Reading List for Leaders

I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite leadership books, and added some contributions from my LinkedIn followers, all for your summer reading. Thanks to all the contributors!

This summer’s “crowd-sourced” reading list is below (in no particular order), and my own books can be found here.

Mickey’s recommendations:

The Defense of Hill 781, James R. McDonough.

Army Colonel James McDonough examines leadership through a fantasy allegory of an infantry officer in Purgatory until he leads his mechanized task force to victory over the demons inhabiting the battlefield. Great leadership lessons.



War as I Knew It, General George S. Patton, Jr.

No list is complete without this candid memoir from one of America’s greatest wartime commanders. Filled with historical tidbits and lessons applicable to executive leadership in any large organization, this one is a must read.



Empire by Default: The Spanish-American War and the Dawn of the American Century, Ivan Musicant.

America’s entry into the world stage at the end of the 19th Century was not a smooth one. Lessons about leading among peers at very senior levels, logistics preparation and management, organizational dynamics, and leading when you’re on your own abound in this interesting read.


The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers, Gillian Tett.

In this book, Tett uses the 2008 financial crisis as a case study in organizational culture. She points out that very large and respected international corporations lost trillions of dollars because of their inability to communicate clearly across internal teams or “silos.”  



Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, General Stanley McChrystal.

In my mind this is the definitive work for working in a globally networked organization. Gen McChrystal talks about his successful campaign against Al Qaeda in Iraq. He created a network of special operators and support forces that rapidly leveraged intelligence and technology, coupled with the expertise of the world’s greatest special operations forces, to crush the insurgency in Iraq.


Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win, Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

Written by two former SEAL officers, this book is a “how to” manual on small unit leadership. It’s a candid recounting of battlefield successes and mistakes, and how those leadership lessons apply to both military and civilian environments alike.



The Art of Positive Leadership, John E. Michel.

Written by the General Leadership Foundation’s own Brig Gen (ret) John Michel, The Art of Positive Leadership is a series of essays written mostly during his time in Afghanistan. Michel gives great tips for inspiring high performance even during stressful situations.



Crowdsourced recommendations:

Start With Why,  Simon Sinek

In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in turn inspire their colleagues and customers. Since then, millions have been touched by the power of his ideas, including more than 28 million who’ve watched his TED Talk based on START WITH WHY — the third most popular TED video of all time.


The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle, James Hunter

In The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle, Hunter demonstrates that leadership and character development are one and the same. But the work, even the pain, of changing one’s self –  breaking old, worn-out habits – is difficult. Hunter provides an uncomplicated, straightforward, three-step change process he has seen successfully employed by literally thousands of leaders to effect change in their lives and organizations and fulfill beneficial goals.


Healing the Heart of Conflict: Eight Crucial Steps to Making Peace with Yourself and with Others, Marc Gopin

Conflict can be a difficult concept to understand. You cannot just consider the logical reasons behind the confrontation. You must also understand the feelings and identity issues of the parties. Some people thrive on the toxic environment conflict creates, or they get caught in a loop with little chance of escape.


Lincoln on Leadership, Donald T. Phillips

Lincoln on Leadership is the first book to examine Abraham Lincoln’s diverse leadership abilities and how they can be applied to today’s complex world. You think you have it rough? Only ten days before Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861, the Confederate States of America seceded from the Union, taking all Federal agencies, forts, and arenas within their territory. To make matters worse, Lincoln, who was elected by a minority of the popular vote, was thought of by his own advisors as nothing more than a gawky second-rate country lawyer with no leadership experience.


Good to Great, Jim Collins

Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the very beginning.




Follow Me I: The Human Element in Leadership (v. 1), Aubrey S Newman

Leading people to excellence–lessons from the lifetime of experiences of the U.S. Army’s most influential officers.




The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations (5th ed.)Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z.

For more than 25 years, The Leadership Challenge has been the most trusted source on becoming a better leader, selling more than 2 million copies in over 20 languages since its first publication. Based on Kouzes and Posner’s extensive research, this all-new edition casts their enduring work in context for today’s world, proving how leadership is a relationship that must be nurtured, and most importantly, that it can be learned.


The Servant, James C. Hunter.

In this absorbing tale, you watch the timeless principles of servant leadership unfold through the story of John Daily, a businessman whose outwardly successful life is spiraling out of control. He is failing miserably in each of his leadership roles as boss, husband, father, and coach. To get his life back on track, he reluctantly attends a weeklong leadership retreat at a remote Benedictine monastery. To John’s surprise, the monk leading the seminar is a former business executive and Wall Street legend. Taking John under his wing, the monk guides him to a realization that is simple yet profound: The true foundation of leadership is not power, but authority, which is built upon relationships, love, service, and sacrifice.

Forget Success!!, General Roger Brady

Forget Success!! is a book about principled leadership for those who have been chosen for leadership positions or aspire to be leaders. Roger Brady, a recently retired US Air Force General, shares his 41 years of experience in leading many diverse organizations. This book will help leaders avoid the pitfalls of self-absorption that have derailed the efforts of so many leaders and left the mission and their organizations in ruin. The author focuses on the importance of character, particularly courage, as a foundational attribute of effective, principled leaders. He then shows how communication and caring can yield the success that often eludes those who focus on it. This is a candid discussion you will not often hear from senior leaders. Roger Brady tells stories of both success and failure from his own experience and compels readers to consider their own foundations as they assume responsibilities of leadership.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie

For more than sixty years the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this book has carried thousands of now famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. Now this previously revised and updated bestseller is available in trade paperback for the first time to help you achieve your maximum potential throughout the next century! Learn:  Three fundamental techniques in handling people, The six ways to make people like you, The twelve ways to win people to you way of thinking, The nine ways to change people without arousing resentment.


Vision to Execution – A Framework for Action, Marvin L. Covault

Vision to Execution is a fundamental guidebook for leaders at all levels in any organization




The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Edmund Morris

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time. Described by the Chicago Tribune as “a classic,” The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt stands as one of the greatest biographies of our time. The publication of The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt on September 14th, 2001 marks the 100th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt becoming president.



Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Seth Godin

Few authors have had the kind of lasting impact and global reach that Seth Godin has had. In a series of now-classic books that have been translated into 36 languages and reached millions of readers around the world, he has taught generations of readers how to make remarkable products and spread powerful ideas. In Linchpin, he turns his attention to the individual, and explains how anyone can make a significant impact within their organization.



Managing the Unexpected: Sustained Performance in a Complex World, Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe

Managing the Unexpected, Third Edition is a thoroughly revised text that offers an updated look at the groundbreaking ideas explored in the first and second editions. Revised to reflect events emblematic of the unique challenges that organizations have faced in recent years, including bank failures, intelligence failures, quality failures, and other organizational misfortunes, often sparked by organizational actions, this critical book focuses on why some organizations are better able to sustain high performance in the face of unanticipated change.

Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek

Too many workplaces are driven by cynicism, paranoia, and self-interest. But the best ones foster trust and cooperation because their leaders build what Sinek calls a “Circle of Safety” that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside. Sinek illustrates his ideas with fascinating true stories that range from the military to big business, from government to investment banking.