My Top 5 Leadership Books

Are you becoming a better thinker, innovator & leader? The secret is in what you read 

Oscar Wilde once said, “It’s what you read when you don’t have to, that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” The most successful people in the world make time to read, study, and learn. They do this far beyond their school years. In turn, they’re better thinkers, innovators, and leaders. These leadership books will help you achieve success.

As I have developed in my roles in life, I have come across and read many leadership books. These 5 are among the top I would recommend.

Straight from the Gut – Jack Walsh

Straight From The Gut - leadership booksIn this leadership book, Jack speaks a lot about the company you keep. How important it is to surround yourself with like-minded people. And more importantly, those that can climb that hill with you. You need people in your life that want to win, have passion and dedication! Does this describe the people on your team?  What can stimulate morale, enthusiasm, drive and commitment in your team?

  • Knowing that there is never a “right” answer to a problem. Address issues as a team which will encourage innovative processes to steer you towards the right answer.
  • Morale & enthusiasm are directly linked to positivity. By acknowledging that mistakes are not a time for discipline. Rather, choose to use them as a form of encouragement and confidence building…Now I know when to hug and when to kick!! Try and follow the principle, Fail Fast, Fail Forward. Which essentially means, after failure, learn fast, pick up thee pieces and get moving.
  • Encourage your team to come up with ideas. Fosters a sense of commitment and empowerment for people to make ideas happen. Aim at building stars and quickly weeding out the ineffective ones. Let everyone know that they have a stake in the game. This will drive a sense of ownership.

Who moved my cheese – Dr. Spencer Johnson

who-moved-my-cheese leadership booksMeet Sniff, Scurry, Hem & Haw – each on a rampage to find out who moved their ‘cheese’. In their confusion, comes the need to look for the cheese that nourishes and makes them happy.
From this book, I learnt to deal with change, accepting that change is constant. Which means I had to find a different approach to deal with change.

The question is… to adapt or resist? The best is to be ready and be able to think on your feet and make the most of the change process. Sometimes change isn’t easy. We get attached to things and the fear of losing these things can be traumatic.
On the other hand, resisting change can make you extinct. If you don’t change with what is happening around you, you will become irrelevant… What’s important is to embrace change and know that:

  • It happens
  • Anticipate it
  • Monitor it
  • Adapt to it quickly
  • Change with it personally
  • Enjoy it
  • And be ready to change quickly & enjoy it all over again, and again, and again…


Outliers: The story of success – Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers - leadership booksThrough a series of case studies, the book Outliers demystifies some things that have been definitive of successful people. From saying successful people are self-made. To defining an outlier as a person out of the ordinary “who doesn’t fit into our normal understanding of achievement.” According to Gladwell, great men and women are beneficiaries of specialization, collaboration, time, place, and culture.”

So, how do you embrace ‘Outliers’ in your organisation?

How does this impact company culture?

Examining both the people who are the highest of performers (those who exhibit desirable behaviors according to senior management) as well as those workers who exhibit less than desired behaviours yet still may be very strong producers.

Let’s call them Behavioral Outliers.

Behavioral Outliers can be divided into two different “types” that have different impacts on the organization: The Positive Behavioral Outlier and The Negative Behavioral Outlier.

The Positive Behavioral Outlier is the smart, charismatic employee who produces and behaves well above the organization’s expectations. They excel and are often great role models. This person can be viewed as the star that consistently performs with massive contributions. They are the organisations beloved.

Negative Behavioral Outlier, whom are a huge management challenge and can be a serious liability. They often exhibit extreme self-interest and disrupt corporate collaboration and processes with no concern for company values and morals. These individuals can often perform their jobs well and produce. They are however toxic to company culture, like a ticking time bomb.

Looking at both the positive and negative outliers, their success within a company can be traced back to the company’s culture (and how each are handled).

Tips for creating a positive culture that is inclusive of outliers:

  1. Identify your culture and reinforce your values: Regardless of the positive or negative outlier, it is imperative that organizations develop a company mission and values. Reinforcing and recognizing these attributes will provide a direction for outliers and, ultimately, help them define their role within the corporate structure.
  2. Cultivate a culture of appreciation: While a negative outlier may bring a level of competition and aggressiveness to the table, it can be seriously detrimental to those around him/her. By creating a culture of appreciation and discipline that reinforces the company’s stated values, senior management is able to more clearly define expectations and measure employees against desired behaviors.
  3. Communicate constantly, walk the talk: Communication is critical to managing any type of outlier. It’s one of the more underestimated keys to effective management. Leadership should consistently communicate acceptable behaviors and then be in front of the workforce towing the party line. If management doesn’t walk the walk, outliers assume the rules are negotiable.

Freakonomics – Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

freakonomics - leadership booksHow do you mash a mountain of data and simple life-and-death issues? Freaky? This is exactly what inspired the book, Freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is the study of incentives. I.e. How people get what they want, or need. Especially when other people want or need the same thing.

In Freakonomics, the hidden side is revealed. From the inner workings of a crack gang to the truth about property agents, the myths of campaign finance, the telltale marks of a cheating schoolteacher to the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world knows how to ask the right questions. This despite its great complexities and deceit, is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is looking at the world through a different lens.

If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work. It is true that after reading the book, you will be armed with enough riddles and stories to last a thousand years. But Freakonomics can provide more than that. It will redefine the way you view the modern world. Again, one of my favourite leadership books.

The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point - Leadership BooksThe Tipping Point, is defined as that magical moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. In the world of leadership books, this is one of my favourites. Just as a single sick person can spread a flu epidemic. So too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate.

So, the same applies within an organisation. The Tipping Point is already changing the way people think about selling products and thinking of ideas. I’ve seen that by instiling this culture, it encourages staff to think and execute the unconventional, allowing you to stand out from the crowd and blaze your own trail.

I’m always up for a challenge and what I strive for is ‘How do I execute on a project, but better than my last?’. One of the things I have learnt is to surround myself with great people, that way I know I will be my best. Driving the same attitude through my team, ensures that they apply the same principles to their teams…try it, it works wonders.

When you do something new, you’re guaranteed of many followers that will choose to replicate or try hard to better your innovation, but whilst they investigate the mechanics, you are already, light years ahead. This is a distinct difference in being a market leader! Leadership books like this one are like gold.

Finding your own favourite leadership books…

Here’s a challenge for you on your journey in finding your own favourite leadership books. Pick up a leadership book today and see if you can finish it in a month, then, drop me your latest read and let me know your learnings and how you plan to apply them.