use.
4. 21 irrefutable laws of leadership – John Maxwell
Each chapter is dedicated to discussing one law of leadership and how we can apply it to our lives and business today. Maxwell writes in a way that speaks to leaders regardless where they’re at in their personal development journey. This book creates a foundation which each chapter building it stronger than the last. There are so many amazing things to say about this book and Maxwell is one of my all-time favorite authors. I really want to leave this recommendation a mystery and not list out the 21 laws so you’re intrigued to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. I will say the best way to devour this golden nugget is breaking each chapter up into weekly readings, and applying each law to each week and building from there. I’ve read this a few times throughout my life and no matter what stage of leadership I was in the core principles were still entirely applicable.
5. 7 habits of highly effective people – Stephen Covey
Stephen dives deep into the habits of the most highly effective people breaking down the principals in ways for you to align and apply them to your life, family, and business today. Not only does he talk about the habits but he describes how to master them. Coven does an amazing job at helping leaders understand the transition from being dependent to independent to interdependent or as the book labels them: independence, mutual dependence, and sharpening the saw. My biggest takeaway was a weekly exercise breaking our tasks into categories labeled urgent-important, urgent-not important, not urgent important, not urgent not important. This simple exercise helps you to plan things out before taking action.
6. Daring Greatly – Brene Brown
If I had a nickel for everytime someone recommended Brene’s books, I would have a library filled with all of her work. Another amazing read from an amazing author. This book dives deep into the research conducted by Brown about the power of vulnerability where she encourages us to embrace our imperfections to take the risks that expose us emotionally to achieve something great. By daring to be vulnerable we cultivate the courage to face our biggest fears and achieve our biggest dreams. We develop a bigger sense of self and the confidence to realize anything is possible. Each chapter breaks down the fears and limiting beliefs we hold that keep us from taking the leap and how to reframe our thinking to dare greatly.
7. Leadership and Self-Deception – the Arbinger Institute
This book was recommended to me quite a few times before I took the leap and it’s something I now pass along to everyone looking to further develop themselves. This book touches all the key elements of a successful leader from teamwork, trust, communication to stress. It’s so easy to build up walls around us and keep our focus on ourselves as we work to develop our own skills to be the best. This book is a great way to take a step back and understand the true potential of great leaders and it starts from stepping outside the box and helping others. By working with others and coming together for the collective good, we strengthen our own skills as well as the skills of those around us.
8. Finding Ultra – Rich Roll
An amazing read for anyone who has a low and felt like there was no way back up. Roll writes about the lessons learned from his own once successful life to how he ended up rock bottom destroying his career, relationships, and health. It wasn’t until the eve of his 40th birthday that he rediscovered his passions and rebuilt his life from scratch to become one of the “World’s Fittest Athletes”. Even if you’re not dedicated to fitness, his journey, lessons, and actions can easily be taken and applied to your current situation to achieve your desired level of success.
9. Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
It all starts with your state of mind. Much of what holds people back from achieving their goals and becoming successful is their mindset. They allow their resistances and limiting beliefs to creep in and it blurs their big-picture vision. Hill introduces a concept, that when followed, will bring you to the success you so desperately desire. If you’ve heard of Law of Attraction but never truly understand the process, Hill breaks it down from start to finish riddled with examples to increase your understanding. When I first read it, I found the book to be a bit odd, but once I read it again with an open mind and began applying the information, I noticed my life begin to transform. This book is one of my absolute favorites and I highly recommend to those determined to make their dreams a reality.
10. StrengthsFinder 2.0 – Tom Rath
We’ve always been taught to identify our strengths and weaknesses and work hard to transform our weaknesses into strengths. Rath takes a different approach. Instead, he recommends focusing on areas you’re naturally good at and working to improve them. He’s not saying to completely abandon your weaknesses but instead finding someone whose strength is your weakness and partnering with them to barter skill sets. Rath breaks down the types of people you meet in an organization identifying them as believers, achievers, futurists and so on. It was most interesting to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the 10+ he identified and understand which one I identify with the most.
11. The 10X Rule – Grant Cardone
We all have big-picture vision and goals for our lives but what sets us apart from one another is the degree of action our goals fall under. Cardone speaks about the four degrees of action, no action, reverse action, average action, and massive action. He breaks down how we can start taking massive action to operate at 10 X levels and achieve the success we so desperately desire. The 10 X rule is simply taking your goal and multiplying the effort and time you think it will take by 10. This produces the amount of time and effort it will actually take.
12. Emotional Intelligence – Daniel Goleman
Emotional intelligence is a key trait required for any leader to be successful in business. The challenge is many are unsure how exactly to develop that skill. Goleman breaks this down into digestible lessons filled with examples to easily understand the context in which they should be applied. This book is one of my favorite reads because it introduces you to the emotions and the importance of them as well as explaining how you can develop and improve yours to achieve success.
13. Start With Why – Simon Sinek
Admittedly, when I first read this book it didn’t click for me, but it was during a time when I lacked direction and felt lost in my business. It wasn’t until I read it a second time around that everything clicked and I found myself pig-earring almost the entire book to refer back to. It discusses the importance of understanding and using our
What are your favorite books on leadership development? Drop a comment below, I’d love to hear!
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