What makes a good leader? Can you learn leadership from a book?
Leadership is a mix of many things, and there’s no one gold version of leadership - different things work for different people. Some people would say a leader needs followers, but even that is up for debate – some of the best displays of leadership that I’ve seen have been when someone acted like a leader even when no one else believed in them or their work until after it was a success! And in any case, it’s beyond the scope of this post to deliver the perfect definition of a leader.
What is in scope is the subject of leadership books. Can you learn leadership from a book? Again, debatable, but what you can learn is how other people see the role of a leader, and even if you don’t entirely agree, you can certainly use those views to help inform your own.
So, based on a list I put together back in 2014, I’ve updated (as promised many times in the ensuing years!) the list to reflect my current thinking. These are selections from books that I’ve read – and I’ve got many more to read. If you have a suggestion, please leave a comment, I’d appreciate it. Also, I’d love to connect: My profile on Goodreads or LinkedIn.
First, my top five. These are all from the longer list below, they are the best of the best:
- High Output Managment by Andy Grove - while ostensibly this is a “management” book, there are many leadership lessons in here, and we’re interested in leadership in the context of business. A great overview of what good management looks like – almost every newer book on management will have the same ideas as in here, just dressed up differently.
- How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen - a compelling usage of business methods applied to how we think about our lives and careers.
- Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Josephy Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzer - how you give feedback and have tough conversations is a critical part of leadership.
- Dare to Lead by Brene Brown - vulnerability is a leadership superpower. Stop hiding behind that feeling of needing to know everything, and show your human, fallible side.
- Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright - a great model for thinking about teams and where they might need to focus to be truly excellent.
And here is the big list:
Career skills for a leader
- Team leadership
- Setting vision & motivating people
Leadership when starting a new role
- Tough conversations
There you go! A list for a lifetime. I’ve read all these books (and more), and while I can’t claim they’ve made me a perfect leader, the investments I’ve made in reading about leadership have paid me back many thousands of times over. Leaders are readers!
Have you read any good leadership books?