Better Understanding Leadership: 17 Books Worth Checking Out

You want to be a good leader: Someone who inspires action among your direct reports, and who can make things happen while being respected and honored. You may not, however, be entirely clear whether what you’re currently doing is the best approach, or if there’s a better way.

Understanding how you lead is crucial when supervising or managing a team. And, as there are many different styles of leadership out there — each with their own strengths and methods — lacking a clear understanding of the reasons behind the “why” you should do something can, sometimes significantly, hamper successful long-term communication and collaboration.

Research and self-study help you discover not only what you’re doing, but why, as well as highlight alternate approaches you can take to get results. To help you identify the various philosophies and methods out there in order to help you get a better idea of what systems make the most sense for you, we asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council the following question:

Q. Which book had the biggest influence on your leadership style, and why?

Here’s what they said:

1. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Simon Sinek)

I strongly relate to Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. In the book, Sinek discusses how inspiration is pivotal for happiness and personal/professional growth. I find that thinking about the real reason why I’m making a decision helps me make better choices, and I think deeply about the pros, cons, and intended outcome of my actions. – Blair Williams, MemberPress

2. The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success (Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Klemp)

It took four amazing founders and one trusted coach to recommend this book, but I finally woke up to understand the value. There’s so much to appreciate and learn. The most impactful part for me is helping me understand that a lot of decisions I make are based on fear, not trust. And when a leader shows trust in herself and her team, that permeates how everything in the organization is done. – Aaron Schwartz, Passport

3. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World (Adam Grant)

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant is all about how to champion and cultivate more original ideas that go against the grain — and originality is what will make you stand out as a leader and business. It covers how to recognize a good idea, how to speak up without getting silenced, choosing the right time to act, how to manage fear and doubt, and much more. – John Turner, SeedProd LLC

4. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t (Jim Collins)

One of my favorite leadership books is Good to Great by Jim Collins. Good to Great shares valuable lessons on almost every area of management strategy and practice. This book challenges leaders to open their minds, get out of the box, and push their companies toward new heights. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

5. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Jim Collins and Jerry Porras)

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras is one of my favorite books about leadership. The book takes a look at businesses that were visionary and thrived for decades, while examining companies that had the same potential and blew it. It’s interesting to think about what could have happened if some of these companies made better choices. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

6. Leaders Eat Last (Simon Sinek)

Simon Sinek is already widely known for being a motivational thinker and strategist, so it’s no surprise that his books are well received and provide lots of insight. If you want to create a great environment for your team, as their leader, you need to be the one to provoke that change. He emphasizes putting your employees first, and so far, this tactic has worked wonders for me. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

7. Man’s Search for Himself (Rollo May)

This timeless book by Rollo May is a constant reminder that at any human’s core is a desire to find purpose and meaning. When I remember that as a leader, I win. The ability to rally others to their higher pursuits is one of the most powerful leadership traits I’ve encountered. Most pull the levers of carrots or sticks, but if you can get to the why, tactics become unimportant. – Codie Sanchez, Cresco Capital Partners

8. High Output Management (Andrew Grove)

This book is great at deconstructing business principles so that you learn the policy or true meaning behind each principle. I found it to be a very practical book with tons of real-life scenarios. The tools taught in the book helped me to better understand business metrics and communicate more effectively with employees. – Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.

9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (Stephen Covey)

I think every aspiring entrepreneur should read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. The content covered in this book is excellent for shifting your perspective and learning to grab life by the horns. Covey dives deep into strategies that make people more effective, and how you can practice these techniques in your own life. – David Henzel, LTVPlus

10. Meditations (Marcus Aurelius)

Meditations was written by the Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius. He wrote it while both ruling Rome as emperor and fighting several wars. The way he managed to maintain his composure while involved in two of the most stressful jobs ever (at the same time!) is awe-inspiring. I re-read this book every few years to remind myself how to stay calm when facing difficulty as a leader. – Bryce Welker, Beat The CPA

11. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses (Eric Ries)

The best leadership book that I’ve read lately is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries because he teaches us how entrepreneurs can use a simple framework to build and run a successful business regardless of the size. He essentially teaches leaders how to test their vision and modify it based on today’s fast-changing environment. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Fem Founder

12. How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)

This book is the Bible when it comes to relationships in business and in life. You can’t go wrong with these principles. It’s been favored by so many people that it has become a classic already. I’d say it’s a must-read for anyone obtaining a leadership position. Dealing with people is also a skill, and this book gives practical tips as to how you can master it. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

13. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity (Kim Scott)

This is a paramount book for my communications agency. It covers how to give feedback in a way that is kind, clear, and impactful. True, meaningful feedback is a rare and tough thing but essential for a high-performing and high-growth team. Without radical candor, you get stuck with “ruinous empathy,” “obnoxious aggression,” or “manipulative insincerity,” which are all horrid. – Beck Bamberger, BAM Communications

14. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein)

Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein has had a huge impact on my leadership style because it helped me reframe thinking around how to design systems that people interact with. Rather than focusing on rules and instructions, it prompted me to consider systematic approaches that drive people towards the right path rather than explicitly forcing them. – Ryan D Matzner, Fueled

15. The 4-Hour Workweek (Tim Ferriss)

In The 4-Hour Work Week, Ferriss discusses a method of delegation called “cultivating ignorance.” If a problem costs less than a certain amount of time/money to fix it, it shouldn’t be escalated up. I’ve used this method effectively for years. For example, I’ve empowered my front desk to fix issues under $50 without escalation, and this makes them feel really amazing and take ownership. – Rachel Beider, PRESS Modern Massage

16. The Rhetoric of Reason: Writing and the Attractions of Argument (James Crosswhite)

In a society that seems polarized and hyper-digitized, this book offers a reminder that it’s still possible for people to reach reasoned mutual agreements through dialogue, listening, and understanding. Specifically, Crosswhite gives practical communication tips on how to reinvest argumentation, persuasion, and leadership with deeply ethical and multilateral interests. Highly recommended! – Shu Saito, Fact Retriever

17. The Consolations of Philosophy (Alain Botton)

The Consolations of Philosophy opened my eyes to the value of philosophy and how it can be applied to leadership. The section dedicated to Nietzsche especially relates to being a good leader. Nietzsche viewed us as gardeners. A skilled gardener can carefully cultivate a beautiful garden out of weeds and overgrowth, just as we can make great achievements out of difficult emotions and situations. – Brian David Crane, Caller Smart Inc.

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at

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