Most leadership writing is not helpful, and worse some is harmful, un-actionable, drivel. I believe that the best way to learn about “Leadership” is to read the biographies of leaders.
Pick somebody you like, are interested in, or has had an impact on history, and learn about their life. I tend to prefer military leaders, but you can pick whom you like of course.
So what gives me the right to publish a “must read” Leadership Reading List? Well, not all management and leadership books are crap, and I believe that these are some of the best out there that I currently know of. If you think I’ve missed one then please let us know in the comments, or check out my list on Goodreads to see what other books are on my “must read” list.
- Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long – David Rock – How your brain works, and what to do about it. If we want to manage others we first need to manage ourselves. This book helps you do that. I was reading this during a recent emotionally turbulent time in my life. Talk about timing! I was able to apply some of the recommendations and benefit from them immediately.
- The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done – Peter F. Drucker – If you have to read one management guru, read Drucker. If you have to read one Drucker book, read this one. All other good management writing is derivative of this book. A little dated in its examples, but the principles still hold true, are powerful, and actionable.
- The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering – Frederick P. Brooks Jr. – one of the first management books I read over 25 years ago. Recently reprinted, which in itself is a singular recommendation. While focused on software development, the ideas and principles apply to any cognitive work. First book to describe why adding more people to a late project makes it later, and other counter-intuitive project management truths.
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t – Jim Collins – Of course this book had to make the list, and for good reason. If you’re trying to figure out how to succeed in the long term, this is what the best companies do. Practising strategic thinking doesn’t guarantee success, but it sure gives you a better chance.