Over the years I have read countless books on leadership. Some of them were deeply helpful in forming my skills, habits, character and values as a leader. Many of them were not. So here is my list of the seven most helpful books that have impacted my leadership:

  • Developing the Leader Within You: John Maxwell’s classic is now 20 years old, and still just as good. The first chapter alone is worth the cover price, where Maxwell brilliantly defines what leadership is, and what it is not. No other book has highlighted for me so powerfully the key skills of leadership.
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Another Maxwell book, this time one that shows how brilliant he is at communicating leadership principles. In effect this is 21 short stories, each highlighting the importance of a leadership law to be mastered.
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Stephen Covey’s masterwork. I found the book difficult to get through, with the style and choice of language becoming a little bit laborious at times. But the content is first rate. Understand and then apply the seven habits in your life, and you’ll find whole new opportunities opening up before you.
  • First Things First: In my view this is the other must-read Covey. It focuses on his third habit of putting first things first. Essentially this is a book about time management, and it’s one of the best books available on the subject.
  • Good To Great: Jim Collins took several years and a team of people to research this book, having studied hundreds of companies and thousands of people to learn their secrets. The results show. His six points in the book seem obvious when you’ve read them, but are no less profound for that. This is the best book on strategic organisational planning I’ve ever read.
  • First, Break all the Rules: Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman created a landmark text on managing individuals and teams. The twelve questions Gallup formulated are a brilliant distillation of how to effectively manage people, and keep team members motivated.
  • Coaching For Performance: John Whitmore has been described as the father of British coaching, and this book contains his descriptions on what coaching is, and how to apply the GROW model so you can coach other people towards fulfilling their goals.

So those are my top seven leadership books. Do you agree? What have I missed that make your top seven?

Mark Williamson is a founding director of One Rock International. He’s a lay preacher and leader within the Methodist Church, author of a biography on John Wesley, and currently researching for a biography on William Wilberforce. He enjoys good films, good food, praying for London, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.

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