There are thousands of books on leadership and they range widely in quality. The field becomes more crowded every day, as enterprising authors and publishers mistakenly believe that leadership is a “soft” skill open to interpretation by any random CEO or tech entrepreneur. In fact, great leadership is rooted in reliable scholarship and substantial, hands-on experience. Here are 10 of my favorite books that make the grade as genuinely useful for both students and practitioners.
Bennis, W. (2009). On Becoming a Leader. Boulder: Basic Books.
My #1 favorite. Thoughtful and full of insight, this is like having your own personal coach. Find it at Strand Books.
Bordas, J. (2012). Salsa, Soul, and Spirit: Leadership for a Multicultural Age. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Latinx, African-American, and Native American styles and perspectives. Find it at Greenlight Bookstore.
Carnegie, D. (1981). How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Originally published in 1936, this remains the best advice for how to get, and keep, clients. Find it at Greenlight Bookstore.
Dreier, P. (2012). The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century (1st ed.). New York: Nation Books.
Leaders and role models from all walks of life and a wide range of cultures. Find it at Greenlight Bookstore.
Han, H. (2014). How Organizations Develop Activists (1st ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
How to build a great in-house leadership development system that can really make change. Find it at Oxford U. Press.
Hickman, G. (2016). Leading Organizations (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.
A big, fat anthology of essays from researchers and practitioners. A whole library in a single volume. Find it at Sage Publishing.
Lammers, W., & Genovese, M. (2014). The Presidency and Domestic Policy (2nd ed.) New York: Routledge.
Good example of how to establish criteria to compare leaders in the same field or position. This book examines US presidents from FDR to Obama. Find it on Amazon.
Legault, S. (2014). Carry Tiger to Mountain: The Tao of Activism and Leadership. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press.
Leading as a spiritual activity that nurtures people and the planet. A real treasure. Find it on Barnes & Noble.
Northouse, P. (2017). Leadership: Theory & Practice (7th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.
The best all-around, comprehensive leadership text. If you only buy one book on the topic, this is it. Find it on Amazon.
Wills, G. (2014). Certain Trumpets: The Nature of Leadership. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Intriguing analysis of well-known leaders and their styles; heroes and anti-heroes. Find it at Strand Books.