The science is clear:
Leaders are readers.
According to research shared via sources like the Harvard Business Review, reading can improve everything from empathy to verbal intelligence to vocabulary to innovation, all of which can drastically increase your capacity to lead. Reading can even decrease stress levels and offer neuro-protective benefits, as well, which have obvious implications on your ability to lead, problem solve, and simply think better throughout the course of your career and life.
Leaders Read Leadership Books
Of course, it’s worth noting, too, that most of the top leaders you’ve heard of in any field are known as avid readers (including Steve Jobs, Ray Dalio, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, and Oprah, to name just a handful). And while data suggests that even reading fiction and poetry can be advantageous (Jobs was reportedly a huge fan of William Blake), it’s non-fiction books on leadership, business management, and creativity that tend to be found on the shelves of effective, successful, and fulfilled company heads.
Sadly, reading is a bit of a dying art in this country: about one in four Americans haven’t read a single book in the last year. Here at Whole Life Challenge, we’re challenging our community to buck the trend and make reading a part of daily life — and we’re starting with leadership books.
So, renew your library card and grab a notepad: we’re sharing ten of our favorite leadership books that may help boost your company’s bottom line as well as your own potential.
1. The Think Big Manifesto: Think You Can’t Change Your Life (and the World)? Think Again
Thoughts are habits, and changing the way you think can be super difficult. What you’ll learn about in The Think Big Manifesto, written by Michael Port (with Mina Samuels), is how to adopt new strategies and codes of conduct that can help you change (and expand) your mind and actions.
An ideal book for people who feel stuck in their ways and are looking for the “reset” button to help them solve big problems and achieve big dreams.
2. Behind the Cloud: The Untold Story of How Salesforce.com Went from Idea to Billion-Dollar Company-and Revolutionized an Industry
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff wrote Behind the Cloud (with Carlye Adler) to share his insights, unique vision, and personal beliefs practices that has helped him turn his business into the fastest-growing software company in the world.
If you’ve ever wondered about how to provide a meaningful product or service as you negotiate your business through changing economic and political climates, or how to promote innovation among every level of your company, you’ll enjoy these pages.
3. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal
In a world where “multi-tasking” and time stamps regrettably rule, The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz offers a refreshing take on how to get the most out of your work (and how your work can get the most out of you). The authors use their decades of experience working with competitive athletes to help “train” people in the business world maximize their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being, all of which are essential components to effective leadership, productivity, and personal health.
If you’ve ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed or limited at work by stress, this book is perfect you.
4. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win
Written by certified badasses Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, Extreme Ownership offers practical, no-nonsense insights from the minds of elite level warriors. Even if your business doesn’t involve life-or-death decision making, you can still glean some hard-hitting and actionable insights into how to help your company thrive.
If you’re willing to be 100% responsible for your life and your business’s success, you’ll get a ton out of this book…and if personal responsibility isn’t quite your jam (yet), get ready to be hugely challenged.
5. The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning the Ordinary into Extraordinary
Written by Joseph Michelli, The Starbucks Experience expands on the basic question: How does a simple coffee company transform itself into a world-renown brand? The book is structured into five core concepts that are applicable to any type of business, including thought-provoking principles like “Everything Matters” and “Embrace Resistance.”
Concerned about customer service, a productive work environment, and a cohesive company culture? If so, you’ll may find a lot of value in this book.
6. The Leadership Manifesto: Eight Steps for Professional Development
Written by Bill Hicks, The Leadership Manifesto is a valuable resource for any business leader looking to improve his or her ability to inspire, cultivate, and attract talent.
Offered through the lens of a fictional mentor/mentee relationship, you’ll learn about ways to motivate employees, establish brand recognition, and more.
7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
A true classic by all measures, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was first published in 1989 by Stephen R. Covey. Nearly 30 years and 25 million copies later, Covey’s seminal treatise on leadership, management, and influence remains one of the best-selling business leadership books of all time.
If you’re looking for a sort of hit-the-ground-running personal tune up that will help you in every area of life (including your career), then this foundational book should be at the top of your list.
8. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
When it comes to business leadership, knowing what not to do is just as critical as knowing what to do. In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni points out a few of the key reasons why businesses and the teams that run them can fail and struggle.
This book is ideal for anyone who’s curious about peeking under the hood of human behavior to help them understand how to effect meaningful and positive change within their company environment.
9. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t
Author Jim Collins wrote Good to Great with the help of a team of researchers who essentially set out to determine what makes a business sustainable, competitive, and successful.
This book (with over three million copies sold) can help you lead your company away from the trap of mere “competency” and help you grow, evolve, and stand out in an ever-increasingly competitive economy.
10. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
From the co-founder of Pixar (of Toy Story fame), Creativity, Inc. is an inspiring read that can help any leader overcome problem-solving challenges of any size.
Ed Catmull (with Amy Wallace) shares his experience and insights on what a culture of corporate creativity actually looks like, and can help you figure out how to establish a workplace standard that truly expects and rewards initiative, imagination, and innovation.
So, which of these leadership books are you going to start with? Let us know if you have any favorite leadership books in your own personal library, and be sure to share this list with your colleagues as well.