Best Management Books to Help You Be a Better Leader

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  • 15 Aug 2023
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What qualities distinguish a great leader? Is it a charismatic personality? Is it a bold vision or self-assurance?

I would argue that excellent leaders exhibit all of these characteristics. But how do you get these qualities? After all, there is such a thing as a "natural leader," but the majority of those who are called upon to lead do not fall into that category.

Fortunately, there is a wealth of knowledge available to help us develop the skillsets of a great leader. Reading management literature is an excellent place to begin.

Best Management Books For Aspiring Leaders

Here are the 20 finest management books that can help you become a great leader.

1. The One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard Ph.D. and Spencer Johnson M.D.

This is an amazing book that chronicles the narrative of a young man looking for a good leader. While encountering various management styles, some autocratic care solely about results, and the workers suffered as a result. Others who took a democratic approach were solely concerned with people, and the organisation suffered as a result. Finally, in a manager who employs the one-minute strategy, he finds what he's been seeking for.

The one-minute method is essentially a tool for establishing clear goals or expectations for individuals you manage.

For example, does cleaning a room include sweeping the floor, dusting the shelves, or organising the bookshelves? The expectations are apparent if you are ordered to sweep the floor and organise the bookcases. Then you have one minute of praising and one minute of reprimanding, where you give praise and reprimands swiftly.

2. On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis, a business school professor at the University of Southern California, was considered a must-read for every business person. During World War II, he was one of the youngest lieutenants to serve in Europe, giving him his first experience of leadership. He believes that leaders are created rather than born.

This is one of the best management books available. It describes various characteristics of a great leader. A leader, according to Bennis, is self-aware, curious, and willing to take risks. A leader understands the big picture and does the correct thing.

3. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders by L. David Marquet

Marquet was the captain of a submarine, and he had been educated to lead in the traditional military manner of issuing orders and achieving results. However, he once delivered an impossible-to-follow instruction, but his staff tried anyway, with near-disastrous results. When he questioned why, she replied, “because you told me to.”

That's when he decided to attempt a new management style, giving those under him responsibility for their work as well as the freedom to do it. The effects of his new managerial style were profound.

4. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

Why do some teams work well together while others implode into arguing, infighting, and backstabbing?

After speaking with a Marine Corps general, Sinek addresses this subject in his book Leaders Eat Last. He noted that all of the junior Marines ate first, while the most senior Marines ate last. According to the general, "leaders eat last" since what was symbolic in the dining hall was deadly serious in war.

Leaders must put their own comfort and even their lives on the line for the sake of the team they lead. He then uses genuine anecdotes from business and the military to illustrate his points.

5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This book by Carnegie is essential for any list of the finest management books. For good reason, this is one of the most recognised books on leadership ever written.

Carnegie highlights some of the "soft skills" of effective leadership, such as making others feel important and valued. Putting the ideas in this classic to use will make you a better leader, negotiator, and motivator.

6. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Written nearly two thousand years ago, this is still regarded as a must-read for leaders around the world. Sun Tzu was a military leader who wrote down his ideas about combat and leadership.

It contains timeless truths like "Avoid what is strong and strike at what is weak." "Supreme excellence" is defined as "breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

The book is organised into thirteen chapters, each devoted to a different philosophy.

7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

Another timeless masterpiece, Covey is a world-renowned leadership guru. Although he has other writings published, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is his most well-known.

True leadership, according to Covey, begins within. A competent leader must first take care of their own inner well-being, develop a personal vision, and practise self-control. Only then will they be able to influence others.

Here's a quick video about the 7 behaviours of really successful people:

8. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John Maxwell

Maxwell's The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is one of the top management books available. It is one of the most popular books about leadership of all time.

While there may be more "laws" of leadership than 21, Maxwell believes that these 21 laws are real and necessary for anyone to be effective. Furthermore, these regulations apply to all positions of leadership in society, whether in the military, industry, or government.

9. Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive By Harvey B. Mackay

Mackay delivers practical tips on how to outsell your competition and motivate your employees in this book written by a self-made millionaire. It's a quick read full with interesting and practical ideas. It provides a lot of useful information, such as "If You Don't Have a Destination, You'll Never Get There," "If you make decisions with your heart, you'll end up with heart disease," and "It's not the people you fire who make your life miserable; it's the people you don't."

10. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini Ph.D.

Dr. Robert Cialdini has spent his entire career studying the science of influence, gaining him an international reputation as an authority on persuasion, compliance, and negotiation.

In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he divides influence and persuasion principles into six categories that are simple to learn and apply. This book will teach you how to influence people while also protecting yourself from fraudulent persuasion.

11. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute

This book may be difficult to read, not because of the principles or language employed, but because it challenges the reader to confront their own responsibility for problems. Most of us tend to blame things outside of ourselves for our troubles. However, in order to properly find solutions, you must first recognise your own role in the situation.

The Arbinger Institute is a global leader in organisational effectiveness and conflict resolution.

12. Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman

This relatively short, 292-page read, a Wall Street Journal bestseller, discusses two leadership styles.

Liz Wiseman, a leadership expert, investigates these two leadership styles in her book, convincingly demonstrating how Multipliers may have a resoundingly beneficial and profitable effect on organisations.

Multipliers get more done with fewer resources, develop and attract people, and foster new ideas and enthusiasm to drive organisational transformation and innovation. Diminishers, on the other side, are the type of people that drain creativity and innovation from their teams.

13. My Years With General Motors by Alfred Sloan Jr.

This is yet another "classic" management book. Sloan's My Years With General Motors, which was first published in 1963, quickly became a best-seller. The author discusses the "discipline of management" that he has used for decades to become an excellent leader.

Bill Gates still considers this book to be the best book on management. Even Business Week dubbed it "the number one choice for its bookshelf of indispensable reading."

14. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

The co-founder of Pixar Studios, the creators behind some of the most famous and profitable films of all time, developed this New York Times bestseller. The writers of this book investigate the leadership attributes that have made Pixar so successful.

This book contains many fantastic ideas for readers, such as "Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up." If you give a lousy idea to a fantastic team, they will either repair it or come up with something better," and "It is not the manager's responsibility to prevent risks." It is the manager's responsibility to make it safe for others to take them."

15. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott

Kim Scott worked for Google and then Apple. She offers her years of experience as an excellent leader in this fascinating book about leadership and management.

Her primary philosophy is that a leader must genuinely care while also directly pushing employees. It's authoritarian if you don't care. It is detrimental to the organisation if you do not challenge. And if you do neither, you're just being manipulative.

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

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, another New York Times bestseller, demolishes the carrot and stick management model.

Pink investigates the gap between what science knows motivates us and what most corporations do in this book. He believes that three factors motivate people: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. So, if you can give such things for them, you will have a productive and efficient staff.

17. Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis & Annie McKee

What is the most significant characteristic of a leader? Intelligence, drive, and vision?

The writers of this book contend that "emotional intelligence" is a vital aspect in leadership. Great leaders, according to them, have attributes such as excitement, empathy, relationship management, and intuitive understanding.

The writers attempt to identify and illustrate those fundamental features using several real-world instances. Good leaders foster "resonance" among their teams, whereas weak leaders foster "dissonance."

18. The Truth About Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

The writers of this book lay out eleven "truths" concerning leadership. One of these is credibility, which serves as the cornerstone for effective leadership. A leader recognises and motivates loyalty, and the finest leaders are also the best learners.

You either lead by example, or you don't lead at all, according to the writers. Any great leader must understand all of these principles, and you ignore them at your peril.

19. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh is the creator of Zappos, an online shop with yearly sales of more than $1 billion.

In this book, he reveals his success secrets. Among the various tactics he highlighted include allowing your staff authority over their employment (autonomy), acknowledging and supporting professional and personal growth, connecting with your team personally, and being someone people want to work for.

This is a wonderful read if you want to start your own business or just manage employees.

20. The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations by James Kouzes and Posner

Last but not least, one of the best management books ever published is The Leadership Challenge.

The Leadership Challenge, often regarded as the "gold standard" of leadership manuals, investigates the differences between good and great leaders. The writers outlined five excellent leadership practises: modelling the way, inspiring a common vision, challenging the process, enabling others to act, and encouraging the heart.

Anyone looking for excellent management and leadership books should include this on their list.

The Bottom Line

Leadership is an art as much as a competence. While the art of leadership cannot be taught, the abilities of a leader can be learned.

This selection of the top 20 management books is by no means exhaustive, but by obtaining their insights, you will be better prepared to lead.

In fact, the information gained from these books will place you on the shoulders of giants.

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