Most people think of management and leadership as a quality you either have or you don’t — and that may be true to a certain extent — but anyone can learn and develop the skill of leadership. In fact, recent studies have shown that approximately 30% of leadership capacity is genetic, while the other 70% is learned. And one of the best ways to learn how to be a good leader is by reading great books on the topic.

Unfortunately, there are so many books and blogs about work and leadership that it can be difficult to know where to start. Whether you are the CEO of a large company or an aspiring team leader, these must-read books will help achieve your potential to succeed, personally and professionally. Read the short summaries we’ve provided to decide which book is best for you at the moment.

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  1. The One Minute Manager
    By Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

The One Minute Manager is a classic read by millions of managers and business leaders and appearing on business bestseller lists for over two decades. It serves as a useful guide for managing employees and increasing productivity through one-minute interactions with employees.

This short book is all about concise and purposeful interactions while concentrating on the best way to develop the potential of people. You will learn how to review employee goals, give praise, and offer constructive criticism, each in less than 60 seconds.

  1. Extraordinary Influence: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others
    By Tim Irwin

Organization psychologist Tim Irwin knows that great leadership can be taught. Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, Irwin explains why affirmation is more effective than criticism, especially when it’s in public. The lesson here is to make praise public and criticism private.

The main theme of the book is affirmation, specifically focusing on personal strengths and professional competencies. Read this book if you want to build a strong and supportive structure that helps people achieve their highest potential. This applies to anyone who is trying to bring out the best in someone, including parents, teachers, and other leaders.

  1. A Year with Peter Drucker
    By Joseph A. Maciariello

Peter Drucker is a legend in the world of management and his ideas are everywhere. But if you want a good synthesis of his theories on modern business management, read A Year with Peter Drucker. In it, Joseph Maciariello crystallizes Drucker’s core ideas on how to become a good business manager.

For example, a good business manager must learn how to balance long-term goals with short-term needs. One way to do this is to focus on the tasks that require the least effort and generate the most results. This is basically the 80/20 rule, but Drucker says it best — “Don’t major in the minors.” You may also want to read The Effective Executive and The Five Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask About Your Organization, both by Drucker.

  1. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
    By John C. Maxwell

Maxwell delivers on the promise of the book title by providing 21 laws of leadership that teach you how to get others to follow you. You will also learn fascinating stories about Mother Teresa, Harriet Tubman, Ray Kroc, Richard Nixon, Theodore Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill.

  1. The Leader Habit
    By Martin Lanik

The Leader Habit is filled with easy-to-implement exercises to build strong leadership habits. Instead of theories and anecdotes, Lanik provides actionable advice for implementing 79 microbehaviors present within 22 core leadership skills. Lanik and his team studied 800 global leaders to boil down the essential components of great leadership. As a result, we are taught how to turn these microbehaviors into habits that make leadership feel automatic rather than forced.

  1. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
    By Daniel H. Pink

In addition to basic needs and rewards, there is another driving force behind motivation and production: Motivation 3.0. This is the intrinsic motivation of enjoying your work as opposed to external rewards or punishments.

Many times, the focus on an extrinsic goal, such as achieving a target number in sales or projects, leads to negative results: dissatisfied customers, unnecessary work, and damaged reputations. This book demonstrates that the extrinsic carrot-vs-stick approach often destroys intrinsic motivation.

Using examples from successful teams and businesses, Pink provides practical advice for cultivating this inner drive in the people around you. Rewards and bonuses are pretty effective as a short-term strategy, but over-reliance on them in the long-term can lead to negative results. It’s much better to build long-lasting, intrinsic passion through self-determination and meaningful goals.

  1. The Introverted Leader: Building Your Quiet Strength
    By Jennifer Kahnweiler

How can an introvert lead in an extroverted world? This is the focus of a new book by Jennifer Kahnweiler. Using interviews with over 100 successful introverted leaders, Kahnweiler demonstrates how introverts can improve their leadership skills and professional development. The Introverted Leader also helps extroverts better understand their introverted colleagues.

Here are some classic books on leadership that probably require no introduction:

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  • The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

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