10 of the best leadership books to read today

It is important to make time to read because reading can help you build your expertise, give you an escape from your current situation, and learn from other people’s experiences.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers

Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States

While you can’t learn everything there is to know about leadership from books, they can provide you with new ideas, encourage you to make better decisions, and remind you of important fundamentals and concepts.

Reading business books can be enjoyable and play a critical role in helping you become a better leader and improve your leadership skills.

The best leaders have the best habits. One of these habits is reading. It is one of the most powerful sources of growth and habits of highly effective people.

The best 10 leadership books to read today

To inspire your own reading list, here is a list of best 10 books you should read about leadership.

1. Leaders: Myth and Reality

Leaders Myth and Reality Book

Authors: Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, and Jason Mangone

Why should you read this book? In this book, Stanley McChrystal, a retired general who spent 34 years in the U.S. Army, and his co-authors (Jeff Eggers, and Jason Mangone), discuss 13 great leaders and explain leadership is not what you think it is. This book explores the ancient old question: “What makes a leader great?” There is no simple answer but the book explores the stories of these famous leaders and how they put leadership to work in a wide range of different eras and different fields.

This book challenges our thinking about leadership. For example, General Robert E. Lee did everything right in his military career but he led the Confederate Army to defeat in the service of an evil-minded cause.

2. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

Extreme Ownership Book

Authors: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Why should you read this book? A no. 1 New York Times bestseller, this book provides firsthand accounts from the U.S. Navy Seals and their heroism, tragic loss, and hard-won victories. The book shows that the U.S. Navy Seals learned that leadership is one of the most important factors in whether a team succeeds or fails.

This book has become a required reading for many of the most successful organizations because it details the mindset and the principles that enable the U.S. Navy Seals unites to accomplish some of the most difficult combat missions in the world by creating high performing teams that dominate the battlefield.

The authors of this book, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, are former leaders of a U.S. Navy Seal team who helped U.S. forces secure Ramadi, a violent, insurgent-held city in central Iraq that was deemed “all but lost.” This book provides powerful instruction and direct application to challenges leaders on how to fulfill their purpose: lead and win.

3. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t

Leaders Eat Last Book

Author: Simon Sinek

Why should you read this book? The author of the popular book Start With Why offers thoughts on how to build a workplace around trust and avoid silos that doom unsuccessful cultures. Many successful companies today create environments where people want to work together and do remarkable things.

While working with companies around the globe, the author realized that some teams literally put their lives on the line for each other. During a conversation with a Marine Corps general who said “officers eat last,” the author watched as the most junior Marines ate first while the most senior Marines took their place at the back of the line. Great leaders sacrifice for the good of those on their team. With many workplaces driven by cynicism, paranoia, and self-interest, the organizations that foster trust and cooperation are the most successful.

4. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You

Laws of Leadership Book

Authors: John Maxwell

Why should you read this book? This book is one of the best-selling leadership books of all time. The author of this book is a worldwide recognized leadership expert and speaker. He discusses the 21 fundamental “laws” of leadership that are true to leaders in any culture or area of society.  This book provides an evaluation tool to help you reveal your leadership strengths and weaknesses. It also provides application exercises in every chapter to help you grow as a leader.

Each chapter of this book discusses one of the leadership laws such as the law of influence, the law of process,  and the law of respect. Whether you like these laws or not, the laws of leadership govern your personal and organizational effectiveness. As the author says: “everything rises and falls on leadership.”

5. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

The Culture Code Boook

Author: Daniel Coyle

Why should you read this book? This book takes you inside some of the world’s most successful organizations today such as the U.S. Navy’s SEALs, IDEO, and the San Antonio Spurs to show you what makes them really succeed. What you see if that is boils down to great culture that is built, strengthened, and sustain over time.

The author explores the culture-building process and identifies key skills areas that foster cohesion and cooperation. This book discusses how diverse groups can learn to function with a one mind. The author explains what cultures should or should not do, describes common culture pitfalls and how to reform a toxic culture. This book provides a road map for leaders today who are looking to create an environment that fosters innovation, problems are solved, and expectations are managed and exceeded. This book teaches you the fundamental principles of culture and how a group of diverse individuals can accomplish great things together.

6. What Are Your Blind Spots? Conquering the 5 Misconceptions that Hold Leaders Back

Blind Spots Book

Authors: Jim Haudan and Rich Berens

Why should you read this book? Are you aware of your blind spots and how that impacts your leadership approach? This book discusses how leaders today are using old, legacy thinking best practices to engage and motivate their teams. As a result, many teams are failing. This book explains that the most successful organizations today are “purpose driven” that drives strategic change, encourages customer loyalty and fosters employee engagement.

The authors explain how leaders should discard old ways of thinking and recognize the five common leadership blind spots that hamper success. This book will show you how to identify your own blind spots and overcome them. The authors will equip you with the tools you need to engage and motivate your team.

7. The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World

The Power of Positive Leadership Book

Authors: Jon Gordon

Why should you read this book? As a leader, you will experience many challenges, tests, and people who are negative. This book explains that life can be hard but positive leadership is essential to success and the stuff that makes great leaders great. This book explains that being a positive leader can help you build a great culture, unite your organization in the face of challenges, and build a committed team that produces excellent results.

Jon Gordon, the author, also wrote The Energy Bus, a best selling book that reveals the 10 secrets for approaching life and work with a positive and forward thinking way. He has interviewed some of the greatest leaders of our time and researched and shares what he has learned. This book provides a framework with proven principles, stories, and ideas to help you become a positive leader.

8. Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust

Humble Leadership Book

Authors: Edgar Schein and Peter Schein

Why should you read this book? This book provides a perspective on leadership where your vulnerabilities can become your strengths. The authors of this book challenge the traditional way of leadership that has become outdated and ineffective. They explain that companies today are facing more complex interdependent tasks and leadership should become more personal and open so leaders create an environment of collaborative problem solving.

The book calls for a type of leadership that meets today’s trends of relationship building, complex group work, and diverse workforce. This book explains that humble leadership is based on a deep understanding of group dynamics and collaboration that will help your organization achieve the agility you need to succeed.

9. The Dichotomy of Leadership; Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win

Dichotomy of Leadership Book

Authors: Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Why should you read this book? This book, from the same authors of the no. 1 New York Times bestseller Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, helps leaders walk the fine line of leadership balance that is crucial to succeed in today’s world. While reading this book, the authors will help you find balance between the opposing forces that pull every leader in two different directions.

The book explores these questions: When should you lead and when should you follow? When should you let the team run itself and when to dive into the details? The authors provide examples from their combat experiences while serving on the U.S. Navy Seal team and how these lessons can apply to the business world. Learn the skills that are mission-critical for any leader and how your team can succeed.

10. Leadership: In Turbulent Times

Leadership in Turbulent Times Book

Author: Doris Kearns Goodwin

Why should you read this book? Does the leader make the times or do the times make the leader? Are leaders born or made? How does adversity impact the growth of leaders? These questions are explored in this book. The author looks at four U.S. presidents (Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson) to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and what you can learn from them to lead in today’s today’s polarized world.

This book shows how these leaders confronted the dilemmas of their times and were guided by a sense of moral purpose. At the moment of their greatest challenges, these famous leaders were able to harness their talents and lead others through hardships in turbulent times.

BONUS! Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And How to Fix It)

Incompetent Men Become Leaders Book

Author: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

Why should you read this book? The author marshals decades of research to build his case on why we should re-evaluate our views on leadership. This book discusses our tendency, as a society, to equate leadership with personality traits statistically more likely to be found in men such as confidence, extraversion, and charisma. These same characteristics can backfire as overconfidence, narcissism, and even psychopathy, resulting in a disaster for an organization.

The author argues that we should value competent, unassuming, and humble leaders more. And we should not encourage women to Lean In and adopt dysfunctional leadership traits.

What are some of the best leadership books to read?

Is your favorite leadership book missing from this list? What are the best leadership books to read today?