25 Leadership Books Every Manager Should Read in Their Career

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The great majority of the leaders that Stoke Consulting assist in our role as executive coaches, started their careers as technical experts (just like you and I). They received significant early detailed training in their vocation of choice and became competent; in engineering to accounting; in trades to teaching. On their journey of increasing technical and functional competence they are often recognised and promoted, until at some point in their career they find themselves in a position where technical experts are reporting to them, and their main role is managing and leading others. Most commonly we find that these busy leaders have not been as purposeful or disciplined in investing in their new most important competency of “leadership”.  This competency has grown intuitively rather than purposefully. For this reason, they often seek help to prioritise their learning opportunities and accelerate their leadership effectiveness. 

It has been statistically shown many times that the effectiveness of the leaders in a business is one of the most important variables linked to success. 

Combined with other leadership development activities one of the best, cheapest and simplest ways to enhance your leadership skills and accelerate your effectiveness is by diving into insightful and transformative books. Here, we’ve curated a list of 25 leadership books that every manager should read at least once in their careers. These books cover a wide range of topics, from foundational principles to advanced strategies, ensuring you have the tools to lead with confidence and impact. The concepts recommended in the books build as you get further down the list, key leadership concepts often being reinforced. It is suggested that you read and internalise these books in rough order over time as part of your journey to become as competent and effective in leadership as you remain in your technical skills.  

1. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey

Covey’s classic book focuses on principles for personal and professional effectiveness. He outlines seven habits that can transform your approach to leadership, including being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, and prioritising tasks. This book should be read multiple times as the concepts are so basic, yet powerful. 

2. “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek

Sinek argues that great leaders and organisations inspire action by starting with a clear sense of purpose or “why.” This book helps leaders understand the importance of knowing and communicating their core mission to inspire and engage their teams. 

3. “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

This book examines why some companies transition from good to great while others don’t. Collins highlights the importance of disciplined people, thought, and action, providing a roadmap for achieving sustained excellence. 

4. “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink

Pink explores the science of motivation, emphasising autonomy, mastery, and purpose as critical factors for driving engagement and productivity. This book is essential for understanding what truly motivates people in the workplace. 

5. “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck

Dweck introduces the concept of fixed versus growth mindsets. She advocates for the latter, which fosters continuous learning, resilience, and success. Leaders can benefit greatly from cultivating a growth mindset within their teams. 

6. “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott

Scott advocates for a management style that combines caring personally with challenging directly. This approach fosters open communication and strong relationships, which are crucial for effective leadership. 

7. “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek

Sinek emphasises the importance of creating a safe and trusting environment where leaders prioritise their team’s well-being. This approach fosters loyalty and high performance within the team. 

8. “Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown

Brown explores the power of vulnerability in leadership, advocating for courage, empathy, and connection as key components of effective leadership. Her insights encourage leaders to embrace their imperfections and lead authentically. 

9. “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Drawing leadership lessons from Navy SEAL experiences, this book emphasises accountability, discipline, and the importance of taking ownership of outcomes. It’s a powerful read on leading by example and fostering a culture of responsibility. 

10. “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson

A parable about change, this book illustrates how individuals and organisations can successfully adapt by embracing flexibility and open-mindedness. It’s a simple yet profound guide to navigating change effectively. 

11. “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries

Ries introduces a methodology for building successful startups through continuous innovation, validated learning, and pivoting based on customer feedback. This book is a must-read for leaders looking to foster innovation and agility. 

12. “Multipliers” by Liz Wiseman

Wiseman identifies how great leaders amplify the intelligence and capabilities of their teams, in contrast to “diminishers” who stifle growth and innovation. This book offers strategies for becoming a multiplier who brings out the best in others. 

13. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni

Using a fable, Lencioni illustrates common team dysfunctions and provides practical advice for building cohesive and high-performing teams. It’s a great resource for leaders looking to improve team dynamics and collaboration. 

14. “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman

Goleman highlights the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) in leadership, including self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skills. Enhancing your EQ can significantly improve your leadership effectiveness. 

15. “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle

Coyle reveals the secrets of highly effective group cultures, focusing on building safety, sharing vulnerability, and establishing purpose. This book offers practical strategies for creating a strong and cohesive team culture. 

16. “Turn the Ship Around!” by L. David Marquet

A former submarine commander shares how he transformed his ship by empowering his crew, promoting a leader-leader rather than a leader-follower model. This book is a powerful testament to the impact of distributed leadership. 

17. “The Fish Rots from the Head” by Bob Garratt

Garratt highlights the importance of effective board governance and the critical role of leadership at the top of the organisation in setting the tone and culture. It’s a crucial read for understanding the broader responsibilities of leadership. 

18. “The Innovator’s Dilemma” by Clayton Christensen

Christensen explores why successful companies often fail to innovate and suggests strategies for embracing disruptive technologies and business models. This book is essential for leaders looking to sustain long-term innovation. 

19. “The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything” by Stephen M.R. Covey

Covey emphasizes the importance of trust as a foundational element of successful leadership and organisations. He provides a framework for building, extending, and restoring trust in relationships, teams, and companies, highlighting how trust can accelerate results and improve performance. 

20. “Leadershift” by John C. Maxwell

Maxwell discusses the need for leaders to be agile and adaptable, embracing change and making strategic shifts to lead effectively in a rapidly evolving world. This book offers insights into the mindset and skills required for modern leadership. 

21. “The Courage to Be Disliked” by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga

Based on Adlerian psychology, this book encourages readers to embrace self-acceptance, personal freedom, and the courage to live true to oneself, impacting leadership and personal development. 

22. “Six Thinking Hats” by Edward de Bono

De Bono introduces a method for group discussion and individual thinking involving six different perspectives, promoting more comprehensive and creative decision-making. 

23. “Tribes” by Seth Godin

Godin explains how leaders can build and lead tribes (communities of like-minded people) by leveraging passion, purpose, and shared connections. 

 24. “A Passionate Marriage” by David Schnarch

Schnarch provides a deep dive into the emotional and psychological dynamics of intimate relationships, offering insights that can be directly applied to leadership by enhancing emotional intelligence and understanding interpersonal dynamics. The concept of differentiation is very powerful and  

25. “Uncover the Hidden Job Market: How to Find and Win Your Next Senior Executive Role” by Richard Triggs

Triggs provides practical strategies for navigating the executive job market, focusing on networking, personal branding, and proactive job searching. This book is particularly useful for leaders looking to advance and protect their careers by understanding modern techniques for uncovering hidden opportunities and positioning themselves for senior roles when needed.  

 

Conclusion: 

These 25 books provide a comprehensive foundation in leadership principles, motivation, adaptability, emotional intelligence, team dynamics, and effective management practices. Whether you’re a seasoned leader or just starting your leadership journey, these books will equip you with the knowledge and tools to lead with confidence and impact. In a year’s time, you will wish you started today. Happy reading! 

 

Have we got it right? What have we missed? 

We want to hear from you, please let us know any other books that you think could make a significant difference to other’s leadership journeys? 

 

Chris Read 
Stoke Consulting 

Leveraging his extensive leadership and entrepreneurial background, Chris consistently leads high-performing teams of leaders to outstanding business achievements. He excels in unravelling the intricacies of challenging business scenarios, crafting strategic plans and fostering deep trust including during executive coaching. This comprehensive and high integrity approach significantly elevates business performance for his clients, helping them to exceed expectations. Chris’ experience includes successfully leading multiple $1B+pa businesses with full P&L responsibility across nine countries and 800 reports to starting, building and selling his own e-commerce business, all the while building high performing teams of leaders.