Have you come across people who seem like they were born to be leaders? Leadership comes so naturally, so gracefully to them. Do you long to be the same?
Well, there can be qualities like charisma, charm and wit that come naturally to some people, and when leaders possess them, that gives them an edge. But, most of the world-renowned leaders have cultivated these skills and worked on them throughout their lives. Listen to an interview of a leader you admire, and you will see the truth of the previous statement.
So, the question is, can these leadership skills be cultivated? The answer, of course, is yes. In this blog, you will come across the best leadership books for professional development that are available in the market. Reading these books can be a gateway to cultivating leadership skills.
The Usual Suspects:
The following five books are among the best leadership books for professional development. They will help you cultivate a leadership mindset, while also helping you develop concrete leadership skills.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek:
Simon Sinek wrote ‘Start with Why’ to underscore the significance of purpose-driven leadership. In this book, he emphasizes that successful individuals as well as organizations have a strong sense of ‘why’ behind the work they do. This core intrinsic motivation helps them to relate authentically with other people in professional settings. Giving a variety of examples from different career paths, he suggests readers to discover their own ‘why’ in order to become leaders that stand apart.
One of the primary strengths of this book is the clarity with which the material is presented. Simon Sinek is a lucid writer who knows his subject inside out and explores it with an admirable clarity of vision.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie:
Published in 1936 and still read widely among professionals and laymen alike, this classic work by Dale Carnegie is essential reading for leaders in a professional environment. The book, as the name suggests, talks about strategies that can be used to improve social skills to an extent where you can ‘win friends and influence people’ at will. It gives you techniques and principles like active listening, showing genuine interest in others, offering sincere praise etc. to apply in real world situations, and illustrates how to apply them.
One of the key strengths of the book is that it has a lot of examples and anecdotes for every principle that the author expounds. This makes you aware of all the possible situations these principles can be applied in.
Mastery by Robert Greene:
Leadership requires embracing the path of continuous learning and adapting oneself to changing situations. It requires leaders that are masters of their domain. Mastery by Robert Greene is one of the best written books in its genre. It covers a lot of ground so effortlessly, and is littered with examples of inspirational people mastering their craft in different domains.
The key strength of this book is that it is written in prose that flows from one topic to the next, taking the reader along with ease and grace. Reading this book is a delightful experience.
Atomic Habits by James Clear:
If you ask a successful executive, who is famous for her leadership skills, about her daily routine, you will find a set pattern in her routine. You will notice certain activities that are performed on a daily basis with clockwork accuracy. These are habits that every successful leader cultivates over their lifetime of work and play. If you want to cultivate similar habits, there is no better book than Atomic Habits by James Clear. With clear, concise language, he explores the power of small habits to create significant changes in our lives.
The key strength of this book is its concise nature of writing, and the concrete nature of the principles outlined. Using the concepts outlined in the book, you can start cultivating habits right away, and put yourself on the path to great leadership.
Deep Work by Cal Newport:
In our age of distraction, great leaders outperform the rest in matters of focused work for long periods of time. As the general attention span of the population continues to dip, those executives who retain their abilities of focus and attention will be in high demand. In this book, Cal Newport outlines the importance of deep and sustained work in our contemporary world, and suggests some brilliant ways to make ‘deep work’ a part of our professional lives.
The key strength of this book is its increasing relevance in the kind of world we live in today. Cal Newport has written a book that can easily be read by a multitude and the concerns it addresses are ubiquitous concerns.
Off the Beaten Path:
The books mentioned above are some of the best leadership books for professional development. But, you can find them in other such lists as well. They are incredibly popular, and equally useful. Now, we will talk about books for aspiring leaders that are are not as well-known among the leadership circles.
How to Think by Alan Jacobs:
It’s not your usual ‘improve-your-critical-thinking’ book. This book has depth, and the way Alan Jacobs approaches the idea of thinking is really charming and thought-provoking. Great leaders need their thinking muscles to remain in working order, and must be wise enough to differentiate good ideas from bad ones. This guide, as the author calls it, will be really helpful for any aspiring leaders who want to be responsible for their thinking.
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius:
Marcus Aurelius was an emperor of the Roman Empire, and he wrote this ‘diary’ over the course of his reign. These meditations reflect on the stoic values of self-discipline, acceptance of nature, and detachment from external outcomes. This book can guide you as aspiring leaders to cultivate resilience, wisdom and inner peace. Being a diary, and not a philosophical treatise, it has a personal touch to it which makes it more readable.
Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb:
He is one of the best popular non-fiction writers working today. Antifragile is a concept coined by Nassim Taleb by which he means anything that gains by disorder. Fragile things break when they encounter disorder, but antifragile things get stronger because of it. This concept is explored in the book with hundreds of examples and illustrations and funny anecdotes. As for the last part, the book is laugh-out-loud funny at times and equally erudite. The concept of antifragility can be of immense use to aspiring leaders, as can be easily inferred from the popularity of this book among business icons.
How to Live on 24 Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett:
Published in 1908, written by the charming writer Arnold Bennett, this short and sharp work poses as a primer in the self-help genre, but it belies more depth and is a delight to read. Time management is a pressing issue for executives who want to be great as leaders. This book manages to talk about time management without assuming you are a machine, like many other time management books generally do. The book also makes a good case for meaningful leisure as part of a working life.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl:
This is one of those books that a person needs to read at least once in their life. In the pursuit of the forest, we keep missing the trees, but books like these reorient our attention to the most important things in life, bringing us back to trees. If you are an aspiring leader looking for opportunities to lead, this book will lift you up to see only the essentials, and not worry about peripheral things. Essential reading.
Learn with DT Evolve:
As leaders, you need to be constantly working on your soft skills, or what are colloquially known as people skills. If you are looking to improve in this front, DT Evolve has a course for you. Master the art of connecting and communicating with people, becoming unforgettable, so you can build personal and professional connections, get new clients, manage your team or merely draw more opportunities. Here’s the link to the course, Thriving People Skills.
You can’t keep on reinventing the wheel again and again. If you have at your disposal books written by people vastly experienced and knowledgeable, you can use them to guide you on your path to great leadership, without committing the same mistakes and losing valuable time. In this blog, we talked about such leadership books which will help you in developing the mindset and skills required to be a successful leader. Happy reading!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Books make up the best resources for learning. In the sphere of professional development, you need someone experienced in the field to guide you through this path, and books written by competent people provide this invaluable service. Also, the skills required to become a good leader can be learnt by reading such books and applying their insights.
Certainly, there are many books for aspiring leaders that have insights related to improving communication skills. Leaders all over the world know the importance of communication skills, and whenever they write books, communication is one of its elements.
Recognize the specific skill you want to work on, or a particular facet of leadership you want to incorporate in your professional life, and then search for the best books in that area. There is no one book. Read a few of the best books that you thought will work for you, and you will find a couple that fits your needs.
They can be applied by putting one insight at a time into action, and then experimenting with it enough to assess whether it works for you or not. Always reflect on where you can better apply these lessons, and see if you are giving your best.
Well, generally the market is full of leadership books that provide practical tips, but you have to make sure you pick up ones that actually come from a place of knowledge and experience. There are theoretical books as well, that give you certain principles on which you can base your real-life decisions and choices, only if they make sense to you.
If you think about the greatest leaders in their respective fields, you will come across people who think outside the box, and take baffling decisions which eventually turn out for the best, quite frequently. Good leadership books have insights that can help you develop your own innovative muscles.