31 books on leadership and change

Kate Lee By Kate Lee

Essential reads on leadership and change for your library

Our team is made up of highly-skilled, senior-level consultants from a wide range of backgrounds—educators at top universities, serial entrepreneurs, former C-suite executives, and seasoned process consulting experts. For more than 40 years, we have worked side by side with extraordinary leaders to help them spur changes and drive transformation in their organizations, businesses, and industries.

The following list of 31 books on leadership and change is comprised of books we have found helpful in our careers and ones we often recommend to leaders. The books include recent publications and ones that have stood the test of time. 

31 books on leadership and change

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, continues to be a best seller for the simple reason that it ignores trends and pop psychology and focuses on timeless principles of fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity.”

Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras

“Coauthored with Jerry Porras and based on their research project at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, this book investigates the question, Why are some companies able to become and remain visionary through multiple generations of leaders, across decades, and even centuries? Among the findings are Preserve the Core/Stimulate Progress, BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), and the Genius of the AND. Like Good to Great, Built to Last compares great companies to good ones during specific eras in history, asking, What systematically distinguishes the great from the average?”

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

“The ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures. Daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100% teachable. It’s learning and practice that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with our whole hearts.”

Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan 

“The book that shows how to get the job done and deliver results . . . whether you’re running an entire company or in your first management job.”

Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

“Detailing the mindset and principles that enable SEAL units to accomplish the most difficult combat missions, Extreme Ownership demonstrates how to apply them to any team or organization, in any leadership environment. A compelling narrative with powerful instruction and direct application, Extreme Ownership challenges leaders everywhere to fulfill their ultimate purpose: lead and win.”

First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman

“In this longtime management bestseller, Gallup presents the remarkable findings of its massive in-depth study of great managers. Some were in leadership positions. Others were front-line supervisors. Some were in Fortune 500 companies; others were key players in small, entrepreneurial firms. Whatever their circumstances, the managers who ultimately became the focus of Gallup’s research were those who excelled at turning each individual employee’s talent into high performance.”

Good to Great by Jim Collins

“This book addresses a single question: can a good company become a great company, and if so, how? Based on a five-year research project comparing companies that made the leap to those that did not, Good to Great shows that greatness is not primarily a function of circumstance but largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline. This book discusses concepts like Level 5 Leadership; First Who, Then What (first get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to drive it); the Hedgehog Concept, and the Flywheel.”

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last is for those who want to feel they and their work matter and for those who want to inspire others to feel the same.”

Leadership Engine by Noel Tichy

“Why do some companies consistently win in the marketplace while others struggle from crisis to crisis? The answer, says Noel Tichy, is that winning companies possess a Leadership Engine, a proven system for creating dynamic leaders at every level. Technologies, products, and economies constantly change. To get ahead and stay ahead, companies need agile, flexible, innovative leaders who can anticipate change and respond to new realities swiftly. Tichy explains that everyone has untapped leadership potential that can be developed winning leaders and winning organizations have figured out how to do this.”

Leadership is an Art by Max DePree

“Leadership Is an Art has long been a must-read not only within the business community but also in professions ranging from academia to medical practices, to the political arena. De Pree looks at leadership as a kind of stewardship, stressing the importance of building relationships, initiating ideas, and creating a lasting value system within an organization. Rather than focusing on the ‘hows’ of corporate life, he explains the ‘whys.’ He shows that the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality and the last is to say thank you.”

Leading Change by John Kotter

“Dr. Kotter offers a practical approach to an organized means of leading, not managing, change. He presents an eight-stage process of change with useful examples that show how to go about implementing it. Based on experience with numerous companies, his sound advice gets directly at the reasons why organizations fail to change – reasons that concern primarily the leader.”

Principle Centered Leadership by Stephen R. Covey

“This book asks the fundamental question, how do we as individuals (and organizations), not only survive but thrive amid tremendous change? More, why are our efforts to improve continuing to fail despite the millions of dollars we spend in time, capital, and human effort every year? How do we combat all of this by unleashing the full measure of our creativity, talent, and energy in the midst of this pressure? Is it realistic to believe that we can find balance in our personal life, family life, and professional life?”

Quiet by Susan Cain

“Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School and from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects.”

Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf

“With the publication of The Servant as Leader essay in 1970, followed by the book Servant Leadership in 1977, a different paradigm of leadership entered into the hearts and minds of people, organizations, and society. Robert K. Greenleaf proposed that service ought to be the distinguishing characteristic of leadership. Not only would it create a better, stronger society, but people themselves ‘would find greater joy in their lives if they raised the servant aspect of their leadership and built more serving institutions.'”

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Start With Why shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.”

Strategic Pause by Don Graumann

Strategic Pause shows you how to build a Personal Leadership Model that covers both the ‘what’ (the Principles) and the ‘how’ (the Methods) of leadership. It defines leadership in the present (taking Strategic Pauses) and leadership focused on the future (practicing Strategic Management). It helps you put leadership in your own words and discover your leadership style, the ‘who’ of leadership. Strategic Pause makes leadership real and fast-forwards your leadership growth.”

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns-Goodwin

“Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln’s political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president.”

Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal

“In Team of Teams, McChrystal and his colleagues show how the challenges they faced in Iraq can be rel­evant to countless businesses, nonprofits, and or­ganizations today. In periods of unprecedented crisis, leaders need practical management practices that can scale to thousands of people—and fast. By giving small groups the freedom to experiment and share what they learn across the entire organiza­tion, teams can respond more quickly, communicate more freely, and make better and faster decisions.”

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

“In Pat’s best-seller, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, he makes an overwhelming case that organizational health will surpass all other disciplines in business as the greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage. Drawing on his extensive consulting experience and reaffirming many of the themes cultivated in his other best-selling books, Pat reveals the four actionable steps to achieving long-term, sustainable success.”

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

The Art of Possibility presents twelve breakthrough practices for bringing creativity into all human endeavors, The Art of Possibility is the dynamic product of an extraordinary partnership. An international bestseller, the book combines Benjamin Zander’s experience as conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and his talent as a teacher and communicator with psychotherapist Rosamund Stone Zander’s genius for designing innovative paradigms for personal and professional fulfillment. The authors’ harmoniously interwoven perspectives provide a deep sense of the powerful role that the notion of possibility can play in every aspect of life. Through uplifting stories, parables, and personal anecdotes, the Zanders invite us to become passionate communicators, leaders, and performers whose lives radiate Possibility into the world.”

The Attackers Advantage by Ram Charan

“In The Attacker’s Advantage, renowned business expert and bestselling author Ram Charan shows what skills are needed to be able to spot the disruption that is coming, and what actions are necessary to take advantage of these changes. While many leaders know how to cope with operational uncertainty—when, for example, revenue fluctuates—the same cannot be said for dealing with structural uncertainty that can alter the money-making patterns of a company, industry, or entire economic sector. Charan demonstrates the huge upside offered by structural uncertainty and provides the concepts and tools—such as being able to spot the catalysts of disruption, building organizational preparedness, developing a financial understanding of the consequences—to take advantage of forces that are creating new customer needs, market segments and ways to make money.”

The Core 4 by Robert Weiler

The Core 4 by Robert Weiler explores the foundational capabilities of any organization, from a small group to a global enterprise—leadership, change, alignment, and energy. These core drivers are critical to accelerating growth, performance, and profitability.”

The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

“Drucker identifies five practices essential to business effectiveness that can, and must, be learned: Managing time Choosing what to contribute to the organization Knowing where and how to mobilize strength for best effect Setting the right priorities Knitting all of them together with effective decision-making. Ranging widely through the annals of business and government, Peter F. Drucker demonstrates the distinctive skill of the executive and offers fresh insights into old and seemingly obvious business situations.”

The Essential Drucker by Peter F. Drucker

“Containing twenty-six selections, The Essential Drucker covers the basic principles and concerns of management and its problems, challenges, and opportunities, giving managers, executives, and professionals the tools to perform the tasks that the economy and society of tomorrow will demand of them.”

The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins

“Transitions are a critical time for leaders. In fact, most agree that moving into a new role is the biggest challenge a manager will face. While transitions offer a chance to start fresh and make needed changes in an organization, they also place leaders in a position of acute vulnerability. Missteps made during the crucial first three months in a new role can jeopardize or even derail your success.”

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has become the world’s most definitive source on practical information for building teams. The book’s impact extends beyond business schools, churches, non-profit organizations, professional sports teams and the military. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has sold over three million copies and continues to be a fixture on national best-seller lists week after week.”

The Five Most Important Questions Peter F. Drucker

“With Peter Drucker’s five essential questions and the help of five of today’s thought leaders, this little book will challenge readers to take a close look at the very heart of their organizations and what drives them. A tool for self-assessment and transformation, answering these five questions will fundamentally change the way you work, helping you lead your organization to an exceptional level of performance.”

The Heart of Change by John Kotter and Dan S. Cohen

“In The Heart of Change, the authors have culled from hundreds of interviews the 34 most instructive and vivid accounts of companies undergoing large-scale change. With chapters organized by each of the eight stages of change Kotter identified in Dr. John Kotter’s 1996 bestseller Leading Change, the authors deftly contrast success stories with fumbles, then utilize the compare-and-contrast format for lively ‘how-to/how-not-to’ discussion.”

The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner

“Leadership is not about personality; it’s about behavior—an observable set of skills and abilities. When the co-authors of The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, first set out to discover what effective leaders do when they’re at their personal best, they collected thousands of stories from ordinary people—the moments they recalled when asked to think of a peak leadership experience. Despite differences in culture, gender, age, and other variables, these “personal best” stories revealed similar patterns of behavior. The authors discovered that when leaders experience their personal best, they display five core practices: they Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart. “

The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey

“Why trust? The simple, often overlooked fact is this: work gets done with and through people. The Speed of Trust offers an unprecedented and eminently practical look at exactly how trust functions in every transaction and every relationship—from the most personal to the broadest, most indirect interaction. It specifically demonstrates how to establish trust intentionally so that you and your organization can forego the time-killing, bureaucratic check-and-balance processes that is so often deployed in lieu of actual trust.”

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

“Based on interviews with over eighty people who knew and loved Bill Campbell, Trillion Dollar Coach explains the Coach’s principles and illustrates them with stories from the many great people and companies with which he worked. The result is a blueprint for forward-thinking business leaders and managers that will help them create higher performing and faster moving cultures, teams, and companies.”

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