Good leadership is not innate, but rather it can be learned.
And although the ability to inspire is a hard-won skill, the benefits of mastering this dark art are worth it.
From improved career prospects at your company to going solo and creating the next unicorn startup, forging loyal followers is crucial.
That might be by mastering specific skill sets like delegation, or simply possessing such a strong purpose that you unite people behind a common cause.
The following are five of the best leadership books that will show you how to lead with authenticity, integrity and clarity.
The 5 Best Leadership Books
1. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
Dare to Lead is a guide to overcoming fear and developing courage in order to lead effectively.
Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, draws on her own extensive research on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy to provide readers with a roadmap for becoming a courageous leader.
The book is divided into four sections:
- Understanding courage
- Developing courage
- Practicing courage
- Leading with courage
In the first section, Brown defines courage as the ability to do what is right in the face of fear, noting that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to move through fear.
Courageous leaders are willing to take risks and face challenges head-on, even when they feel scared.
Brown also discusses the importance of vulnerability and argues that vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength, allowing leaders to connect with others and build strong relationships.
In the second section, Brown provides tips for developing courage, recommending taking action even when you don’t feel brave, seeking out feedback from others, and embracing failure as a way to learn and grow.
Brown also stresses the importance of self-care and suggests taking time for yourself in order to recharge your batteries and stay energized.
In the third section, Brown provides examples of how courage can be put into practice. She discusses topics such as setting boundaries, speaking up for what you believe in, and dealing with difficult conversations.
Brown also offers advice for handling difficult emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness.
In the fourth section, Brown discusses how courage can be used to lead effectively, offering tips for building trust, inspiring others, and dealing with difficult decisions.
Brown also addresses the importance of embracing change and taking risks in order to create positive change in the world.
Overall, Dare to Lead is an insightful guide to becoming a courageous leader.
Brown provides readers with clear instructions on how to overcome fear and develop the resilience required for success.
2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a book is set in the fictional city of San Francisco and tells the story of a team of executives who are trying to save their company from bankruptcy.
The team is struggling with five common dysfunctionalities:
- Lack of trust
- Fear of conflict
- Lack of commitment
- Avoidance of accountability
- Inattention to results
The book provides a framework for diagnosing and fixing these dysfunctions, offering tools and advice for:
- Building trust within a team
- Handling conflict constructively
- Making commitments that count
- Holding others accountable, and focusing on results
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has been praised by business leaders and management experts for its insightful explanation of why teams fail and how they can succeed.
3. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
In Start with Why, Simon Sinek posits that most people and organizations know what they do (what they make or provide) but are much less clear on why they do it.
To illustrate his point, he cites such examples as Apple and the Wright brothers.
Sinek suggests that in order to achieve success, one must start from the beginning, from why.
He argues that people buy into a company or individual’s vision because they understand and share in the underlying purpose or cause.
Only once people are able to articulate their “why,” they can then begin to create a roadmap for achieving their goals.
Sinek provides a number of strategies for how to get started, including clarifying your values and determining your “North Star” while also stressing the importance of communication, both internally and externally.
In order to inspire others, Sinek argues, one must first be inspired themself.
Start with Why is a fascinating and insightful read that will change the way you look at business, leadership, and life in general.
4. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
In Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin discuss the concept of taking ownership of everything in one’s life – from one’s own thoughts and actions to the success or failure of any endeavor.
The authors use their own experiences as SEALs, as well as stories from businesses and other organizations, to illustrate the importance of owning everything and taking responsibility for everything.
They also emphasize the need to be decisive in order to take action and achieve success.
The book is divided into four sections:
- Leadership – discusses the need for leaders to be absolutely dedicated to their team’s success and to constantly put the team first. Leaders must also be willing to make tough decisions, even when those decisions are unpopular.
- Strategy – discusses the importance of having a clear plan and sticking to that plan, while also being adaptable enough to respond to changing circumstances.
- Tactics – covers how best to employ the strategies developed in the previous section.
- Execution – explains how to effectively carry out plans and achieve objectives.
Throughout the book, Willink and Babin stress the importance of taking ownership and never giving up. They contend that extreme ownership is the key to success in any field or endeavor.
Pair this book with Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, an excellent account of taking ownership of your life and inspiring others to do the same.
5. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
In Drive, Daniel H. Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, drawing on decades of scientific research in psychology, economics, and management.
He shows that the predominant model of motivation is outdated and offers a new model, based on three elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
According to Pink, the three elements of motivation are not independent but are instead deeply interconnected.
- Autonomy is the need to be self-directed and in control of our lives
- Mastery is the urge to get better and better at something that matters
- Purpose is the yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves
To be motivated, we need all three elements: we need to feel autonomous, masterful, and purposeful.
To tap into these elements, Pink offers five strategies:
- Autonomy: Let people choose their own paths.
- Mastery: Help people get better at what they do.
- Purpose: Connect people’s work to a larger mission.
- Stories: Create a meaningful narrative around work.
- Team-building: Encourage people to work together for a common goal.
Executive presence might not come naturally to everyone, but the benefits of practicing the skill are clear.
Personal power and professional success beckon if you can inspire and motivate those around you.
It’s something I definitely need to work on, and these books have helped me understand how.
I hope you find them useful!