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Go-To Leadership Book Recommendations

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

Do colleagues ask you for leadership book recommendations? Yep, me too. Here are 6 top leadership and management books I recommend often.

I love books. They are years of wisdom and advice packaged in a tidy, digestible format. I appreciate authors for investing their time, energy, expertise, and know-how.

Over the years I've read a lot of leadership and business books, and have cultivated a short list of go-to books that I recommend often and work into development programs.

6 Recommended Leadership Development Books

1. Three Signs of a Miserable Job (currently The Truth about Employee Engagement: A Fable about Addressing the Three Root Causes of Job Misery) by Patrick Lencioni

Lencioni's style of leadership lessons by fable is always a great addition to leadership development programs. And how can you not love a title like this one? It was updated to The Truth about Employee Engagement in 2015, but I really prefer the original. The Truth about Employee Engagement highlights three things employees desire in a job, and I find it's true today just as it was when it was first released in 2007.

A favorite quote from The Truth about Employee Engagement:

“Human beings need to be needed, and they need to be reminded of this pretty much every day. They need to know that they are helping others, not merely serving themselves.” p. 232

I'm including another Lencioni book in the list, because I use the expertise in this book every time I'm interviewing a candidate and making a hire. The three characteristics of an "ideal team player" have stood the test of time, industry, team type, culture. Humble, hungry, smart is an accurate people assessment every time. If you are growing a team, check out The Ideal Team Player.

Patrick Lencioni on stage

Side Note

I really hope you'll take the opportunity to get to know Patrick's work at The Table Group. His insight is top-notch and will bring a lot of value to your work.

This Book Brief on The Motive is a good place to begin.

I'm a big fan of Leadership Presence by Halpern and Lubar with The Arial Group. They have a background in acting and bring a perspective to executive presence that centers on authentic communication and influence. Leadership Presence is a solid recommendation for a leader working on developing both a personal style and improving how they connect with their teams.

➡️ Check out this Book Brief on Leadership Presence for a peek at their PRES model and 3 skills helpful for Talent Development Pros.

4. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee

I. love. this. book. It's one of my favorite recommendations for developing emotional intelligence in leaders. It provided core content for leadership development programs at Southwest Airlines. Primal Leadership demonstrates the critical importance of emotional intelligence in effective leadership and more importantly, how to use emotional intelligence to inspire and motivate others.

Kim Scott has led teams in influential tech companies and developed a leadership approach - "Care personally. Challenge directly." - that encourages kind directness, and I love it. It's an approach that's applicable to leaders at all levels and of all kinds of work groups. I hear this often: "Well, leading in the field / in an office / in a storefront / at the warehouse is just different." Nope, all leadership needs and deserves Radical Candor.

➡️ You need this Book Brief on Radical Candor. Then read the book.

I am a fan of Michael Bungay Stanier - from his approach to life, style, and guidance for leaders. The Coaching Habit is simple, straight-forward, and on target guidance for leaders on how to focus more on supportive coaching and less on telling employees what to do.

➡️ 3 coaching questions Stanier recommends in The Coaching Habit in this Book Brief.

Do You Have Recommendations for Top Books on Leadership?

You've got a list of books you recommend frequently, too, I bet. Share those in the comments below. I'd like to see your recommendations on the best leadership books.

Goodreads fan? Let's connect, I'd love to know what you're reading.


Lencioni, Patrick. The Truth about Employee Engagement: A Fable about Addressing the Three Root Causes of Job Misery. Jossey-Bass, 2015.

Lencioni, Patrick. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues. Jossey-Bass, 2016.

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach out, Motivate and Inspire. Penguin Group, 2003.

Goleman, Daniel, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

Scott, Kim. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. St. Martin's Press, 2017.

Stanier, Michael Bungay. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever. Toronto, Canada: Box of Crayons Press. 2016.

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