Last Updated on March 20, 2023 by Dave Schoenbeck
Harry S. Truman once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Therefore, expanding your literary horizons is vital to improving your leadership skills. Throughout my years of business and coaching experience, I’ve read my fair share of books about management and entrepreneurship, and a few stand out.
So here are my top leadership books for business leaders.
1. The Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism by Hubert Joly
Hubert Joly is the former chairman and CEO of Best Buy. In The Heart of Business, Joly discusses the need to chart a more sustainable future in the business landscape. He writes that we need to shift the way we look at companies—from purely money-making organizations to potential vehicles for employee cohesion and fulfillment.
He emphasizes that people are “the engine of an organization” and points out that leading with empathy and humanity is repeatedly beneficial for leaders and employees. This book will serve as a guide to help you establish new leadership practices and bring purpose to your management methods.
2. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant
In Think Again, Adam Grant, author, and organizational psychologist encourages us to challenge how we think about everything from conflict to cognitive bias. His thesis? Sometimes we’re just plain wrong, and that’s okay.
Grant uses anecdotes and evidence to show that there’s something to be said for being wrong on occasion. By reframing how we think and opening ourselves up to humility, we can discover true confidence and become better leaders—and people—in the process.
3. Made in America by Sam Walton and John Huey
Sam Walton is best known as the founder of Wal-Mart. In his autobiography, another of my top leadership books for business leaders, Walton tells the highly inspirational story of transforming one store into the sprawling retail empire that Wal-Mart is today.
What I found particularly valuable is the list he lays out near the end of the book, his “Ten Rules That Worked for Me.” One of the most powerful rules is to listen to everyone in your company, especially those on the front lines. Those are the people who truly understand your customers’ frustrations and needs. They can provide unique, valuable feedback if you want to hear it.
4. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell
This is widely regarded as one of the top leadership books. John C. Maxwell is a renowned author, pastor, and motivational speaker who has truly embraced the principles of servant leadership.
In his book, Maxwell lays out 21 “laws” that, taken together, create a strong foundation of skills that can be continually honed and developed over time. Each law is laid out with an accompanying story that demonstrates these skills in practice. It’s an easy read, but it’s also among the most impactful on this list.
5. The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney, and Jim Huling
The 4 Disciplines is the answer to anyone forced to watch as a long-term project falls flat due to poor execution. So often, our day-to-day business activities can drain time, energy, and resources from more significant initiatives. Without interrupting this cycle, we’ll give our projects less attention than they need.
Covey et al. propose the following disciplines: Focus on the Wildly Important; Act on Lead Measures; Keep a Compelling Scoreboard; and Create a Cadence of Accountability. By following each one, you can successfully execute any strategy, no matter what chaos is swirling around your organization.
6. The Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz is the co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. He wrote this book specifically for tech CEOs, but any leader can find something powerful to take away from Horowitz’s story, which is why this one made my list of top leadership books for business leaders. He profoundly understands the day-to-day difficulties that all CEOs face.
The main idea is that every business owner will have to make tough decisions in their career, and sometimes they will make the wrong call. Of course, mistakes result from being human, but by preparing for the worst, as Horowitz demonstrates, we can find ourselves on solid footing when things go south.
7. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D
Finally of these top leadership books for business leaders is Influence by Robert Cialdini, a psychologist and well-respected marketing professor. In this revised edition of his longtime bestseller, Cialdini walks you through his six principles of influence and how you can use them.
These six principles are reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. By learning to wield them, you can become more persuasive and be on your guard against those who might use these tactics to manipulate you.
Once you’ve read the top leadership books for business leaders, it’s time to implement that knowledge. Click here to schedule a complimentary video coaching call, and we’ll discuss how you can put some of the best leadership books on the market to work for you.
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