Recommended Leadership Books

My List of “Must Read” Leadership Books

Jené Kapela Develop your leadership ability, General things you should read

Recommended Leadership BooksI was recently asked by a friend to recommend a leadership book for her to read. I had trouble picking just one, so I decided to compile and share a list of my favorite leadership/management books. All of the books listed below are easy to read but convey strong and meaningful messages that I find applicable to daily life – personally as well as in the workplace. I really think every book on this list is a must-read for anyone who desires to become more effective in working with others and leading change.

Are there other books you think you should be on my list of favorites? Please let me know what they are by commenting on this post!

The Art of Engagement: Bridging the Gap between People and Possibilities by Jim Haudan

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite books. Haudan’s focus is on how businesses can better execute strategy (and gain tangible results) by engaging employees. The principals outlined in the book are applicable to any organizational setting. I particularly recommend this book to anyone who works with groups of volunteers, especially in a leadership capacity.

The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly

In this book, Kelly shares a fictional story about how a struggling company was able to achieve remarkable results by focusing on the people who work there. The book highlights best practices in employee engagement and touches on important management techniques. If you supervise employees, you should read this book.

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

In Drive, Pink explains that individuals are motivated by three internal factors: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. He then shares unique and effective techniques that companies are using to create high-performing workplaces based on his principle of motivation. A good book for organizational leaders but also for individuals who want to better understand their own motivation for what they do and why they do it.

Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber

This book, through a parable about a colony of penguins on a melting iceberg, explains how fear can hold people back from making necessary change and provides an outline for how to lead others through the change process. The information shared is applicable to individuals as well as organizations. If you want more about change management, read Kotter’s book, Leading Change.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins

In this book, Collins shares his findings from a study of companies he identified as “great” based on their radical transformation from underperforming to over performing in the stock market. Specifically, he identifies characteristics that lead to success and shares practices that can be implemented within any organization. I particularly like the importance he places on Level 5 leadership and securing high-talent individuals.

Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, & John Christensen

The Fish! Philosophy was developed after Christensen filmed the fishmongers at Seattle’s Pike Place Market and realized there was a management lesson to be found in their work – we have the choice each day to love what we do. The book is overly simple but I like the four principles of the Fish! Philosophy, which remind us that the way we approach what we do each day and how we treat the people around us has a direct impact on our own results.

How Full is your Bucket by Tom Rath & Donald Clifton

The premise of this easy-to-read book is that our lives are influenced by our interactions with others.  Positive interactions fill our bucket, while negative interactions drain our bucket. When our bucket is full, we are happier and more productive. Also, we make the choice each day to either fill or drain the buckets of other people based on how we treat them. The authors explain how positivity can be applied to the workplace and in our personal lives.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

This recent book from Facebook’s COO has quickly become a sensation. Based on her 2010 TEDTalk on the topic, why we have too few women leaders, the book addresses the disparity between men and women in the workplace and provides solutions to empower women to attain both professional achievement and personal fulfillment. Men should be just as quick to pick up this book as any women who haven’t yet read it.

Jene Kapela, Ed.D.

Contact Jene at

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