Here at The Leadership Coaches, we get to read a wide range of material embracing the full spectrum of leadership and leadership development activity; typically, much of this work embraces the classic themes of change management, personal and team growth, employee engagement and what we might broadly term the pursuit of effective leadership.
So, selecting our top five leadership books to highlight and recommend to you is a significant challenge.
With that said in today’s blog Leadership Coach Paul Meneely has curated a selection of books that we fully endorse and believe helpful for anyone looking to deepen their appreciation of what great leadership looks like and what it takes to build confidence and competence. Included in the selection are some classic texts alongside work which may be less familiar.
Our Top Five Leadership Books
1. “The Leadership Challenge” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner
Our first book has been an influential and inspiring read for leaders across the world for many years. Published originally in 1987 and re-printed several times since, “The Leadership Challenge” (James Kouzes and Barry Posner) is widely acknowledged as a hugely influential guide to modern leadership practices. Over 2.5 million copies have now been sold and the book has been translated into over twenty languages.
At it’s core are the research derived “Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership” – they provide an easily understood and clearly defined model of the practices and behaviours that create the foundation of successful leadership. The focus of the book is squarely on the importance and value of engaging the team you lead and appreciating the importance of wider stakeholder networks.
Similarly, “The Leadership Challenge” also offers excellent guidance on how to motivate and encourage others to commit to action for the common good.
2. “Future – Engage – Deliver “ by Steve Radclffe
Perhaps less well known but in some respects dealing with similar themes, “Future, Engage, Deliver “(Steve Radcliffe) is a helpful short guide to developing your leadership. This excellent little book published in 2008 has been a valuable point of reference for many and economically distils and signposts where leaders need to focus their attention.
The core theme of the work is very much captured in it’s title – as Radcliffe notes in the first chapter, “Future – Engage – Deliver, it’s as simple as that. Don’t believe that this “leadership stuff” is any more complicated whether you are leading a full organisation, a team of just yourself”.
The encouragement is for leaders to focus hard on the importance of ambition, aspiration, securing the interest, ideas and the commitment of others and then delivering on the plans and goals identified.
3. “Executive Presence” by Harrison Monarth
“Executive Presence” (Harrison Monarth) published in 2010 approaches leadership effectiveness from a different perspective. There have been countless leadership “self help” books published in recent years, but this book is more pragmatic than most and offers real insight for readers looking to become more proficient in the area of self – marketing and ethical persuasion.
At its heart Monarth’s book acknowledges that although talent and skills are important qualities, they are rarely enough to secure impact and meaningful career progression in leadership circles. It is suggested that people who reach influential positions in the modern organisation typically have a strong sense of the value of perception and the ability to read people and predict their behaviour; this in turn creates the motivation and appetite to meaningfully influence the perception of others through the development of a personal brand. For anyone looking to improve their personal reputation and impact “Executive Presence” has much to offer.
4. “Jump! – Deliver astonishing results by unleashing your Leadership Team” by Chris Henderson
The widely acclaimed “Jump! -Deliver astonishing results by unleashing your Leadership Team” (Chris Henderson) was published in 2015 and also has many admirers.
The book works from Henderson’s belief that in the majority of Leadership Teams there is a large element of untapped potential and that lifting collective performance and contribution will make a significant contribution to results and the delivery of successful organisational change.
To bring about this shift in Leadership Team performance, we are encouraged to focus on the importance of what are described as “six game-changing conversations”. Through a number of case studies, exercises, models and tools we are invited to focus our attention on the importance of full team conversations relating to Ambition, Relationship, Priority, Accountability, Delivery and Learning.
For anyone looking for pragmatic ideas and advice on how to improve team effectiveness and contribution this can be an excellent place to start.
5. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni
Last but certainly not least in our top five leadership books, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” (Patrick Lencioni) has been a hugely influential leadership read since it’s publication in 2002. By writing an easily read leadership fable Lencioni proves that insightful leadership thought does not always come in the form of heavyweight academic text. Indeed, many leaders refer to this book and the Five Dysfunctions model as hugely important to their understanding of what it really takes to develop effective workplace relationships and build high performance within a team.
Without revealing the full plot, the book tells the story of a newly appointed CEO and the challenges of establishing an effective leadership team and successful organisation.
Through the story Lencioni shares the Five Dysfunctions that help us better understand why teams (including some seemingly very successful ones), struggle at times to deliver at their best. Significantly however, the book points us in the direction of what needs to be right if progress is to be made; the importance of trust, an appetite to manage conflict, collective commitment, feeling comfortable with accountability and focusing on results.
So, there we have it, our top five leadership books for you to delve into and hopefully enjoy and learn from this Spring. Like any “best of” list, these selections will undoubtedly cause some debate and potentially some disagreement – ultimately of course this is a matter of taste.
With that said we hope you feel curious to explore what is on offer and perhaps find your own inspiration in the weeks ahead – there is some wonderful Leadership writing out there and it really can be a fun journey establishing what truly resonates with you.
Written by Leadership Coach Paul Meneely
“The Leadership Challenge” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner (1987)
“Future – Engage – Deliver“ by Steve Radclffe (2008)
“Executive Presence” by Harrison Monarth (2010)
“Jump! – Deliver astonishing results by unleashing your Leadership Team” by Chris Henderson (2015)
“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni (2002)