Best Leadership Books

Continuing in the tradition of this series, but getting into the more complex realm, in this post we will talk about leadership and some of the best leadership books that can help you on the journey.

There are myriad ways of attempting to define leadership, no one approach is necessarily better than the other. I resort to the one made by the revered consulting company using their excellent resources and relevant insights.

Best Leadership Books

Graphic Source: McKinsey Quarterly, 2010

McKinsey describes five dimensions to leadership:

1) The ability of leaders to find meaning in their work

2) Keeping your energy levels high

3) Managing energy which means channeling potentially negative energy generated through anxiety and fear into opportunities

4) Using the f-network (friends & family) and beyond

5) Connecting and being action-oriented

If you are interested in further reading, go ahead and subscribe to the McKinsey Quarterly – a rich source of knowledge on diverse topics.

For now, let’s focus on the issue at hand – how can you develop along these five dimensions through the power of the written word? Here are my top picks, by no means complete, but will be a good start. In no particular order, here;s the list of the best leadership books:

Best Leadership Books

1. Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch

Some may agree, some may disagree, but this is arguably one of the best blow by blow accounts of a great leader and his journey to the top. This is the kind of stuff legends are made of. One of the first books on leadership I read and got inspired from the word go. They don’t make them like this any longer – well that’s not entirely true. One of the hallmarks of a great leader is being aware of one’s strengths but more importantly one’s weaknesses. It is amazing to read about Jack’s energy levels while keeping a behemoth like GE in reins. A must read. Here’s more.

2. The Art of War by Sun Tzu (5th century B.C.)

The fact that 5th century principles are relevant today shows that our fundamental life principles are intact since the time of yore. A treaties that has been revered down the ages, this is another book that professes ‘action-orientation’. Read more.

3. Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson

From the man who could well be the definition of charisma and living it large, comes this breezy book on that shows how he has achieved the heights of fame. His is an inspiring tale of warding off hierarchy while creating one of the most loved brands. Truly worth emulating and learning from. Check it out here.

4. The McKinsey Way by Ethan M. Rasiel

Well, how can I leave out a book based on the firm which is also the source of content behind this article. At the outset, this book may appear to be more of understanding the firm and having an insider look into it. But in reality, the 5 principles outlined in the book can be applied to any and every sort of business situation. The structure implicit in the 5 sections can help climb the ladders of success in leaps and bounds. With this, you will never struggle to find ‘meaning’ in life and work. Here’s more.

5. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

One of the few self-help books that is drawn from years of insights, no wonder then that it has spawned an entire industry of practitioners helping corporates based on its principles. Covey had been invited by the then President, Bill Clinton to help him incorporate these principles into his presidency. The seven habits professed in this book are practical in both personal and professional pursuits. The first ‘habit’, again professes proaction – a common theme for all effective leaders. More here.

6. True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership by Bill George

A look at contemporary leadership, this book is based on over 100 interviews conducted by Bill George with pioneering leaders. The book professes looking inward to find one’s internal compass. Following this, it says, one can achieve authentic leadership, one that is bereft of any shenanigans. Like all good this, this book too talks of 5 key areas for creating your own leadership development plan. Read more.

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

This book goes beyond the number five and gives out seven principles behind companies that went from good to great. Encompassing five years of research and citing example of 28 companies, this is a must read for all the future business leaders and CEOs out there. Check it out here.

8. The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard

At just a little 100 words, this book talks of the same basic principle that so many other in this list do – action. The basic crux is to take decisions in a minute. More here.

9. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Coming from the institute of the same name at INSEAD, this is one of the pioneering works to define new market entry strategies. Arguably based on Porter’s principles, this book builds on previous works and prepares the future leaders with the right thought process to conquer the world. Read more.

10. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli

Though the progenitor of the word ‘Machiavellian’, the book itself is a marvelous piece on various types of leadership – from being loved, to being feared to being hated, the merits of each are weighed well. Read and apply with caution. Here’s more.

If you don’t have the patience to read through these books, here’s a simpler option. Use our funny leadership quotes generator. If you can deliver these gems with a straight face, it may get you closer to that promotion.


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MG (Manish Gupta) //
MG (Manish Gupta)

Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

4 Comments

  1. Naveen says:

    Thanks for the wonderful list MG..

  2. The Unknown Leader says:

    Another good Leadership management book that I read for one of my informatics classes is “The Unknown Leader”. It includes some very specific project management guidance (not just big picture stuff).

  3. VIVEK says:

    Hi,
    I have done engineering in electronics and communication. Right now i am into java development for past 1 year. I am considering one more year job then Mba. I have no leadership profile. What can i do for the same?

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