9 books on leadership every leader should read

We are often asked, at workshops and talks on leadership, for reference materials that participants can read if they want to dig deeper into the subject. Here are 9 books we recommend on leadership if you are serious about developing your skills or your team’s skills as a leader.

We have ordered them in a sequence for reading them that we think would be beneficial, but of course you don’t need to follow it.

The order is:

  1. Books related to personal styles of leadership and leadership models.
  2. Develop leadership and learning to navigate certain contexts and interactions.
  3. Leading teams effectively.
  4. Leading change and organizations.

Without further ado, here is the list:

extremeownershipExtreme Ownership. (Jocko Willink, Leif Babin)

If you ever found yourself justifying why a project or task didn’t go as planned, then this may just be the book for you. Extreme Ownership, a book about how by taking ownership of the results and the situation you and your teams are in, you can lead more effectively.

Written by two ex-US navy SEAL officers who turned business consultants, this book does a great job explaining the principles that SEALs use to lead and win in battle and how they apply to leading businesses today. If you think of the army as one big command and control machine, this book will surprise you. It is an easy book to read and it is packed with practical advice as well as firsthand stories from both the trenches and the business world.


HumbleInquiryHumble Inquiry. (Edgar H. Schein)

For the second place on this list we liked Humble Inquiry. Written by Edgar H. Schein, this is a book about what in his opinion is the number one quality leaders need in today’s world: humility, of a special kind.

After years of research and consulting on the leadership front, Edgar H. Schein has distilled some of his wisdom in a book that is both interesting and revealing. It contains not only the theory but also a number of guidelines on how to personally develop this characteristic that a great leader needs.


smart leadersSmart leaders, smarter teams. (Roger M. Schwarz)

Moving on to teams, this book talks about the prevailing leadership mindsets in most organizations: unilateral control and common learning, how they manifest and what you can do as a leader to undertake the monumental task that is changing from one to another.

These mindsets have such a great impact in our teams and the way we lead and yet we don’t realize when we are using it or why and how that limits us and the ones around us.

If you are looking for a book that will expand the way you think about leadership beyond a specific style and at the same time help you start the personal journey of becoming a better leader for your team, this is the book for you.


reading the roomReading the room. (David Kantor)

Part of being a great leader is understanding the context you are in and how to interact and relate to others.

This book does a great job in providing us with a framework to not only learn to navigate our interactions more effectively, but also to help us develop our leadership and that of the ones around us.

Based on David Kantor’s years of experience as a family therapist and consultant, it follows up on a fictional team through its journey of discovery and self improvement using this model. At times it can go a bit into the psychological realm, but a good read nevertheless. A great plus are the exercises at the end of each chapter.


tribalTribal Leadership. (Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright)

Tribal leadership in short, is a book for you to build a better organization in which the best people want to work and make an impact. It explains the five stages model that Dave Logan and his co-authors created during the research conducted with organizations from different industries, where they analyze different communication styles and their impact in the overall organization.

This model describes the mental states that organizations, teams and people go through when evolving as a tribe, and gives you the tools to, as a leader, help people in your organization in whatever stage they are in, bloom, together.


leading-teams-hackmanLeading teams. (Richard Hackman)

Leading teams by Richard Hackman should be the starting point for anyone who is serious about leading teams effectively. After years of research with all kinds of teams, Ph.D Richard Hackman has managed to put together a great book explaining what makes effective teams effective and how to use that to help your teams develop and reach their full potential.




leadingchangeLeading change. (John P. Kotter)

One of my personal favorites, this book is a great place to start if you want to understand how to lead lasting change effectively.

Great business is all about changing and adapting to the context the organization is in, and it is our job as leaders to help everyone move towards that vision and make sure that the change sticks. In this book John P. Kotter explains the fundamentals of his change management framework and how leaders play a fundamental role in making sure things are successful.


organdleadershipOrganizational culture and leadership. (Edgar H. Schein)

This book is by now on it’s 5th edition and is one of the best references there is regarding organizational culture and the role leaders play in it. It explains not only the different nuances of organizational culture and subcultures but how we as leaders can help shape and control it. Overall it provides a sound framework based on extensive years of research that we can use as leaders to understand and handle this phenomenon.




hbr10leadershipHBR’s 10 Must Reads on leadership.

This book is different from the others as it is a collection of HBR’s 10 best articles on leadership. It is a great place to start if you don’t feel like reading a full book. Every article is filled with powerful insights and actionable advice. In some cases the article was the seed for other books by the same author that have become best sellers.




I hope you enjoy this list as much as we did and let us know if you have other books that you think we should read and maybe include here.

Until next time!