Bookshelf

21 Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Favorite Book on Leadership

A reading culture is part of most leader’s continuous improvement exercise. With leadership, there’re new challenges that unveil every waking day and you have to equip yourself with new knowledge, sharpen your emotional intelligence and find valuable tips available in books or learned from other leaders. With tons of books out there, which book should you go fo to help you keep going and lead yourself first?

We asked entrepreneurs and business owners about their favorite book on leadership and here are the responses.

#1-How to Win Friends and Influence People

Photo Credit: Brenna McGowan

When I was 16 my father, a successful salesman, handed me a book before my first job interview and told me to read it. The book he passed over was How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This book has shaped my leadership skills over the years, because if you do not know how to connect with people on a fundamental level you can’t possibly be a good leader. This classic has taught me to listen to others more than I talk (which is no easy feat!). To always use someone’s name whenever possible (according to Carnegie there’s no sweeter sound) and to always try to stay level headed and purposely work to see things from another person’s perspective. I plan on handing this book to my own children someday soon!

Thanks to Brenna McGowan, Brenna McGowan Co.!


#2- The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Photo Credit: Christina Appleton

I first read it in business school, then read again after I had scaled my team up from 4 to 14 in less than a year. It had a very different meaning reading it the second time as I could see myself, my colleagues, and my employees all in the characters that were outlined in the book. Unlike a lot of other books on leadership and team building, I find the conversational and relaxed style of this book to make everyday application of its messages that much easier. Beyond that – it’s actually enjoyable to read! I recommend it to anyone who wants to up their leadership game.

Thanks to Christina Appleton, Appleton’s Market!


#3- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink

Photo Credit: Brittany Hovsepian

It gives examples from combat situations on how owning everything that goes right, or wrong, makes for a strong and effective leader. It then translates these ownership traits into civilian life. It is not only a great book for leaders to read, but anyone who is looking to be more effective in every aspect of their life.

Thanks to Brittany Hovsepian, The Expert Home Buyers!


#4-The Membership Economy

Photo Credit: Mark Silverman

As I guide our organization, I often refer to The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue by Robbie Baxter, a member of our Board of Directors. With concrete and engaging examples, this book shows how industry leaders build long-term relationships with customers and how CEO’s can incorporate the membership economy mindset into all aspects of strategy and execution. The book is full of lessons that can be practically applied.

Thanks to Mark Silverman, Amava!


#5-Tribes by Seth Godin

Photo Credit: Matt Scott

Being a business owner means that you are the leader of your tribe. My favorite book on leadership is Tribes by Seth Godin. The book talks about how a leader needs a tribe to lead. Without a tribe, a person can not be a good leader and vice versa. The other needs the other in order to survive. As a human being, we naturally seek for acceptance and that is exactly what we get when we are in a tribe but even if we are in one, if we don’t have the right direction, we would still be lost and that is why every tribe needs a leader to lead them. In this book, Seth Godin tackles how leadership can affect a tribe’s (company’s) success and how the member of the tribe can foster a leader’s growth.

Thanks to Matt Scott, Termite Survey!


#6- Warrior of the Light

Photo Credit: Reese Spykerman

Each time I read Paulo Coelo’s Warrior of the Light, I see its wisdom in a new light, and what’s so meaningful about it is how it can show me my growth over time. As I look at my Kindle highlights, I see what resonated with me 3 years ago lands differently today. Each short passage helps me more deeply examine questions like, “what am I here to do? What’s getting in my way? What’s the truth I need to know?” It is both razor-sharp, and metaphorical, in the way it helps distill what real leadership is. Whenever I need to find my way or walk through a new challenge, I can open any random passage of this book and find a light that helps shine the way for me.

Thanks to Reese Spykerman, Design by Reese!


#7- On Becoming a Leader

Photo Credit: James Kilpatrick

The author Warren Bennis, dubbed “the Dean of Leadership Gurus” by Forbes magazine, persuasively argues that leadership is not something you’re born with. Rather, it’s something you can learn and grow into. This classic delves into the qualities that define leadership, the people who exemplify it, and the strategies that anyone can apply to achieve it. As a kid who grew up insecure and unsure of himself, On Becoming a Leader made me realize my own potential; that if I studied smart and worked hard, it would create opportunities and open doors for me. And it has!

Thanks to James Kilpatrick, Beanie Coffee!


#8- It Worked For Me – In Life and Leadership, Colin Powell

Photo Credit: Rick Wallace

I love this book for its simplicity and clarity. Powell starts by setting out the 13 rules he would share with subordinates during his military career and there is some absolute gold in these. My three favorites are: ‘Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier’; ‘It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning’ and ‘Avoid having your ego so close to your position that, when your position falls, your ego goes with it’. There is so much more in this book, such as the advice Powell used to give his intelligence chiefs when he was Secretary of State and his thoughts on leading armed conflict. It’s a great read for anyone leading people in demanding circumstances.

Thanks to Rick Wallace, Tackle Village!


#9- Two books

Photo Credit: Christopher Zoukis

By far, the two best books on leadership are Living Forward by Seth Godin and The Real-Life MBA by Jack and Suzy Welch. Living Forward is a phenomenal guide to visualizing one’s future and mapping out the steps to achieving success. This can be applied both personally and from a business standpoint. The Real-Life MBA has an inspiring chapter about leadership in which the authors argue that leadership at its core consists of two elements: truth and trust. This book argues for accepting truth and nothing but the truth in a management style, and to foster buy-in from team members in the form of The Trust Dividend. The key concept here is that as leaders, colleagues may not always want to hear the truth, but they will place their trust and faith in those who always act with an honest heart.

Thanks to Christopher Zoukis, Zoukis Consulting Group!


#10-Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

Photo Credit: Ajmal Dar

MoccasinGuru is something I’ve wanted to start for a long time. But, I couldn’t quite find the time in the day alongside my day job and other responsibilities. Then I came across the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. In the book, Hal talks you through his 6 step process – S.A.V.E.R.S, Silence, Affirmation, Visualizations, Exercise, Reading and Scribing. And how implementing these six steps in the morning can lead you to feel energized and giving you the push that you need. I’ll be honest at first I thought a lot of it was rubbish, but I gave it a try, and to my surprise, I found it working. Before I read the book, I would have stated that I’m not a morning person as a fait accompli. But Hal talks about your mindset and how you can break these negative cycles. For me, I’ve found that I’ve created a headspace to do the things that are important and also learned something new. And for me, leadership is both about doing but also learning to do things better. And that’s why I’d pick this book as one of my favourites on leadership. It showed me how to take stock, look at the resources that I had available and needed (time) and then helped me find a way to get that time through the changes it recommended.

Thanks to Ajmal Dar, Moccasin Guru!


#11-Good to Great

Photo Credit: Martin Seeley

Leadership, may it be leading a small or big team, is essential to have a well-managed team. The people on a team usually look up to a great leader. It is difficult to find the right balance of being a bad or good leader, you need to assess your teammates on their attitude and responses to your leadership before changing it. One of the best books that talks about leadership is Good to Great by Jim Collins. In this book, the author talks about the phases he has experience in making a company from good to great. He also said that it was a difficult thing to do. He specified 3 main components for this, that is the process, phases, and flywheel. Also mentioned in the book are 5 levels of leadership. For me, this book is about being a great leader or company, It allows you to see what one needs to go through before becoming a great leader.

Thanks to Martin Seeley, MattressNextDay!


#12- The Truth About Leadership

Photo Credit: Albert Griesmayr

No one is born like a perfect leader, although someone can be born with a true leadership skills, you cannot guarantee its perfect. We all have those moments that we need to learn in order to grow and excel. I spend those moments reading lots and lots of books about leadership in order for me to grow as an excellent leader. The best book for leadership that I recommend to you is The Truth About Leadership, by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. It is a book that tells you the things that plays a major role in being an effective leader such as, trust, credibility, and ethics. The reason why I love this book is, it is very objective. It is a book made out of 30 years of research. It tells us what really works most of the time.

Thanks to Albert Griesmayr, Scribando!


#13- Deep Work

Photo Credit: Pedro Henriques

Deep Work from Cal Newport is a fantastic book for leaders. It might see a weird choice as it talks more about be productive and the ability to focus. The truth is, if a leader wants his contributors to perform and be mindful, he or she needs to provide a good framework in which the team can thrive and avoid the constant interruptions. Including interruptions from managers asking for status updates or scheduling frequent meetings that cut deep work sessions.

Thanks to Pedro Henriques, BRIDGE IN!


#14- Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Photo Credit: Kate Diaz

The philosophy he presents here is not only inspiring but highly effective as well. In the book, he explains the reasons why ego is our number one enemy, from the moment we start our careers until we get a little taste of success. It made me realize that ego is an obstacle in our growth and development. Also, it’ll blind us with our faults when we’ve already climbed the ladder to success. And if we don’t keep our egos in check, there’s nowhere for us to go but down. This book also taught me that if you want to be a great leader, your confidence should be combined with humility and contentment.

Thanks to Kate Diaz, Swanky Den!


#15- Who Do We Choose To Be?

Photo Credit: Cecilia Wessinger

It’s hard to pick just one leadership book, there are a number of very good ones and also because you sometimes end up picking just the choice bits you agree with and the merit of the book is then based on the quantity of information we perceive as worthy. In this time of turbulence and polarization the book I turn to is Margaret J Wheatley’s Who Do We Choose To Be? In an unexpected way, it offers solace to know the world has been down this path before in some fashion. It’s not a ‘how to’ book with a laundry list of items that exhibit the ideals of leadership. Wheatley offers examples of how leaders achieved greater impact by using whatever power and influence we have to achieve greater impact. The book is not about the position of leading from the front, back or alongside, but the possibilities from within to create islands of sanity and a call to action. The book is an invitation to seek the humanity and possibilities in all of us regardless of our titles and pedigree, it inspires and holds me accountable; and after all, isn’t that what leadership is about?

Thanks to Cecilia Wessinger


#16-Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

I read what remains my favourite business book during my formative years at university, and while written more as a biography, the book is a story of incredible success born out of one specific focus – customer experience as your USP. The book I’m talking about is Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, and in following his learnings the two major takeaways which stuck with me, and which I build into every business I’m involved in is that (1) customer experience is everything, and (2) the best way to deliver a great customer experience is through a team culture of happy, inspired, and empowered people. In essence the book is about culture and leadership, presented in a charming and engaging way which proves a welcome change of pace from many more sterile business books.

Thanks to George Hammerton, Hammerton Barbados!


#17- Dare to Lead

Photo Credit: Paige Arnof-Fenn

There are a lot of great leadership books out there but one I highly recommend is Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brene Brown. She is an academic who writes and speaks about her research in very practical ways. She shares powerful insights to dare you to think big and has the data to back it up. She excels in describing behaviors and emotions that we’ve all felt. More importantly, she gives us constructive actions we can take to live and work more effectively.

Thanks to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls!


#18- Great By Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen

Photo Credit: Raushawna Price

This book gives key strategies that helped me scale my business from average monthly sales of $8,000 to over $20,000. The first strategy is the 20-mile march which teaches the consistency principle by highlighting how to pick one thing and do it every day with the same sense of passion and desire. The second strategy is to fire bullets, then cannon balls. As an entrepreneur having an idea for a program and putting it out into the market place as a beta test is crucial, however I found within my own business and with other entrepreneurs, the full launch never happened. After reading this book, I figured out how to fire many bullets (beta test a couple offerings at one time) and then put my resources behind the bullet that was a hit and fired the cannon ball! This book is great to illustrate concepts for consistency and growth!

Thanks to Raushawna Price


#19- Trillion Dollar Coach

Photo Credit: Holly Jean Jackson

Bill Campbell’s legacy is shared and here are a few of the key rules that sum it up… 1) It’s the People…. everything you do as a leader is all about the people you lead. Help them be amazing. 2) Tough Love….to be a great leader you must share the difficult feedback your employees or mentees need to hear to grow. 3) *Win Right….not all winning is equal. Winning with your ethics and values in place is the winning that truly counts. These are powerful guideposts to live and lead from.

Thanks to Holly Jean Jackson


#20- The Big Five For Life

Photo Credit: Giulio Zecca

Among many leadership books that guide us for soft and hard skills, I choose a novel: The Big Five For Life. Using a bit of real research, John P. Strelecky is able to inspire the idea that working in a company which Purpose is aligned with our personal Purpose, everyone would stop struggling with an internal battle between work and life. And it’s our role, as Leaders, to create the conditions and the environment so that our teams get paid for what fulfills them, obtaining in return lower turnover rates, better productivity and more profits. It should be a mandatory read for all executives.

Thanks to Giulio Zecca, innovAchievers!


#21- It’s The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters

Photo Credit: Mike Beatty

My favorite book on leadership is actually not meant to be a book on leadership at all. It’s The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters. The book explains how the human brain works using easy to understand terms and analogies. One of the most important thing in leadership is getting people to see your way of thinking and doing what you want them to do. The best way to do this is by actually understanding what they want and why we behave as we do in certain situations.

Thanks to Mike Beatty, Make Time Online!


What’s your favorite book on leadership? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community.

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