The Best Books on Leadership

If there’s one thing to be learned from these titles, it’s that anyone can be a leader.

by Rob Eades / 2021-08-20

What do you picture when you think of a leader? 

Is it military tactician George Washington bashing down the barricades? Is it NBA star LeBron James pushing his team to victory? Or is it Emmeline Pankhurst striving towards a better, more equal world for women?

There’s no one size fits all perfect picture of a leader, as we all lead - and prefer to be led - in different ways. Some prefer the typical charismatic, rip-roaring leader; while others prefer to be led by example, not words. 

So if you’re looking to improve your leadership skills, then it’s key to remember that not everyone leads in the same way. Luckily for you, we’ve got some of the best recommendations on how to guide and influence others, provided by the best of the best. So sit tight and get ready to be inspired. 

Leaders Eat Last - Simon Sinek

On Uptime

Simon Sinek takes us back to the great examples of historical leadership and gives us a few consequences of what happens to poor leaders. 

1. Safety = Progress

As a leader, make sure that you instil an air of safety amongst your team. This isn’t just physical safety (though of course, you should do that too), but the air of safety that means they know that they’re allowed to experiment, and allowed to fail. This type of atmosphere often sees the most progress and breakthroughs. 

2. Learn to care

Remember, no matter how stressed you are, or how important what you’re doing is - you’re working with human beings. 

Make your employees’ wellness a priority. Ensure that they are happy in their roles and surrounded by a positive work environment. Take some time to get to know them and spark a few non-work related conversations. A happy team is a cohesive team. 

3. Get pleasure from challenging yourself 

Nowadays, everyone from teens to pensioners looks to social media to get their daily dopamine hit. But whilst social media can be a useful tool, it shouldn’t govern your life. 

If you’re starting to feel drained, put down your phone and go out into the world and find something to do that will mentally stimulate and challenge you. This can be anything from learning about a new subject, a physical activity, or even trying out ways to make better use of your free time - the options are endless.

Good to Great - James C. Collins

On Uptime

What if good isn’t good enough - what if we want to be great? It just so happens that James C. Collins has a book that tells us how (lucky us.)

1. Learn how to be a hedgehog

Yes, you heard that right.

Hedgehogs make for the perfect business model because they always know exactly what to do in a time of crisis: they curl up into a defensively solid ball of spikes, and they come out on top. 

So, now you need to figure out what your own “hedgehog” strategy is. Find something that you can successfully always go back to in times of crisis and repeat over and over, as long as it brings you out on top. 

2. The bandwagon isn’t always the right wagon

Just because something is popular doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. When something innovative and new pops up, only jump on board if you’re certain that it can help you improve your concept. 

If you believe it will, then make sure you’ve got a solid plan before you get started. 

3. Uncomfortable truths are still truths

Sometimes, things will not go to plan. That’s fine. The key is how you deal with it. 

Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope things will sort themselves out. Tackle your problems head-on and don’t give up. Have the optimism and confidence that you can recover and come back stronger. 

Leadership Strategy & Tactics - Jocko Willink

On Uptime

Ex-Navy SEAL leader Jocko Willink teaches us all of the leadership tips and tricks he learnt throughout his time in the military.

1. Step back before you move forward

If you’re feeling like you have too much on your plate, and you can’t see the best way forward, take a second to step away from it all. 

Giving yourself a new perspective, both figuratively and literally, can give you time and space to reassess. It also lets you release any built-up tension or emotions that may be clouding your judgment. 

2. Lead by example

No matter how high up the ladder you are, never be afraid to get stuck in with the grunt work. 

Helping your team out with the more menial tasks improves unity among your team and shows them that you don’t consider yourself above them. As they say: many hands make light work. 

3. Communication is key

As a leader, it’s important to learn how to give information effectively. There should be no room for confusion when you’re communicating as that’s when mistakes are bound to happen. 

When you’re delegating responsibilities, explain what you want and expect from each person in the clearest terms possible. You should also always allow questions; it may take longer, but it will save more time further down the line.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership - John C. Maxwell

On Uptime

Leadership legend John Maxwell shows us that leadership is learned, not inherited. 

1. Trust is true

Trust is the most important quality in a leader. If you have the charisma and the people skills to make people trust you, you can easily build a loyal following. 

If you’re in a management position, make sure you treat your employees with respect. Managers who show respect will in turn gain respect and trust. 

2. Respect is earned daily

When your team trusts and respects you, they will follow you. It’s as simple as that. 

But respect isn’t something that is earned once and kept forever; it’s something that you need to constantly earn. Just because you’ve won someone over doesn’t mean that you have influence over them forever. You have to keep finding small ways to earn it. 

3. Hate to lose

People often lament “bad losers”. Why? Having a competitive edge isn’t a bad thing. If you’re a good loser, it must mean you’ve had plenty of practice. 

As a leader, you should always keep your eye on the prize and not let any losses get you down.

If you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, and don’t feel ‘ready’ or ‘right’ for leadership, remember that there is truly no one-size-fits-all fit for what a leader ‘should’ look like.

Equally, what seems impossible today could be commonplace tomorrow. For example, it was only in 1972 that we saw the first female Fortune 500 Chief Executive Officer - before that, it never seemed possible. So whether your leadership skills are still in development, or you feel you’re ripe and ready - you should never stop learning how to be better.

For other works to help you find your inner leader (such as Lean In, Principles, or Radical Candor) check out our selection of leadership titles on Uptime.

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