Limiting my number of book recommendations to a list of ten has been an interesting exercise. There are more that I could add to the list, but these are the ones that have inspired me most to think differently and grow as a leader.
I have read these books over the past decade. It’s important to note that my state of mind, or issues I was struggling with while reading, greatly affected my willingness to be impacted by the books on this list. These books addressed important issues for me right when I needed it.
I encourage you to read one or two books that most resonate with where you are right now, recognizing that in six months, you may be in need of a different book. There are a range of styles and topics presented in this list, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding an option that fits the issue(s) you’re thinking about now.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead Books, 2015).
Beautifully written. Yes, I just used the word beautifully to describe a book. I was hooked after the first few paragraphs, and I couldn’t put it down until it was finished. This book will get your creative juices flowing, and you will be primed for innovation. If not now, eventually you need to read this book! Words, style, concepts – everything about it is simply beautiful.
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose
by Tony Hsieh (Hachette Book Group, 2010).
This is a story about building and then sustaining a unique organization. Hsieh shows how to create a corporate culture that values people and relationships. This book is inspiring for those who are interested in providing customer service at a very high level. It is written from a very personal viewpoint by the founder and CEO of Zappos.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
by Daniel H. Pink (Riverhead Books, 2011).
This book challenges assumptions about motivation and provides a new lens through which to view employee engagement. Practical techniques for increasing motivation are provided throughout. The book is well-researched and the writing style makes it easy to understand the concepts presented.
Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
by Howard Schultz (Hyperion, 1999).
I love stories about building something special, and this is one of the best stories out there. From beginning to end, there are meaningful observations about how decisions were made at Starbucks. If you are working at scaling your organization, this book will be helpful in your planning. If you do read it, you will soon want to read the follow-up book, Onward: How Starbucks Fought for Its Life Without Losing Its Soul. This book reads like a novel – enjoyable, accessible, and applicable to a wide audience.
Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012
by Carol J. Loomis (Penguin Publishing Group, 2013).
Buffett is so much more than an investor. He is also a leader and an entrepreneur. His unique, genuine, and sometimes humorous insights are found throughout these pages. This book is one of the longest ones listed here, but it is easy to read.
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business
by Patrick Lencioni (Jossey-Bass, 2012).
This book provides practical guidance for how to build and sustain organizational health. In my view, this is the most actionable book on this list. The writing style is very accessible and the content is laid out in such a way that you can quickly refer back to it when you need to.
The Motivation Manifesto: 9 Declarations to Claim Your Personal Power
by Brendon Burchard (Hay House, 2014).
I usually run fast and far from self-help books, but this one is different. If you need some help with motivation, this is a great place to start. The book’s style is rich and complex, and it requires time to fully integrate and appreciate each sentence.
The Truth about Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know
by James M. Kouzes & Barry Z. Posner (Jossey-Bass, 2010).
If I were teaching a university course in leadership, this would be one of the books I would require students to read. The book provides a review of the essential elements of leadership and is laid out in a practical, easy-to-read style that flows easily from one chapter to the next.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
by Steven Pressfield (Black Irish Entertainment LLC, 2002).
This is a different kind of book than you would normally expect to find on a list of leadership books, but it’s simply an amazingly insightful and masterfully crafted piece of work. If you are currently procrastinating on starting something, this book will give you the boost you need. Though it is small in size, this book requires slow, focused attention to fully appreciate.
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
by Seth Godin (Portfolio, 2008).
Godin is a master wordsmith who, in a just a few short sentences, will have you thinking about leadership in different ways than you ever have before. For those of you with no time to read, this is a quick and accessible book – it’s the shortest book on this list.
Randy Grieser, Author & Speaker
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