This is the last in my three part series covering the best books I read in 2016; this time we’re looking at the best biographies. I read huge numbers of biographies – these are the top three from last year that taught me the most about leadership.


Team Spirit by Brendan Hall

Top of the list is undoubtedly Team Spirit. It’s actually one of the best biographies I’ve ever read regarding leadership. Brendan Hall was the youngest captain on a round the world yachting race in 2009-10. With each captain having to train a crew of tourists and volunteers to become competent ocean going sailors, the race is an incredibly leadership intensive exercise. The fact that Hall’s team won the race, despite Hall having to leave his boat in the Pacific Ocean to skipper another yacht whose captain was seriously injured, just shows what a brilliant job he did as a leader. There are reams of leadership lessons crammed into this short book, especially on team recruitment, management and training. Do yourself a favour – go and buy it, and read it every year for the rest of your life. It’s really that good!


Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli

For a few years it seemed the Walter Isaacson biography Steve Jobs was the final word on the great founder of Apple, but lately a new series of books have been coming out, and first among these is Becoming Steve Jobs. It tells the familiar story, but has some extra tips in there for budding entrepreneurs. It covers more ground on Job’s relationships with other companies, including his stewardship of Pixar, and the resulting partnership with Disney. Essential reading if you’re a Jobs student and want to learn more from him.


Winners by Alastair Campbell

This book isn’t strictly speaking a biography, but its best moments are those covering biography and leadership lessons from Alastair Campbell and others. Campbell talks through the strategy he used as one of Tony Blair’s chief strategists that ensured three successive General Elections victories for Blair. But there are also snippets of good stories and leadership lessons from Richard Branson, Dave Brailsford, Martin Johnson, Jose Mourinho and many others when you work your way through the book.


Honourable mentions from last year that didn’t make the top three include Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (on Abraham Lincoln), Mahatma Gandhi’s My Autobiography, Shackleton by Roland Huntsford, The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson and No Higher Honour by Condoleezza Rice. But the above three are my best biographies of 2016.

What are the best biographies you read last year?

Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.

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