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9 Best Books on Leadership and Management for Business Success

By Preethi Jathanna

Senior Writer for HR and Remote Work

The best books on leadership and management for business success

“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

This quote contains just the words thought leaders need to hear as they acquire and mold their soft skills to lead the workforce of the future. No two leaders are alike in the way they approach mentoring, managing, and leading other people. Leadership hinges on one’s personal attributes and their experiential understanding of the human psyche and behavioral dynamics. That being said, there are books on leadership and management that you can draw inspiration from.

Before you say that your schedule barely leaves you any spare time to indulge in reading, let me remind you that Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest (and busiest) men, is an avid reader. He has his own reading list, which he uploads on Gates notes. The point being, that making a habit of reading can benefit you in several ways. It frees up the imagination to consider new possibilities and offers up a fresh, and different perspective. The best books on leadership and management can even put you in a better mood.

In this post, we’ll be curating a list of must-read books on leadership and management that will equip you with the confidence to tap into your leading capabilities! Here goes.

1. What are the 5 Leadership Skills?

1.1. Empathy

a strong leader can see where others are coming from, and their moral compass lets them empathize in genuine conditions. They are also able to understand an individual’s change in circumstances and can advise long-term for what’s best for both the company, and the individual.

1.2. Strategic Thinking

Strategists think long-term, and evolve their approach to solving problems towards facing future consequences. They make decision trade offs based on objectivity and advanced planning. Such leaders need no reminding of the business vision, goals and means to achieving them.

1.3. Team Building

an important leadership skill to have is to unify members and enable teams to cooperate and collaborate. Team management starts with helping members to play to their strengths.

1.4. Creative Innovation

a leader who encourages ideation is one who can see how the company fares in a future context. Innovation sparks engagement, and centralizes ideas coming from different people. It's down to the leader to sustain and nurture that channel so that there always remains the scope for improvement and uniqueness.

1.5. Adaptability

rolling with the punches is an expression most leaders are familiar with. It's about knowing the need to be flexible and using a combination of situational judgment and work expertise to combat unexpected changes.

2. 8 Best Leadership Books for New Leaders

I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t always confident that what I was doing was necessarily right. I later learnt that it's okay to make mistakes so long as you learn something from it and evolve to approach the problem or process differently the next time.

Over the course of time, my style of leading became a balance of casual and firm. I like to stay deadline-driven while being empathetic within reason. These are lessons from both my own experiences as well as what I’d read about. Here is a list of books on leadership and management that challenge a leader’s emotional, operational and financial intelligence;

2.1. Best on Teamwork: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni

Best on Teamwork: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni
About Book

The Five dysfunctions of a team was authored by Patrick Lencioni in 2002. It's a leadership fable that follows the career of fictional CEO Kathryn Peterson, and the setbacks she faces trying to lead her team at DecisionTech Inc. It talks of organizational politics, and the importance of cultivating team spirit.

What makes it a must-read

Like most of Lencioni’s best books on leadership and management, this read is relatable because of the spectrum of conflicting emotions its main character has. The book opens with a backstory of DecisionTech, and how Kathryn is invited to take over as CEO by the company’s chairman, who she knows only from a social context. It talks about her observational skills, and respect for the co-founders who she essentially leads. The five dysfunctions she placed into a pyramid are results, accountability, commitment, conflict and trust. It takes the reader through conflict management and resolution, building trust through team activities and reorienting priorities around ownership.

2.2. Best for Millennials: Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek

About Book

Simon Sinek is an acclaimed writer and speaker. His book leaders eat last, came out in 2014. The extended version includes a chapter on leading millennials, from his viral video on millennials in the workplace. It talks of how those whose work matters to them can inspire others to feel the same. It's available on Amazon for USD 29.

What makes it a must-read

The main purpose of this book is not to give leaders a shortcut to the corporate ladder. The message Sinek is trying to convey is that better leaders make a better world. It reinforces the point that leadership defines you, not your position in a company. Other readers have praised Sinek’s ability to direct your attention towards developing empathy and enabling workers to be self-reliant and accomplish work. It makes you question the longevity of your business success, and whether teams are empowered or just doing what they’re told to do. I particularly liked the collection of short, and true stories from the military and government bodies that are an example of the code leaders follow, irrespective of their seniority.

2.3. The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, James Kouzes & Barry Posner

About Book

Barry Zane Posner is an Accolti Professor of Leadership at the Leavey School of Business. He and James Kouzes co-authored a leadership series, and the one on making extraordinary things happen in organizations does not disappoint. This book is considered by many to be the gold standard for effective leadership. The 6th edition contains more international examples of leadership.

What makes it a must-read

This book brings out the distinction between good and great. A good leader makes things happen, but a great leader is a source of inspiration for others to achieve more. It explains how to bridge communications gaps so that you can get things done. It delves into the complexities of personalities. I like that it focuses on making leadership both a learnable skill and a relationship that has to be tapped into and nurtured in order for leaders to reach their full potential.

2.4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven R. Covey

About Book

Steven Covey was an American businessman, keynote speaker, and author. His most famous work is the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People which was originally published in 1989. It has been featured in every reading list compiled and has sold 25 million copies. The book promotes character ethic over personality ethic, and considers values as internal and subjective. Amazon carries the 25th anniversary edition, which costs GBP 24.

What makes it a must-read

This is one of the best books on leadership and management. The habits are listed as chapters, and are as follows

  • Being proactive: cleaves through communication barriers to achieve desired results.
  • Begin with an end in mind: envision the outcome to help the team you’re leading find the way to achieving it themselves.
  • Put first things first: have the big picture in mind and prioritize by removing time consuming tendencies.
  • Think win-win: create an accountability mindset by sharing expectations on performance.
  • Think first to understand, then to be understood: listen first before reacting so that you know you’ve fully understood the issue before you.
  • Synergize: encourage and welcome different problem solving skills to come up with better alternatives.
  • Sharpen the saw: unlock individual potential and make teams more cohesive.
    Entrepreneurs, in particular, will find the insights from this book compelling. It talks about moving into a more objective frame of mind and how to evaluate your first responses before acting on them.

2.5. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel H. Pink

About Book

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us was released in 20090. Daniel talks about the internal motivating factors that are applicable to leaders just as much as to the people they’re leading. It's available on Kindle and Amazon for just GBP 7.

What makes it a must-read

Pink quotes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow. It describes the mindset of a person when they’re deeply absorbed in work. Drive goes into the external and intrinsic drives, and why the former is detrimental to motivating employees in an organization. It classifies behavior by types and tries to match the right drive to the right personality type. That being said, I found that although the book has a very strong point, it tends to get a little repetitive as you read along.

2.6. The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Michael Watkins

About Book

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies has a 4.6 on 5 rating on Googlebooks, and was published in 2006. Michael Watkins’ book talks about stepwise strategies that you’re sure to find helpful if you’ve just transitioned into a more senior role. The book is available on Amazon for GBP 16.

What makes it a must-read

While some readers who reviewed the book on Goodreads disagreed with some of the points covered, I personally felt the chapters on leading the team you inherit, and on helping others who are transitioning into new roles to be compelling. The fact that there’s a quantifiable number makes leadership seem less intimidating and more achievable, which is just the confidence boost leaders in-transit will need so that the people they’re leading have a good example to follow suit.

2.7. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, Brené Brown

About Book

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown has been featured on the New York Best seller’s list. Launched in 2018, Brene is an inspirational figure to both male and female leaders. Her book walks readers through a vulnerability in the workplace, the profile of a brave leader, and what it takes to become one. It's available on Amazon for GBP 10.

What makes it a must-read

Dare to lead is one of the best books on leadership and management that you should add this book to your list if you’ve been in any or all of the situations below

1. Avoiding tough conversations that steer towards honesty.
2. Passive-aggressive behavior.
3. Diminished trust the longer the disconnect continues.
4. Unheard voices and unshared ideas from fear of ridicule or rejection.
5. Rushing into shortsighted decisions.
6. Ineffective and unsustainable processes
7. Miscommunication over expected mindset and performance evaluation.
8. Unrealistic standards bordering on perfectionism.
The book takes you through meeting the insatiable demand for innovation and how to respond to change by underpinning experience to an emotion.


About Book

Herminia Ibarra’s book was published in 2015 and sparks thoughts around breaking away from conventional leadership. Interestingly, Herminia argues against setting SMART goals for leadership and instead considers it an incremental, and emergent effort. Think like a Leader is on Amazon, for GBP 17.

What makes it a must-read

If public communication gives you nerves, or you feel that you’re not asserting your authority right, this book is for you. It has dedicated a chapter to navigating the nuances of team building through extracurricular activities, which help you cement relationships at work while also expanding your network of contacts.

2.9. Tribes, Seth Godin

About Book

Seth Godin’s book Tribes, was released in 2008. In a nutshell, the book is about communicating  interests, change, and connecting to an idea. It costs GBP 9 on Amazon, while the kindle version is available for USD 13

What makes it a must-read

I saved my favorite author for the last. As a digital marketing expert, Seth’s work has helped me rethink marketing principles. You’re probably wondering, ‘What books do great leaders read?’. Well, This is one of them! Tribes talk about challenging the status quo of leadership imagery. He goes into seizing leadership without expressly seeking permission for it, and how survival hinges on people connecting with each other through ideas. For a leader, this means learning to be open to ideas that aren’t their own, something that will help you know where the people you’re leading are coming from.

3. FAQs

3.1. What books should I read for management?

Some of the books to read for management are - No time to Waste, Small Acts of Leadership, and Leading Inclusion.

3.2. What is the best leadership book to read?

We recommend Steven Covey, Simon Sinek, and Herminia Ibarra to start with. As a millennial, the works of these writers spoke the most to me. However, there are lessons in there that are applicable to all leaders, regardless of their age. After all, age is just a number. It's the experience that counts and your openness to learning a thing or two from someone else.

Out of these best books on leadership and management, which ones have you read already, and which ones will you be looking into now?

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