Top 10 Books on Leadership

Here are the top 10 books I’ve read on organizational leadership. These are the books that I seem to go back to time and time again for leadership advice. They are books with themes, phrases, and sayings that have consistently made their way into my leadership philosophy and vocabulary.

1. Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. In my humble opinion, this is the best book for building a strong team that achieves great results. As you can see, my top 3 books are by Lencioni. And I probably could have included all of his other books as well, but then it would have been “Top 7 Lencioni Books.” This book continually goes back to the element of trust. It’s the thing that leaders must develop and foster in their teams. And to develop trust, we must constantly model and lead through vulnerability. I highly recommend the Field Guide as well. It has great practical exercises to break the cycle of dysfunction in teams.

2. Four Obsessions of an Extrordinary Executive by Patrick Lencioni. A great follow up book to Five Dysfunctions, this book reminds me that building and maintaining a cohesive leadership team is critical. And then I must create organizational clarity and communicate it over and over. And finally, the last “obsession” is creating the human and operational systems necessary to lead and manage well.

3. Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni. All leaders lead meetings. But not all leaders lead good, effective, compelling meetings. Death by Meeting identifies the problems of bad meetings: lack of drama (good meetings need good conflict) and lack of context and structure (what’s the purpose of this meeting?). Why will we sit in a two-hour movie, completely engaged but in a two-hour meeting, we’re praying for the rapture? Death by Meeting will help you lead great meetings.

4. Good to Great by Jim Collins. This is one of the seminal works on what makes organizations great. Collin’s work reminds me that it’s always “first who, then what.” Get the right people on the bus, and correspondingly, the wrong people off. Another “good to great idea” that’s influenced me was his hedgehog concept: doing one thing and doing it well. His companion Good to Great and the Social Sectors is helpful for non-profit leadership.

5. The Heart of Change by John Kotter & Dan Cohen. Change is a constant. And leaders must learn how to identify what needs to change and then how to lead change. Kotter and Cohen’s 8-step method is a great model for bringing and managing change in an organization. The Heart of Change Field Guide is helpful as well. In addition, a more light-hearted, story approach to the model can be found in Kotter’s Our Iceberg is Melting.

6. Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath & Barry Conchie. Leaders play to their strengths, help others discover and play to their strengths, and build teams around strengths. The leadership edition helps leaders understand how to better engage leaders around their strengths. StrengthsFinder also gives you a language to use with your team.

7. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. This is another great book on change and change management in organizations and in life. The Heath brothers provide helpful insights with great illustrations about addressing both the mind and the heart in change.

8. Socialnomics by Erik Qualman. We live in an ever-increasing, technologically-driven culture. The social media revolution is underway. Qualman’s book on the reality (the upsides and downsides) of social media is fascinating. Leaders and the organizations they lead must learn to engage in and through social media. Socialnomics will help you learn why and how.

9. Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne. Osborne has become a personal mentor and has been affectionately nicknamed “Yoda.” Here’s a more in-depth review of Sticky Teams. It truly is a “one-stop” leadership book, especially for the church world.

10. Advanced Strategic Planning by Aubrey Malphurs. Leaders must collaboratively shape vision, values, and mission. Malphur’s book has influenced my strategic thinking and process for over a decade. It’s one of the best “step-by-step” methods for vision, mission, and strategy development.

11. Honorable Mention: Relational Intelligence by Steve Saccone. Steve’s book has become a staple of my personal and organization leadership development process. Leaders are all about influence. But often we don’t think about how relational intelligence shapes our ability to influence. Steve identifies 6 areas of relational intelligence and how to grow in each one. He also has a great study guide for the book to go through personally or as a group.

So these are some of the most influential books on leadership in my life. What are some of yours and why?


6 Replies to “Top 10 Books on Leadership”

    1. steve, another great social media “primer” is juliette powell’s 33 million people in the room.

  1. I’m really enjoying “Leadership is dead” (Jeremie Kubicek)… Although not groundbreaking in content… One of the best books on leading through influence that I have seen.
    Church Unique (Will Mancini) is an amazing book on the Journey from casting vision to the execution of practical application.
    I’m excited to read Socialnomics.
    loved switch and sticky teams!!!!

    1. thanks doug. haven’t read “Leadership is Dead” but have heard great things about it. i’ll have to check it out. mancini’s book is great… especially in harnessing the thought: “what can our church do better than a thousand others.”

  2. Have you picked up DRiVE by Daniel H. Pink? Not a leadership book per se, but it would be very hard to argue against the fundamental assertion that motivation is what drives our actions and decisions toward achievements (or lack of achievements) as a leader or a team member.

    1. sam, thanks for the comment. i’ve heard of DRIVE but haven’t read it yet. perhaps i’ll get a copy and read it this summer. thanks for the recommendation!

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