There are many business books to help you level up your career, grow as a leader, and lead a more integrated professional life. We round up some favorites.
Updated
June 13, 2024

10 Great Leadership Books to Help You Get Ahead at Work

There are many business books to help you level up your career, grow as a leader, and lead a more integrated professional life. We round up some favorites.

There's no shortage of business books promising to help you level up your career, grow as a leader, and lead a more integrated professional life. We round up some of our favorites.

👉 TL;DR

If you've ever browsed the business & leadership section at your local bookstore, you've come across many books promising to help you get ahead at work. We can learn a lot from these books (but maybe we don't have to read them cover to cover!). Below are the essential lessons from some of our favorites.

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In this article:

Effective leadership is more critical than ever, and there are lots of great books out there packed with practical insights and advice to help you become a better manager. Here's a few of the most popular leadership books, along with a quick summary of their main points.

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni outlines the common pitfalls that teams encounter on their path to becoming high-performing.

Read our summary of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni.

Here are the core lessons from “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni:

1. Absence of Trust

Problem: Team members are unwilling to be vulnerable and open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses.

Solution: Build trust through exercises that promote transparency and vulnerability.

2. Fear of Conflict

Problem: Teams avoid conflict, leading to artificial harmony rather than productive debate.

Solution: Encourage healthy, constructive conflict to discuss ideas openly and resolve issues quickly.

3. Lack of Commitment

Problem: Without healthy conflict, team members don’t buy into decisions, leading to a lack of commitment.

Solution: Ensure clarity and alignment on decisions, even if not everyone agrees, to foster commitment.

4. Avoidance of Accountability

Problem: Team members hesitate to call out peers on counterproductive behaviors, leading to low standards.

Solution: Establish clear responsibilities and expectations, and foster a culture where team members hold each other accountable.

5. Inattention to Results

Problem: Individual needs and egos take precedence over team goals, hindering collective success.

Solution: Focus on collective outcomes, and reward behaviors that contribute to team goals over individual achievements.

These dysfunctions are interconnected, meaning that addressing them requires a holistic approach. By focusing on building trust, encouraging conflict, securing commitment, promoting accountability, and prioritizing results, teams can overcome these dysfunctions and achieve high performance.

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“Start With Your People” by Brian Dixon

"Start With Your People" by Brian Dixon emphasizes the importance of focusing on relationships and people to achieve success.

Read our summary of "Start With Your People" by Brian Dixon.

Here are the core lessons from “Start With Your People” by Brian Dixon:

1. Prioritize Relationships

Lesson: Success begins with investing in the people around you, whether they are family, friends, colleagues, or customers.

Action: Spend time understanding and valuing the needs and aspirations of the people in your life.

2. Serve Others

Lesson: True leadership is about serving others, not just achieving personal goals.

Action: Look for ways to help and support others, and put their needs before your own.

3. Effective Communication

Lesson: Clear, honest, and frequent communication builds trust and strengthens relationships.

Action: Practice active listening, provide constructive feedback, and ensure your messages are understood.

4. Empathy and Understanding

Lesson: Empathy is crucial in understanding the perspectives and feelings of others.

Action: Put yourself in others' shoes, show genuine interest in their experiences, and respond with compassion.

5. Personal Growth and Development

Lesson: Investing in your own growth helps you better serve others.

Action: Continuously seek opportunities to learn and improve, and encourage those around you to do the same.

6. Align with Your Purpose

Lesson: Knowing your purpose and aligning your actions with it helps you make better decisions and build stronger connections.

Action: Clarify your personal and professional goals, and ensure your daily actions support these objectives.

7. Create a Positive Culture

Lesson: A positive, supportive culture attracts and retains great people.

Action: Foster an environment where people feel valued, respected, and motivated to contribute.

By focusing on these lessons, "Start With Your People" guides readers to build stronger, more meaningful relationships that lead to personal and professional success.

“Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown

"Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown provides insights into effective leadership by focusing on courage, vulnerability, and connection.

Read our summary of “Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.” by Brené Brown 

Here are the core lessons from “Dare to Lead” by Brené Brown:

1. Embrace Vulnerability

Lesson: Vulnerability is not a weakness but a strength that fosters trust and innovation.

Action: Be open about your fears and uncertainties, and encourage others to do the same.

2. Cultivate Courage

Lesson: Courageous leadership involves taking risks, making tough decisions, and standing up for your values.

Action: Practice bravery in your daily actions, even when it's uncomfortable or challenging.

3. Build Trust

Lesson: Trust is the foundation of strong teams and effective leadership.

Action: Demonstrate reliability, honesty, and integrity in all interactions to build and maintain trust.

4. Lead with Empathy

Lesson: Empathy helps leaders connect with their teams and understand their perspectives.

Action: Listen actively, show genuine concern for others, and respond with compassion.

5. Develop Resilience

Lesson: Resilience is crucial for navigating setbacks and challenges.

Action: Foster a growth mindset, learn from failures, and support others in developing resilience.

6. Create a Culture of Belonging

Lesson: A sense of belonging enhances team cohesion and performance.

Action: Promote inclusivity, celebrate diversity, and ensure everyone feels valued and included.

7. Practice Accountability

Lesson: Accountability drives performance and integrity.

Action: Set clear expectations, hold yourself and others responsible for actions, and address issues directly and constructively.

8. Be Clear and Kind

Lesson: Clarity in communication prevents misunderstandings and builds respect.
Action: Communicate expectations and feedback clearly and kindly, avoiding ambiguity and harshness.

9. Embrace Continuous Learning

Lesson: Leaders should always seek to learn and grow.

Action: Encourage a culture of continuous improvement and self-development, both for yourself and your team.

By applying these lessons, "Dare to Lead" guides readers to become more effective, compassionate, and courageous leaders who can inspire and empower their teams.

“Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things” by Adam Grant

"Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things" by Adam Grant explores how individuals and teams can unlock their hidden potential.

Read our summary of "Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things" by Adam Grant.

Here are the core lessons from “Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things” by Adam Grant:

1. Mindset Matters

Lesson: A growth mindset is crucial for achieving greater things. Believing that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work leads to greater achievement.

Action: Embrace challenges, learn from criticism, and persist in the face of setbacks.

2. Leverage Strengths

Lesson: Identifying and leveraging your unique strengths can propel you towards your goals.

Action: Assess your skills and talents, and find ways to use them effectively in your personal and professional life.

3. The Power of Purpose

Lesson: Having a clear sense of purpose drives motivation and perseverance.

Action: Define your purpose and align your goals and actions with it to stay motivated and focused.

4. Harnessing the Collective

Lesson: Collaboration and teamwork can amplify individual potential.

Action: Build strong, diverse teams and foster a culture of collaboration and mutual support.

5. Resilience and Adaptability

Lesson: The ability to adapt and bounce back from adversity is key to unlocking potential.

Action: Develop resilience by learning from failures, staying flexible, and maintaining a positive outlook.

6. Continuous Learning

Lesson: Lifelong learning is essential for personal and professional growth.

Action: Seek out new knowledge, skills, and experiences to continually expand your capabilities.

7. Effective Feedback

Lesson: Constructive feedback helps individuals and teams improve and achieve their goals.

Action: Give and receive feedback regularly, focusing on specific, actionable insights.

8. Building Habits

Lesson: Establishing positive habits leads to sustained success.

Action: Identify key habits that support your goals and incorporate them into your daily routine.

9. Emotional Intelligence

Lesson: Understanding and managing emotions enhances relationships and performance.

Action: Develop emotional intelligence by practicing self-awareness, empathy, and effective communication.

By focusing on these lessons, "Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things" provides a roadmap for individuals and teams to unlock their potential and achieve greater success.

“Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek

"Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek provides insights into effective leadership and building strong, trust-based teams.

Read our summary of "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek.

Here are the core lessons from “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek:

1. Put Others First

Lesson: True leaders prioritize the well-being and success of their team members over their own interests.

Action: Show genuine concern for your team's needs and support them in their efforts.

2. Build Trust

Lesson: Trust is the foundation of strong teams and effective leadership.

Action: Be consistent, honest, and reliable in your actions and communications to build trust.

3. Create a Safe Environment

Lesson: Teams perform best when they feel safe, both physically and psychologically.

Action: Foster an environment where team members feel secure, valued, and free to express themselves without fear of retribution.

4. Lead with Empathy

Lesson: Empathy strengthens relationships and enhances leadership effectiveness.

Action: Listen actively, understand others' perspectives, and respond with compassion and support.

5. Encourage Collaboration

Lesson: Collaboration leads to better problem-solving and innovation.

Action: Promote teamwork, open communication, and the sharing of ideas.

6. Promote a Sense of Belonging

Lesson: A strong sense of belonging boosts team morale and commitment.

Action: Create a culture where everyone feels included, respected, and part of something larger than themselves.

7. Serve and Support

Lesson: Leadership is about serving and supporting others to help them achieve their potential.

Action: Provide the resources, guidance, and encouragement your team needs to succeed.

8. Communicate a Clear Vision

Lesson: A clear and compelling vision unites and motivates teams.

Action: Articulate a vision that inspires and guides your team towards common goals.

9. Build Resilience

Lesson: Resilient teams can navigate challenges and recover from setbacks.

Action: Encourage a growth mindset, celebrate small wins, and learn from failures.

10. Lead by Example

Lesson: Leaders set the tone for their teams through their actions and behaviors.

Action: Demonstrate the values and behaviors you expect from your team, and lead with integrity and accountability.

By applying these lessons, "Leaders Eat Last" guides readers to become more empathetic, supportive, and effective leaders who can build strong, cohesive, and high-performing teams.

“The Leader's Mind: How Great Leaders Prepare, Perform, and Prevail” by Jim Afremow and Phil White

"The Leader's Mind: How Great Leaders Prepare, Perform, and Prevail" by Jim Afremow and Phil White explores the mental strategies that successful leaders use to excel.

Read our summary of "The Leader's Mind: How Great Leaders Prepare, Perform, and Prevail" by Jim Afremow and Phil White

Here are the core lessons from “The Leader's Mind: How Great Leaders Prepare, Perform, and Prevail” by Jim Afremow and Phil White:

1. Mental Preparation

Lesson: Effective leaders prepare mentally for challenges and opportunities.

Action: Develop routines that include visualization, goal setting, and positive affirmations to prepare your mind for success.

2. Focus and Concentration

Lesson: Maintaining focus and concentration is crucial for high performance.

Action: Practice mindfulness and other techniques to improve your ability to stay present and focused on tasks.

3. Resilience and Adaptability

Lesson: Resilience and adaptability are key traits of successful leaders.

Action: Build mental toughness by embracing challenges, learning from failures, and staying flexible in the face of change.

4. Emotional Regulation

Lesson: Leaders need to manage their emotions effectively to make sound decisions and lead others.

Action: Develop emotional intelligence by practicing self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy.

5. Confidence and Self-Belief

Lesson: Confidence is a cornerstone of effective leadership.

Action: Boost your self-confidence by acknowledging your strengths, celebrating successes, and learning from mistakes.

6. Growth Mindset

Lesson: A growth mindset fosters continuous improvement and innovation.

Action: Embrace challenges, seek feedback, and view failures as opportunities to learn and grow.

7. Effective Communication

Lesson: Clear and effective communication is essential for leadership success.

Action: Hone your communication skills by being clear, concise, and listening actively to others.

8. Team Building and Collaboration

Lesson: Great leaders build strong teams and foster collaboration.

Action: Encourage teamwork, create a supportive environment, and leverage the diverse strengths of team members.

9. Decision-Making Under Pressure

Lesson: Leaders must make informed decisions quickly and effectively, even under pressure.

Action: Develop decision-making frameworks, stay calm under pressure, and gather relevant information before making decisions.

10. Purpose and Vision

Lesson: Having a clear purpose and vision guides leaders and motivates their teams.

Action: Define your purpose, articulate a compelling vision, and align your actions with your long-term goals.

By applying these lessons, "The Leader's Mind" helps readers develop the mental strategies needed to prepare, perform, and prevail as effective leaders.

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“The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle

"The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups" by Daniel Coyle explores the principles behind creating strong and successful group cultures.

Here are the core lessons from “The Culture Code” by Daniel Coyle:

1. Build Safety

Lesson: A sense of safety and belonging is crucial for team success.

Action: Foster an environment where everyone feels secure, valued, and free to express their thoughts without fear of judgment.

2. Share Vulnerability

Lesson: Vulnerability builds trust and strengthens connections within the team.

Action: Encourage team members to be open about their mistakes and weaknesses, and lead by example by showing your own vulnerability.

3. Establish Purpose

Lesson: A clear and compelling purpose unites and motivates the team.

Action: Define and communicate a shared vision and goals that give the team a sense of direction and meaning.

4. Overcommunicate Expectations

Lesson: Clear communication of expectations ensures everyone is on the same page.

Action: Regularly discuss goals, roles, and responsibilities to avoid misunderstandings and keep the team aligned.

5. Embrace Diversity

Lesson: Diverse perspectives and backgrounds enrich the team's problem-solving and creativity.

Action: Promote inclusivity, encourage diverse viewpoints, and leverage the unique strengths of each team member.

6. Focus on Relationships

Lesson: Strong interpersonal relationships are the foundation of a successful team.

Action: Invest time in building connections, trust, and rapport among team members through team-building activities and open communication.

7. Encourage Feedback

Lesson: Constructive feedback drives continuous improvement and growth.

Action: Create a culture where feedback is welcomed, regularly given, and used to enhance performance.

8. Lead with Humility

Lesson: Humble leadership fosters a collaborative and respectful team environment.

Action: Acknowledge your limitations, seek input from others, and give credit to the team for their contributions.

9. Practice Deliberate Practice

Lesson: Continuous practice and refinement are key to achieving excellence.

Action: Encourage team members to engage in deliberate practice, focusing on specific skills and receiving targeted feedback.

10. Celebrate Small Wins

Lesson: Recognizing and celebrating small victories boosts morale and motivation.

Action: Regularly acknowledge individual and team achievements, no matter how small, to maintain momentum and a positive atmosphere.

By applying these lessons, "The Culture Code" provides a roadmap for creating and nurturing strong, cohesive, and high-performing teams.

“Radical Candor” by Kim Scott

"Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity" by Kim Scott focuses on creating a workplace culture where people can thrive through direct, honest communication and genuine care.

Here are the core lessons from “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott:

1. Care Personally

Lesson: Building genuine relationships with your team members is crucial.

Action: Show that you care about your team members as individuals, not just as employees. Take an interest in their lives and well-being.

2. Challenge Directly

Lesson: Honest, direct feedback is essential for growth and improvement.

Action: Be straightforward and clear when giving feedback. Address issues promptly and specifically, without sugarcoating or being overly harsh.

3. Balance Praise and Criticism

Lesson: Both positive reinforcement and constructive criticism are necessary.

Action: Recognize and celebrate successes while also addressing areas that need improvement. Strive for a balance that motivates and guides your team.

4. Encourage Open Communication

Lesson: A culture of open communication leads to better problem-solving and innovation.

Action: Foster an environment where team members feel safe to speak up, share ideas, and voice concerns without fear of retribution.

5. Understand the Context

Lesson: Tailor your approach to feedback based on individual personalities and situations.

Action: Be aware of how different team members may react to feedback and adjust your delivery accordingly. Consider their perspectives and emotional states.

6. Practice Active Listening

Lesson: Effective communication involves not just speaking, but also listening.

Action: Pay close attention to what your team members are saying. Show empathy, ask questions, and ensure you fully understand their viewpoints.

7. Lead by Example

Lesson: Your behavior sets the tone for the team.

Action: Model the principles of Radical Candor in your interactions. Be open to receiving feedback yourself and demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement.

8. Create a Culture of Learning

Lesson: A learning-oriented culture promotes growth and development.

Action: Encourage ongoing learning and development. Provide opportunities for team members to acquire new skills and knowledge.

9. Build Trust and Respect

Lesson: Trust and respect are the foundation of effective teams.

Action: Consistently act with integrity, follow through on commitments, and show respect for each team member's contributions and opinions.

10. Promote Collaboration

Lesson: Collaboration leads to better outcomes and stronger team dynamics.

Action: Encourage teamwork and cross-functional collaboration. Facilitate opportunities for team members to work together and leverage each other's strengths.

By applying these lessons, "Radical Candor" helps leaders create a work environment where honesty, respect, and empathy drive success and foster strong, productive relationships.

“Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

"Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win" by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin emphasizes leadership principles derived from their experiences in the military.

Here are the core lessons from “Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin:

1. Take Full Responsibility

Lesson: Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.

Action: Accept responsibility for mistakes and failures. Focus on solutions rather than placing blame.

2. No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders

Lesson: The performance of a team is a direct reflection of its leadership.

Action: Invest in developing your team's skills, morale, and cohesion. Lead by example and set high standards.

3. Believe in the Mission

Lesson: For a team to succeed, leaders must fully understand and believe in the mission.

Action: Ensure that the mission and its importance are clearly communicated and understood by all team members.

4. Check the Ego

Lesson: Ego can cloud judgment and lead to poor decision-making.

Action: Stay humble and focused on the mission. Encourage open communication and be willing to accept feedback and criticism.

5. Cover and Move

Lesson: Teamwork and mutual support are essential for success.

Action: Encourage collaboration and ensure that team members work together, supporting each other to achieve the common goal.

6. Keep Things Simple

Lesson: Complexity can lead to confusion and mistakes.

Action: Simplify plans and communicate them clearly to ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.

7. Prioritize and Execute

Lesson: Leaders must prioritize tasks and focus on the most critical ones first.

Action: Identify the most important tasks and tackle them in order of priority. Avoid getting overwhelmed by trying to do everything at once.

8. Decentralized Command

Lesson: Empowering junior leaders to make decisions fosters adaptability and responsiveness.

Action: Delegate authority and trust your team members to make decisions within their areas of responsibility.

9. Plan and Prepare

Lesson: Effective planning and preparation are crucial for mission success.

Action: Develop detailed plans, consider contingencies, and ensure that everyone understands their roles and the overall strategy.

10. Leading Up and Down the Chain of Command

Lesson: Leaders must communicate effectively both up and down the chain of command.

Action: Ensure that your superiors are informed of your situation and needs, and that your subordinates understand their tasks and the broader mission.

11. Discipline Equals Freedom

Lesson: Discipline in following processes and procedures leads to greater freedom and flexibility.

Action: Maintain high standards of discipline in all areas, from personal conduct to team operations, to enable better decision-making and efficiency.

By applying these lessons, "Extreme Ownership" provides a framework for leaders to take control, inspire their teams, and achieve outstanding results through accountability, teamwork, and disciplined execution.

“Drive” by Daniel H. Pink

"Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" by Daniel H. Pink explores what truly drives human motivation beyond traditional rewards and punishments.

Here are the core lessons from “Drive” by Daniel H. Pink:

1. Autonomy

Lesson: People are more motivated when they have control over their work.

Action: Give employees the freedom to choose how they complete tasks, allowing them to take ownership of their work.

2. Mastery

Lesson: The desire to improve and excel at something meaningful drives motivation.

Action: Encourage continuous learning and skill development. Provide opportunities for employees to master their craft.

3. Purpose

Lesson: Connecting work to a larger purpose increases motivation and satisfaction.

Action: Help employees understand how their work contributes to the organization's goals and impacts the world positively.

4. Motivation

Lesson: Internal drives, such as enjoyment and interest, are more powerful motivators than external rewards.

Action: Create a work environment that fosters intrinsic motivation by aligning tasks with employees' passions and interests.

5. The Ineffectiveness of Extrinsic Rewards

Lesson: Traditional rewards (like bonuses) can diminish motivation for tasks requiring creativity and critical thinking.

Action: Use extrinsic rewards sparingly and ensure they do not undermine intrinsic motivation. Focus on fostering a sense of achievement and progress.

6. The Importance of Feedback

Lesson: Constructive feedback helps individuals improve and stay motivated.

Action: Provide regular, specific, and actionable feedback. Celebrate small wins and recognize efforts.

7. Promote Self-Direction

Lesson: Allowing employees to set their own goals and paths increases engagement and commitment.

Action: Encourage employees to take initiative in their roles and support them in setting personal and professional goals.

8. Support a Growth Mindset

Lesson: Believing that abilities can be developed through effort fosters resilience and motivation.

Action: Promote a growth mindset by praising effort, learning from mistakes, and encouraging perseverance.

By applying these lessons, "Drive" provides a roadmap for creating a motivating and fulfilling work environment that leverages autonomy, mastery, and purpose to drive performance and satisfaction.

“Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler

"Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High" by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler provides strategies for effectively handling high-stakes conversations. Here are the core lessons:

1. Start with Heart

Lesson: Focus on what you really want for yourself, others, and the relationship.

Action: Before engaging in a crucial conversation, clarify your motives and ensure they are aligned with positive outcomes.

2. Learn to Look

Lesson: Recognize when a conversation becomes crucial and observe the behavior and emotions of everyone involved.

Action: Pay attention to signs of stress or defensiveness in yourself and others to identify when a conversation is escalating.

3. Make It Safe

Lesson: Create a safe environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their views.

Action: Establish mutual purpose and respect. Apologize when necessary and use contrasting to clarify misunderstandings.

4. Master Your Stories

Lesson: Understand and control the stories you tell yourself about others' actions.

Action: Separate facts from interpretations. Challenge your assumptions and seek to understand others' perspectives.

5. STATE My Path

Lesson: Share your views in a way that is clear and persuasive, yet respectful.

Action: Use the STATE method:

  • Share your facts.
  • Tell your story.
  • Ask for others' paths.
  • Talk tentatively.
  • Encourage testing.

6. Explore Others’ Paths

Lesson: Encourage others to share their viewpoints and feelings.

Action: Ask open-ended questions, listen actively, and validate their feelings to understand their perspectives fully.

7. Move to Action

Lesson: Turn the conversation into a decision and ensure follow-through.

Action: Decide how decisions will be made, document agreements, and assign responsibilities to ensure accountability.

8. Avoid Silence and Violence

Lesson: People often resort to silence (withdrawing) or violence (forcing) in crucial conversations.

Action: Recognize these patterns in yourself and others. Use skills to bring the conversation back to a constructive path.

By applying these lessons, "Crucial Conversations" provides tools to handle difficult conversations effectively, ensuring that they lead to positive, productive outcomes rather than conflict or misunderstanding.

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