Leadership is one of the most valuable skills in business. It plays a critical role in the success of CEOs, managers, and anyone else that wants to lead, inspire, or influence people. So, let’s explore ten of the best leadership books to read in 2021.

Regardless of your current role, if you’re interested in becoming a better leader, the books in this list can help. There is no set order, so I recommend that you familiarize yourself with each option by reviewing the entire list. That way, you’ll be able to prioritize the books that are most relevant for your leadership goals.

1. Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Start With Why Book Cover
Start With Why by Simon Sinek

It’s common to hear leaders talk about ‘what’ their organization does. And some will go a step further and talk about ‘how’ they do what they do. But the most influential leaders focus on communicating ‘why’ their organization exists.

This book is about clarifying the deeper purpose behind your work. It explains how to communicate your message more effectively to inspire people to take action. It’s a must-read for anyone leading an organization, movement, or cause.

Start With Why is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

2. Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Measure What Matters Book Cover
Measure What Matters by John Doerr

As an organization grows, it can become challenging for leaders to establish and communicate strategic goals. That’s because increased size often leads to increased bureaucracy. And this can cause progress to slow as teams struggle to identify and act on the most valuable opportunities.

This book explains how to use “Objectives and Key Results,” or OKRs, to set and communicate goals more effectively. It’s a proven approach used by Google, Slack, Disney, Spotify, Intel, and others. It can help your organization become more aligned by boosting transparency, accountability, and collaboration.

Measure What Matters is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books. You can learn more by reviewing my Measure What Matters book summary.

3. Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle

Trillion Dollar Coach Book Cover
Trillion Dollar Coach by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle

Who are the most impactful leaders from the technology industry? The list would surely include Steve Jobs and Tim Cook from Apple; Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Eric Schmidt from Google; Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook; and Jeff Bezos from Amazon.

These powerful people gathered together in Atherton, California, to honor Bill Campbell after he passed away. You may not have heard of Bill before, but he was considered one of the most influential people in Silicon Valley.

This book is about how Bill was able to influence so many great leaders. It documents his close relationships with industry titans and breaks down his unique and effective leadership style. It’s a must-read for leaders and those that seek to support them.

Trillion Dollar Coach is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

4. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last Book Cover
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

There are two kinds of dangers that people face when working for an organization.  There are dangers outside of the organization, including direct competition, alternative solutions, and market conditions.  And there are dangers inside of the organization, including personal conflict, intimidation, and humiliation.

This book explains how great leaders build a strong circle of safety within teams. The goal is to greatly reduce or eliminate internal dangers. That way, individuals and teams can focus more of their energy on moving the business forward.

Leaders Eat Last is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

5. Multipliers by Liz Wiseman & Greg McKeown

Multipliers Book Cover
Multipliers by Liz Wiseman

At a high level, there are two distinct approaches to leading a team. The first is to focus on being the genius that everyone else turns to in a bind. The second is to focus on unlocking the genius that can be found in others.

This book is about how the best leaders take the second approach. They find ways to make everyone around them smarter, more capable, and more effective as a team. And the book provides actionable tips for helping teams achieve extraordinary results.

Multipliers is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

6. Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee

Primal Leadership Book Cover
Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee

When people try to describe what makes a leader so effective, they usually focus on strategy, vision, or brilliant ideas. But exceptional leadership often works through our human emotions. The best leaders find ways to resonate with their people.

This book explains the importance of emotional intelligence in achieving leadership resonance. It also describes how to use six leadership styles, including visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding.

Primal Leadership is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

7. The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

The Dichotomy Of Leadership Book Cover
The Dichotomy of Leadership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

Leadership often involves striking a balance between two extremes.  As a result, it can be challenging to identify the best course of action in situations where both options have pros and cons. For example, training hard vs. training smart, discipline vs. creativity, confidence vs. humility, and leading vs. following.

This book is about how to balance the many dichotomies of leadership. It covers twelve principles divided into three categories: balancing your people, balancing the mission, and balancing yourself. And it provides real-world examples for each to make it easier to apply the insights within your organization.

The Dichotomy Of Leadership is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

8. The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership Book Cover
The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

There are many skills associated with effective leadership. So, it’s no surprise that leaders are often strong in certain areas while being weaker in others. And it’s these weaknesses that can sometimes hurt their ability to be impactful.

This book covers 21 unique insights into how to lead more effectively. It can help you shore up areas that need improvement. And it can inspire you to take your leadership strengths to the next level so that you can have an even more significant impact.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

9. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

The Culture Code Book Cover
The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle

A recurring theme in leadership is the importance of building a strong culture. That’s because people are more effective when they’re working collaboratively than when they’re in isolation. So it’s essential to actively invest in culture.

This book explores the secrets of highly successful groups. It reveals three fundamental skills of great organizations: building safety, sharing vulnerability, and establishing purpose. So, if you’re looking to improve your organization’s culture, this is one of the best leadership books to read.

The Culture Code is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

10. Who Not How by Dan Sullivan & Dr. Benjamin Hardy

Who Not How Book Cover
Who Not How by Dan Sullivan & Dr. Benjamin Hardy

Leaders are often tempted to micro-manage people or to jump in to address a problem. Usually, the default response to a new opportunity or challenge is to ask: “how can I solve this?” But it’s essential to make the shift from “how” to “who.”

This book is about achieving bigger goals by accelerating teamwork. It explains the benefits of collaborating with others.  And it goes into detail on how to do so more effectively. That way, you can tap into the skills, capabilities, and experience of others, which is critical if you want to become a better leader.

Who Not How is available from Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books.

Beyond The Best Leadership Books

Want to explore other business-related topics? Consider checking out the best digital marketing books, best product management books, or best entrepreneur books.

You can also subscribe to The Rick Kettner YouTube Channel or The Rick Kettner Podcast to get updates about future book summaries and reading lists.

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Rick Kettner

Rick is an avid reader and lifelong entrepreneur. He co-founded popular online music education platforms including Drumeo, Pianote, and Guitareo. He now spends much of his time sharing tips on business strategy, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

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