“Leadership is influence.” — John Maxwell
This is a list of my favorite and noteworthy best leadership books.
When I think of leadership, I think of influence, change, connection, conviction, inspired action, empowerment, decisive action, forward-thinking, and vision.
The leadership books below help provide leadership skills, including mindsets, methodologies, and methods. I test many of the leadership books below while leading large scale programs, projects, and initiatives and distributed teams around the world.
I put the bulk of the list in categories so you can explore relevant leadership books and you can easily compare against your existing leadership books library.
The Top 10 Best Leadership Books
Here is a list of the top 10 best leadership books that will help you develop your leadership mindset, skillset, and toolset, as well as develop your leadership philosophy. Some of the key skills they will help you build include vision, execution, influence, emotional intelligence (QE), and more.
#1. Emotional Capitalists
by Martyn Newman
It’s one thing to know the basics of emotional intelligence. It’s another to apply it from a leadership perspective.
The best leaders have strong Emotional Intelligence. They get themselves and they get the people around them.
By the time I read this book, emotional intelligence (or EQ), was already popular idea around Microsoft as a component of personal and professional development.
This book made emotional intelligence real for me.
Martyn did a great job throughout the book of turning the idea of emotional intelligence into pragmatic development exercises that anybody can work on to grow their emotional intelligence understanding and skills.
#2. Flawless Execution
#3. Leadership Gold
by John Maxwell
I was already a Maxwell fan but this was like having his greatest hits all in one place.
It’s 26 of his best lessons he learned over more than 40+ years of leadership study and practice.
The best thing about this book is it feels like Maxwell is a mentor, taking you through his best lessons in a very personable way.
#4. Leadership on the Line
by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky
#5. Principle-Centered Leadership
by Stephen Covey
Covey defines 8 Characteristics of principle-centered leadership:
- Continue to learn
- Service oriented
- Radiate positive energy
- Believe in other people
- Lead balanced lives
- See life as an adventure
I related to each of the principles and practiced them over the years at Microsoft. This is yet another example of how the essence of great leadership is timeless, and this is one of the best evergreen books ever written.
#6. Start with Why
#7. The 5 Levels of Leadership
by John Maxwell
- Position – People follow because they have to.
- Permission – People follow because they want to.
- Production – People follow because of what you have done for the organization.
- People Development – People follow because of what you have done for them personally.
- Pinnacle – People follow because of who you are and what you represent.
It’s now how I would lay out the levels, but I get the framework. At the highest level, I see leaders that know how to scale the work of others, live their principles, and inspire people through creative vision. I would expect any leader to master self-leadership, then model the way for others. I also expect leaders to focus on strengths and always bring out the best in each individual, so they bring out the best in the team.
#8. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
by John Maxwell