Five Fantastic Books That Help Build Leadership Potential

  • Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, by Simon Sinek
  • Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.; Richard Boyatzis; and Annie McKee
  • Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek
  • Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success, by David Livermore
  • The Leader Habit: Master Skills You Need in Just Minutes a Day, by Martin Lanik

Related resource: Top 10 Bachelor’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Business cultures are exploring new, more inclusive leadership territory, and industrial-organizational (I/O) psychology has taken a front seat on that journey with accessible books to help new leaders meet these challenges. A focus on group-centered leadership has yielded some fantastic results in terms of productivity and retention of valued employees at every level. When one digs into why the answers are often easy to understand. Developing positive, inclusive leadership that draws on the skill sets of individuals and harnesses them to achieve group goals is essential to the future of corporate success.

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

If there’s one book that anyone taking on leadership responsibilities for the first time should pick up, it’s this one. For many years, Sinek noticed that some corporate teams developed strong bonds of trust and cooperation, pulling together to achieve amazing results. Others were characterized by vicious competition, mistrust, and ultimately unstable or lackluster achievements. When he began to investigate the reasons, the rationale was not immediately clear. But in speaking to a General of the Marine Corps, he had a flash of insight. “Officers eat last.” It isn’t just a saying, but one of the core means of building loyalty among a hierarchical group. It runs counter to the traditional ethos of many corporate cultures, which often parallel authoritarian regimes, leading through fear and competition at any cost.

2. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.; Richard Boyatzis; and Annie McKee

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is now recognized as more important than traditional intellectual values, such as IQ. This text explores the weight of emotions, how they are rooted in both human individuals and cultural value systems as well as how they can be leveraged to achieve goals in the corporate sphere. Rather than manipulation and coercion, this approach encourages leaders to tap into the potential of their team members by fostering positive emotional responses, building trust, and supporting the individuals who are working for or with them.

3. Start with Why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek

In the TED Talk, based on the book of the same name, Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” The central idea that helps to build an effective team in any business is that true leaders attract people who believe as they believe, who will bring the best they have to offer to the table because they are working for those core values. Otherwise, they’re just doing it for the paycheck. Leaders who inspire and support their teams, who draw on the skill sets and talents of those who respond to their “Why,” will always achieve their goals. In many cases, they will consistently exceed their expectations. Sinek walks the reader through examples of how the most successful business people have done this and creates a map for those who aspire to inspire.

4. Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The Real Secret to Success, by David Livermore

Emotional intelligence took the business world by storm, revolutionizing the core ethos of leadership strategies. But in today’s multicultural marketplace, even this revolutionary shift may not be quite enough to lead and engage effectively. If business leaders want to expand their efforts into the international marketplace, they’ll need cultural intelligence (CQ). This book offers a four-step model for doing just that in the most streamlined and profitable way possible.

5. The Leader Habit: Master Skills You Need in Just Minutes a Day, by Martin Lanik

This book provides 22 useful behaviors that any new leader can integrate into their business life. What makes this text so valuable is that it breaks down each behavior into small, easily learned behaviors that become a part of life. Simple changes generally take root and spread benefits into all areas of endeavor. Each step is reinforced by five-minute exercises that can be applied and practiced at any time of day until that behavior becomes second nature.

Being an effective leader isn’t an innate ability as much as it’s a learned skill. More appropriately, it’s an outlook that is built on experience and multiple skillsets, and it requires a significant dedication to the wellbeing of others. The good news for new leaders is that these things can be acquired at any point in the life journey. There are a number of excellent books that explore the suite of skills and attributes that make the best leaders and help build the most dedicated teams, which can be mined for insight whenever it’s needed.