Readers are leaders and over here at The Savvy Young Professional, we want you to step your book game up. We curated a list of the top 20 leadership books and a brief description of each book.
The challenge? Pick at least two books from this list and read or listen to them (we love audible). Up your
water cooler talk and snag that next promotion.
- Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
Journalist John Carreyrou uncovers the scam of a century in his riveting investigative book, Bad Blood. In it, he unravels the lies told by billionaire sweetheart Elizabeth Holmes, who found her success by selling a technology that never existed–for more than 10 years.
- Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
In Dare To Lead, best-selling author Brené Brown shines a light on these opposite behaviors. Her goal is to help you step into leadership and take charge, not despite, but because of all these misguided notions.
- Maid by Stephanie Land
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich. “My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
Small habits can compound over time. In fact, according to Atomic Habits, habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effect of your habits multiplies as you repeat them. They seem to make little or even no difference on any given day but the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous.
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
Drawing on her own powerful story as the daughter of a scientist who frequently noted her lack of “genius,” Duckworth, now a celebrated researcher and professor, describes her early eye-opening stints in teaching, business consulting, and neuroscience, which led to the hypothesis that what really drives success is not “genius” but a unique combination of passion and long-term perseverance. In Grit, she takes readers into the field to visit cadets struggling through their first days at West Point, teachers working in some of the toughest schools, and young finalists in the National Spelling Bee. She also mines fascinating insights from history and shows what can be gleaned from modern experiments in peak performance. Finally, she shares what she’s learned from interviewing dozens of high achievers—from JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon to New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff to Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll.
- From the Ground Up by Howard Schultz and Joanne Gordon
A Conversation Between Two Iconic American Entrepreneurs—Howard Schultz and Barnes & Noble founder Len Riggio—about First Jobs, the Third Place, and the Making of America. From the longtime CEO and chairman of Starbucks, a bold, dramatic work about the new responsibilities that leaders, businesses, and citizens share in American society today—as viewed through the intimate lens of one man’s life and work.
- Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Extreme Ownership is written by two former Navy SEALs, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, who now head a leadership training company. Both men are pretty hardcore, I must admit. The experiences they share in this book are intense and eye-opening–not to mention unique. There aren’t many books out there that give such detailed glimpses into the lives of SEALs in action.
- Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
In this instant and tenacious bestseller, Nike founder and board chairman Phil Knight “offers a rare and revealing look at the notoriously media-shy man behind the swoosh” (Booklist, starred review), illuminating his company’s early days as an intrepid start-up and its evolution into one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands.
- Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin
In Leadership, Goodwin draws upon the four presidents she has studied most closely—Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson (in civil rights)—to show how they recognized leadership qualities within themselves and were recognized as leaders by others. By looking back to their first entries into public life, we encounter them at a time when their paths were filled with confusion, fear, and hope.
- Zucked by Roger McNamee
ZUCKED is McNamee’s intimate reckoning with the catastrophic failure of the head of one of the world’s most powerful companies to face up to the damage he is doing. It’s a story that begins with a series of rude awakenings. First there is the author’s dawning realization that the platform is being manipulated by some very bad actors. Then there is the even more unsettling realization that Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are unable or unwilling to share his concerns, polite as they may be to his face.
- Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
Imagine a world where almost everyone wakes up inspired to go to work, feels trusted and valued during the day, then returns home feeling fulfilled. This is not a crazy, idealized notion. Today, in many successful organizations, great leaders create environments in which people naturally work together to do remarkable things. In his work with organizations around the world, Simon Sinek noticed that some teams trust each other so deeply that they would literally put their lives on the line for each other. Other teams, no matter what incentives are offered, are doomed to infighting, fragmentation and failure.
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in turn inspire their colleagues and customers. Since then, millions have been touched by the power of his ideas, including more than 28 million who’ve watched his TED Talk based on START WITH WHY — the third most popular TED video of all time. Sinek starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over?
- Growing Weeders Into Leaders: Leadership Lessons from the Ground Up by Jeff McManus
At some point in this postmodern life, individual greatness has lost its appeal for many of us. It has been commodified and relegated to those who are measured by shortest/longest times, impressive distances, highest heights, lowest lows, medals won, honors given…and again…Aristotle and Nike got it right…GREATNESS is what we can DO…every day…without recognition or reward, but for the satisfaction that comes from meeting the challenge, creating a team, and overcoming the odds. And that is what Growing Weeders into Leaders is about.
- The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy
No gimmicks. No Hyperbole. No Magic Bullet. The Compound Effect is a distillation of the fundamental principles that have guided the most phenomenal achievements in business, relationships, and beyond. This easy-to-use, step-by-step operating system allows you to multiply your success, chart your progress, and achieve any desire. If you’re serious about living an extraordinary life, use the power of The Compound Effect to create the success you want.
- Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team by Simon Sinek and David Mead
I believe fulfillment is a right and not a privilege. We are all entitled to wake up in the morning inspired to go to work, feel safe when we’re there and return home fulfilled at the end of the day. Achieving that fulfillment starts with understanding exactly WHY we do what we do. As Start With Why has spread around the world, countless readers have asked me the same question: How can I apply Start With Why to my career, team, company or nonprofit? Along with two of my colleagues, Peter Docker and David Mead, I created this hands-on, step-by-step guide to help you find your WHY. With detailed exercises, illustrations, and action steps for every stage of the process, Find Your Why can help you address many important concerns.
- Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten Hansen
Why do some people perform better at work than others? This deceptively simple question continues to confound professionals in all sectors of the workforce. Now, after a unique, five-year study of more than 5,000 managers and employees, Morten Hansen reveals the answers in his “Seven Work Smarter Practices” that can be applied by anyone looking to maximize their time and performance.
- Unlocking Potential: 7 Coaching Skills That Transform Individuals, Teams, and Organizations by Michael K. Simpson and Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
To get the best from your employees, you need to be more than a manager. You need to be a coach. You’re a leader because you possess expertise in your field. You have the training and experience. You understand your business…but can you fully motivate and engage your team? Michael K. Simpson, a senior consultant to FranklinCovey, has spent more than twenty-five years training executives to become effective coaches, mentoring and guiding leaders and managers to encourage and develop the talent of their people—the most important asset in any organization. In this guide, you will acquire the skills to coach your personnel from the ground up, maximizing their potential on a personal level, as members of the team, and as contributors to the organization as a whole. Transform your business relationships (and your business) with this comprehensive tool for optimizing productivity, profitability, loyalty, and customer focus. Don’t just manage. Energize. Galvanize. Inspire. Be a coach.
- The Top 5 Leadership Habits of 2018: And How They Are Wired Inside Your Brain by Dr. Roman Velasquez
Most people are unaware that a tremendous amount of data processing occurs in the brain. Within this processing many habitual patterns that are designed by billions of neural connections exist inside your brain; they’re unconscious and automatic. Leadership comes from within, however, the brain develops from the outside – in. Every relationship, business partnership, mentor, coach, supervisor, relative, friend, work associate, and experience, shape your brain. These experiences and relationships form billions of intricate neural networks and they compete for leadership expression. You are wired to others inside your brain. I will give you my top five leadership habits for 2018 based on my extensive personal research. These include; basic brain science behind human performance of Shared Leadership, developing Interpersonal Relationships with Empathy, Leadership Dimensions towards Knowledge Sharing, being Adaptive and Ethical, and creating personal disruption for Self-Preneurship. I will also briefly tell you how your brain makes decisions, how to regulate emotions, collaborate with others, and drive positive change.
- Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin
Throughout history, leaders have used solitude as a matter of course. Martin Luther King found moral courage while sitting alone at his kitchen table one night during the Montgomery bus boycott. Jane Goodall used her intuition in the jungles of central Africa while learning how to approach chimps. Solitude is a state of mind, a space where you can focus on your own thoughts without distraction, with a power to bring mind and soul together in clear-eyed conviction. But these days, handheld devices and other media leave us awash with the thoughts of others. We are losing solitude without even realizing it.
To find solitude today, a leader must make a conscious effort. This book explains why the effort is worthwhile and how to make it. Through gripping historical accounts and firsthand interviews with a wide range of contemporary leaders, Raymond Kethledge (a federal court of appeals judge) and Michael Erwin (a West Pointer and three-tour combat veteran) show how solitude can enhance clarity, spur creativity, sustain emotional balance, and generate the moral courage necessary to overcome adversity and criticism. Anyone who leads anyone–including oneself–can benefit from solitude. With a foreword by Jim Collins (author of the bestseller Good to Great), Lead Yourself First is a rallying cry to reclaim solitude–and all the benefits, both practical and sublime, that come with it.
- A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey
In his book, former FBI director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader. Mr. Comey served as director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.