Today’s leaders can stay informed about leadership techniques through easily accessible platforms such as podcasts, smartphone apps, and blogs. While technological advances have made these media formats readily accessible, it is important not to ignore more traditional sources of information, such as books. When leaders feel unsure of their abilities or in need of inspiration as they face especially difficult decisions, opening a classic book on leadership can prove just the right strategy for feeling uplifted and capable of moving forward. Here is a look at some of the best books for leaders to keep on their bookshelves.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
While this book is many centuries old, the wisdom that it holds continues to apply to modern situations. The Art of War contains some of the best political strategy written and focuses on how to deal with situations using the fewest resources possible. Many leaders have turned to this book to learn how to get a leg up on business competition using time-tested strategies.
The No A**hole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert I. Sutton
One of the most important aspects of leadership is creating a corporate culture that fosters growth and excellence among employees. Too often, leaders allow uncivilized behavior and even bullying in the workplace so long as the perpetrators remain top performers. Sutton’s book shows how toxic this sort of negative behavior can be and teaches individuals how to force behavioral changes—or get rid of bullies in the workplace altogether.
Flying without a Net: Turn Fear of Change into Fuel for Success by Thomas J. DeLong
This honest book, written by a professor at Harvard Business School, examines the crippling effects of fear and anxiety in leaders. DeLong provides practical advice for overcoming such fear in the workplace and in one’s personal life. By confronting fears, leaders can empower themselves to become true innovators.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
A positive psychologist, Csikszentmihalyi addresses what many people call “being in the zone” in this book. He argues that getting into this state, in which work flows effortlessly and people pay little attention to time, is the key to real achievement and success. The book looks at how this state is achieved and the ways in which it can prove even more important than virtually any other trait in predicting a person’s ability to succeed.
First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Buckingham and Coffman are two Gallup analysts who caused a veritable revolution in management philosophy when they published this book. The pair argues that the best managers focus on the individual strengths of each employee and find roles for them to put these abilities to use. Doing so allows people to develop the skills they already possess and become true experts. In turn, these employees get a boost to their confidence, work harder, and become a better asset for the company.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Aurelius, one of the greatest military leaders in history, kept a personal journal filled with his thoughts and military advice. Now a bestselling book, his journal teaches leaders how to overcome the common distractions that they face and focus on the important tasks at hand. Meditations is a practical introduction to Stoic philosophy, which helps people control their thoughts and emotions as a means of reducing their daily stress.
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh
A recent book that will likely become a classic among leaders, Delivering Happiness looks at the unique strategy Hsieh took as chief executive officer of Zappos, the online shoe seller. Rather than focusing on traditional corporate values, he made company culture and customer service the primary drivers in the company’s development. As a result, he was able to create an engaged workforce and a large customer following that, in turn, led to incredible profits.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Leadership largely depends on building relationships and earning respect. In this quintessential book for leaders, Carnegie talks about how individuals can get other people to like them. Rather than turning to tricks or empty tips, the work focuses on using meaningful interactions to build strong, lasting relationships. When individuals show genuine interest in other people, a friendship is born.
Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute
One of the most widespread issues in modern leadership is confirmation bias. People tend to frame events and facts to align with what they already believe instead of taking a critical stance. This book helps people become more aware of the ways in which they deceive themselves, and gives practical advice for avoiding this pitfall.
10. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
In this book, Collins looks at a number of case studies to determine what factors play a role in pushing already successful companies toward even greater success. In each of the case studies, he masterfully looks at commonalities that make the situations relevant to virtually any organization. Leaders who feel stalled can learn a lot about jumpstarting further development.