Action Catalyst Blog

The First 10 Books You Should Read as a New Leader


So you’re a leader, now what?

What do you do? 

What actions do you take?

How do you know what to do as a leader? Where do you learn leadership?

Most companies don’t have a lot of resources dedicated to formally training their leaders because they are either spread too thin, or frankly just don’t know how to actually teach leadership. 

So, you can find a mentor, take classes on it, get into coaching and of course learn from your own experience.

But still one of the best ways to learn what to do as a leader is to simply read books!

Books have some of the most concentrated wisdom available in all the world and you can glean from a person’s years of experience and/or research for free at the public library. 

So what books should you read if you’re a leader? 

Not counting the 2 books that I’ve written and the Bible, which I would genuinely recommend as fabulous resources, here are the first 10 books I think all leaders should have to read, the order I’d suggest reading them in, and why:

1. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek – This book strikes directly at the core of what leadership is: caring for and looking after others. I wish all leaders would shape their paradigm around what leadership is by reading this book because if every leader understood this, it would change the world.

2. 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell – A true classic that outlines the fundamentals of all leadership. If you understand them early on in your leadership career you’ll be in great shape. 

3. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale CarnegieLeadership is always and only about your skill with people – and I don’t know how anyone could survive in that role without having read the world’s seminal work on dealing with people.

4. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman Similar to the previous, this book is fundamental to being able to understand, communicate with, and influence people. Technically, this is a book about romantic relationships, but don’t underestimate it’s power as a leadership necessity.

5. 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni – Now that you have some strong foundation of what leadership is and some of the basic skill sets you need to develop in order to work through people to create results, you need to know the 1 thing that makes every team fall apart and this quick and easy gem of a masterpiece will make sure you never forget it.

6. Start With Why by Simon Sinek It was hard for me to put this one so late in the list since I think it is so crucial, but all of these are crucial and so it’s the order that I’m really laying out here. This book unlocks the hidden secret of the world’s greatest leaders and just about the time you start to feel overwhelmed with all there is to do as a leader this will help remind you of the simplest and most powerful job one of the leader: vision.

7. Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry PorrasThis book is the perfect follow up to Start With Why as it connects the dots of making the leader’s vision become a reality by building “mechanisms” inside the business that make the core principles come alive. Good to Great is of course what Jim Collins is better known for, and that is a great book too but not one that I would count as core to the initial 10 books a leader should read.

8. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels The leader of one of the largest churches in the world, Willow Creek, Bill Hybels shares rich personal stories and compelling truths about the importance of being a great leader. This is one of those rare times to sit at the feet and learn from someone who has actually done it as a leader – not just someone who writes about it. 

9. EntreLeadership by Dave RamseyThe power of this book is that it’s practical. Unlike many of the others in this list, it’s less about philosophy, and more of a how-to manual to actually implement sound leadership practices on a daily basis. Plus, similar to the previous one, you’re learning directly from someone who has built a huge organization that truly changes the world so you have to take advantage.

10. Leadership Gold by John Maxwell This is the perfect way to round out your first 10 leadership books because it highlights and punctuates all of them in an inspiring and uplifting way. Written by Maxwell later in his career, this boils down an entire lifetime of leadership lessons into one simple text.

 I don’t personally see how anyone could reach their true leadership potential without reading these 10. If nothing else, it’s a tremendously powerful start on your way to becoming a great leader!

What other ones would you add to this list?

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