1986 books total
Are leaders born or made?
How is leadership correlated to authority?
What to look for to recognize the great leaders from the mediocre ones?
How can leaders identify and improve their skills?
Should they focus on their strengths or eliminating weaknesses?
What are their mental models, how do they make decisions? And, more importantly how do they make decisions when everything goes wrong?
What are the best practices in leadership? What happened to the leaders who decided to ignore such things and disrupt the industry they were working in? What about the most disastrous decision?
Driven by the mission to identify the best books about leadership, we looked into whose words influenced the most successful people in the world. What else to work as a better curation filter, right?
However, keep in mind that correlation is not the same thing with causation. Just because all the leaders in the world read and recommend the same books, doesn’t mean that by reading them you’ll become as successful as them (just as how dropping college won’t turn you into the next Mark Zuckerberg).
We identified three main types of books that will help you learn more about leadership:
You can find the whole list below. We’ll continue to update it as we identify more titles that shaped and influenced the actions of world’s leaders.
Brian Chesky: For Chesky, a source may come in the form of a biography of a business hero such as Steve Jobs or Walt Disney. His primary book source on management technique is Andy Grove’s High Output Management.
Mark Zuckerberg: Ben’s experience and expertise make him one of the most important leaders not just in Silicon Valley but also in the global knowledge economy. For anyone interested in building, growing or leading a great company, this book is an incredibly valuable resource – and a funny and insightful read.
Larry Page: Ben’s book is a great read – with uncomfortable truths about entrepreneurship and how to lead to a company. It’s also an inspiring story of a business rebirth through sheer willpower.
Joel Gascoigne: Good to Great is one of the first transformative books I read as Buffer started to grow beyond a product, and into a company. This happened when we were around 7 people and I started to feel like we needed to think about “culture”, a concept that I previously had no real way to understand apart from conceptually.
As the team grew beyond 7, I noticed that team dynamics came much more into play, and we couldn’t assume that everyone knows everything anymore.
In addition, I realized that the people we work with affect us immensely. Good to Great helped me to understand how important culture is for building a great, lasting company that has an impact on the world. It started to become clear that we already had a culture, and it was evolving.
Richard Branson: While I’ve never been an avid reader of leadership books in general, books such as Alastair Campbell’s Winning and Richard Reed’s If I Could Tell You Just One Thing are filled with useful tips. They highlight tangible lessons from a diverse range of interesting people, and I like to read a chapter every now and then to get inspired.
Amy Brandt-Schumacher: Finally, a leadership book that actually demonstrates how to truly lead. Riveting, engaging, and free from the usual cliché platitudes, this book is strikingly impactful and will dramatically improve leaders of all types.
Jared Hamilton: Extreme Ownership provides huge value for leaders at all levels. An inspiring and page-turning read, the leadership lessons are easy to digest and implement. It provides a powerful SEAL framework for action to lead teams in high-stakes environments. This book made me a better leader and enabled my entire team step up our game!
Ryan Holiday: In 2014, I read The Education of a Coach, a book about Bill Belichick which influenced me immensely (coincidentally, the Patriots have also read my book and were influenced by it). Anyway, I have been chasing that high ever since. Bill Walsh’s book certainly met that high standard. Out of all the books I read this year, I marked this one up the most. Even if you’ve never watched a down of football, you’ll get something out of this book. Walsh took the 49ers from the worst team in football to the Super Bowl in less than 3 years. How? Not with a grand vision or pure ambition, but with what he called the Standard of Performance. That is: How to practice. How to dress. How to hold the ball. Where to be on a play down the very inch. Which skills mattered for each position. How much effort to give. By upholding these standards—whatever they happen to be for your chosen craft—success will take care of itself.
Tony Robbins: The basis of this book is so important to anyone looking to increase their influence, profits or impact. People won’t truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it. When you start with the why, everything else falls into place. This book is so impactful, I consider it required reading.
Bill Gates: This year’s fierce election battle prompted me to pick up this 2014 book, by an Oxford University scholar who has studied political leadership—good, bad, and ugly—for more than 50 years. Brown shows that the leaders who make the biggest contributions to history and humanity generally are not the ones we perceive to be “strong leaders.” Instead, they tend to be the ones who collaborate, delegate, and negotiate—and recognize that no one person can or should have all the answers. Brown could not have predicted how resonant his book would become in 2016.
Ryan Holiday: It’s unusual for modern biographies to be this good. It’s especially unusually for the subject of the biography to approach the biographer in the way that Steve Jobs did (thinking that he was the intellectual heir of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein). But despite those two things, this bio is and will likely forever be a classic. It shows Jobs at his best–determined, creative, prophetic–and at his worst–petty, selfish, tyrannical and vicious. You can learn just as much about what kind of leader you probably don’t want to be from this book as you can from anything else. That’s what is so strange about Jobs and this biography. You read it and you’re blown away and impressed but I think very few of us think: yeah, I want to be that guy. I want to treat my kids that way, I want to be obsessed with trivial design things that way, I want to hate that way, and so on. You admire him but you also see him as a tragic figure. That’s how you know that Isaacson did an amazing job with this book. TC mark
Tony Hsieh: Tony Hsieh admires the book because it explains the importance of creating a strong company culture.
Michael Stapley: The leadership principles in this book have had a greater impact on the quality of leadership in our company than anything we have ever implemented. They have been extraordinarily important in helping make our company a great place to work while at the same time helping us focus on results and increase productivity as never before.
Dan T. Cathy: When it comes to leadership, inspiration is just as important – if not more so – than information. John Maxwell offers both. The 5 Levels of Leadership will not only tell you how to climb higher, it will give you the motivation you need to reach the top
Ken Krivanec: In a sea of leadership sameness, Carucci and Hansen have emerged with a disruptive view of what modern-day executives should look and act like. Anyone who humbly occupies an executive leadership seat and desires to build a legacy of sustainable results must apply the lessons of this book. Do yourself, your shareholders, and your associates a favor—make the change today.
Jim Sinegal: Wooden On Leadership offers valuable lessons no matter what your endeavor. ‘Competitive Greatness’ is our goal and that of any successful organization. Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is where it all starts.
Dave Llyod: Finally, a leadership book that I can relate to this book is full of practical and accessible strategies.
Dan Amos: As insightful as it is concise. Its ‘to the point’ style provides a clear roadmap for becoming a better manager.
Steve Caldiera: Eric Chester has written the definitive guide for attracting, developing, and retaining great employees, while also providing actionable and proven strategies for getting them to work as if they were co-owners.
If you think there’s anything we missed and should be on the list, please use the comments section and let us know.