12 Most Consequential Books for a New Leader

Twelve books on a shelfToday’s post is by David Dye – COO of Colorado UpLift. You can learn more about him at the end of the post.  And check out #11…

You may have heard that leaders take responsibility for their own growth, but with thousands of leadership and management books to choose from, where do you begin? You want resources that help you today, that you can immediately apply, and that build a strong foundation for your future leadership development.

To help you get started, I’ve put together a list of the 12 most consequential books for a new leader:

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High1. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High
The book in the #1 slot doesn’t even have leadership in the title? No, but it does feature a skill so rare and yet so vitally critical to effective leadership that it fully deserves to be at the top of the list. Effective leaders are able to build relationships while discussing the most difficult subjects and Crucial Conversations by Patterson, et al helps you do exactly that.

The Leadership Challenge2. The Leadership Challenge
Kouzes and Posner make the case that leadership is influence and that effective leadership relies on your credibility. What sets The Leadership Challenge apart is its focus on five leadership practices through which you grow your influence and credibility. These five practices are easily understood and can be learned by anyone willing to do the work.

The World’s Most Important Leadership Principle3. The World’s Most Important Leadership Principle
What core are we leading from and what do we hope to accomplish? For James Hunter, the answer to both these questions is simple: people. He contends that effective leaders care about people and develop influence-based authority because of their service to others. There are many lines in this book that will haunt you and call you back to authentic leadership when you get off balance. One of my favorites is what Hunter calls the Ultimate Test: “Are your people better off when they leave than when they arrived?”

Five Dysfunctions of a Team4. Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Pat Lencioni provides leaders a framework for building healthy, productive teams. This book, paired with the tools in Crucial Conversations, gives teams an incredibly powerful set of tools to consistently produce results. Lencioni is not suggesting we build foo-foo, hold-hands-and-sing-songs teams. His framework builds teams featuring healthy relationships and a strong commitment to meaningful results.

Death by Meeting5. Death by Meeting
First, let’s dispense with meeting-hatred. In reality, we don’t hate all meetings – we hate bad meetings, those poorly run, soul-sucking, endless, vampiric drags on motivation and productivity. The good news is that meetings don’t have to be that way. Lencioni provides a few key principles to make meetings energizing, mission-focused, and intensely valuable for everyone in attendance.

Strengths Based Leadership6. Strengths Based Leadership
To paraphrase Peter Drucker: only strengths are useful for building – nothing is built on weakness. Emerging leaders often do not recognize their own strengths and spend tons of emotional energy trying to be something they’re not. In the process, they lose credibility – much like the middle age father that tries to throw around teenage slang with his kids’ friends. Rath and Concie’s book will help you discover your own leadership strengths so you can begin building on an authentic foundation.

Influencer: The Power to Change Anything7. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything
Patterson and company did not write a schmaltzy self-help, “think positive”, or manipulate-your-way-to-success, type of book. The title makes some big claims (the power to change anything) and so can easily be misunderstood. Change requires both motivation and ability. (Or will and skill). Both motivation and ability each have three centers: personal, social, and structural. That’s a total of six different categories of influence for you to work with. The more you use, the more effective you will be.

The Oz Principle8. The Oz Principle
It’s about responsibility and accountability. I appreciate this book for its laser-sharp focus on helping individuals and organizations recognize that they are responsible for their own reactions, decisions, behaviors, and ultimately, results. The Oz Principle’s greatest strength is the methodology it gives the reader for assessing a situation and determining what action they can take to produce the results they want to see.

How to Choose the Right Person for the Job Every Time9. How to Choose the Right Person for the Job Every Time
Whether you are a business leader hiring a team-member or a volunteer leader assembling a team, people are your most important asset. Having the right people doing the right things is vital to any team’s effectiveness. How do you find those people? Davila and Kursmark provide an effective set of skills to help you choose the right people.

Leadership and the One Minute Manager10. Leadership and the One Minute Manager
Ken Blanchard shares a basic premise about leadership and management: an individual requires different things from their leader or manager in different situations. Effective leaders and managers help team members grow by using varied strategies depending on the team member’s demonstrated abilities, recent performance, and goals. Blanchard helps you identify those circumstances and the most relevant leadership strategy.

One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership11. One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership
This is the newest book in the list, but I’ve included it because Mike Figliuolo provides a concise way for you to identify your own leadership motivations and values, and to develop maxims that will provide clarity for you and your team. I particularly appreciate his emphasis on simplicity and power. No buzzwords here! If you do the work, you will build your leadership philosophy on one sheet of paper which you will come back to repeatedly over your lifetime.

The Effective Executive12. The Effective Executive
Wait, I thought this post was for new leaders? Don’t worry – it is. Peter Drucker provides a great selection of practical guidance on where effective leaders put their energy and time, how they interact with people at every level of the organization, and how they perform their critical responsibilities. In fact, there are so many valuable bits of advice that it is impossible to incorporate all of them after one reading. This is a book that growing leaders and managers can return to at least once a year.

Each of these books has proven valuable to me in my own leadership growth. I believe they can do the same for you.

In closing, what would you add to this list of consequential books for new leaders? Please share in the comments below!

David M. Dye  has over twenty years’ experience teaching, coaching, leading, and management, including working in youth services, education advocacy, city planning, and faith-based nonprofits as well as held elected municipal office. He enjoys helping others discover and realize their own potential. He currently serves as Chief Operating Officer for Colorado UpLift, a nonprofit youth service organization with replicated affiliates in Oregon, Florida, New York, and Arizona.

Republished with permission, courtesy of 12 Most

38 Responses to “12 Most Consequential Books for a New Leader”

  1. I would add The Measure of a Leader by Aubrey & James Daniels. I feel like this book gets overlooked and it is in my Top 3 Leadership Books of all time list. The focus is on one’s followers and measuring behavior to determine leadership success. It is one I return to often.

  2. Shreedhar Musalkol says:

    A simple yet powerful compendium of books on leadership! Especially like the look of ‘One Piece of Paper…’.


  3. Amr says:

    Thanks everbody
    great resources

  4. Patrick Faverty says:

    I would also recommend “Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice and Leadership” Fourth Edition by Lee Bolman and Terry Deal.

    This book provides for leaders to see how they can “reframe” to a more productive focus. Great leaders focus more on the symbolic frame.

    The Structural Frame: how to organize and structure groups and teams to get results
    The Human Resource Frame: how to tailor organizations to satisfy human needs, improve human resource management, and build positive interpersonal and group dynamics
    The Political Frame: how to cope with power and conflict, build coalitions, hone political skills, and deal with internal and external politics
    The Symbolic Frame: how to shape a culture that gives purpose and meaning to work, stage organizational drama for internal and external audiences, and build team spirit through ritual, ceremony, and story
    This new edition is filled with new case examples such as Hurricane Katrina and profiles of great leaders such as Mother Theresa, Thomas Keller, and others. In addition, the book updates the “Organizational Theory’s Greatest Hits” text boxes throughout, and increases geographic, cultural and gender diversity in examples and text. It also features an enhanced online teacher’s guide with a new test bank, as well as updated PowerPoint slides, teaching ideas and experiential activities, and links to resources.

  5. Teddy says:

    Thanks for the book suggestions. There are so many great business leadership books it is nice to get a quick review. I enjoyed reading The Leadership Challenge. Good insight and great ideas.

    Have to log the other into my wish list so I do not forget titles

  6. Doug says:

    Harry Truman said something like “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders must be readers.” The man devoured books (especially history) at a prodigious rate and had a phenomenal ability to predict outcomes based on the history of a region.

  7. ‘Who Said Elephants Can’t Dance’ – Lou Gerstner. How to turn IBM round

    ‘Moments of Truth’ – Jan Carlzon. Focusing on getting organizational culture just right at SAS

  8. Shawna says:

    11 out of 12 of these books are written by men. As a woman trying to break the glass ceiling, it would help to get a woman’s perspective, not to mention a new angle from which to view leadership.

    • Mike Figliuolo says:

      Got any suggestions on what should be added to the list? No complaining without a solution… 😉

    • David M. Dye says:


      Thanks for reading and making a great point.

      Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em, mentioned in an earlier comment, and Salsa, Soul, & Spirit by Juana Bordas are both resources I recommend. As I think about it, several of the male-authored books on this list were first recommended to me by women. There is a people-centered continuity in effective leadership.

      Thanks again,


    • David M. Dye says:


      Another suggestion: Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin Kearns

      Take care,


  9. Sandra Green says:

    Great list and thanks for sharing. I would add Bill George’s brilliant book – Find Your True North. As a leadership coach I and clients have had enormous value from this book.


  10. Sandy Tush says:

    Great list – thank you! I would add SWITCH by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. I also recommend The Effective Executive in Action. It’s a great follow up to The Effective Executive. Thanks again for the list. Now time to go read! 🙂

    • David M. Dye says:


      I would give the Effective Exec in Action a hearty second vote. It’s a constant companion on my desk.

      I look forward to checking out Switch.

      Thanks for the additions!


  11. Great resources. Looking forward to reading at least some of them.

    • B. Young says:

      I highly recommend “The No Asshole Rule” by Robert Sutton definitely helps learning to navigate a toxic work enviroment.

  12. Bob Clippard says:

    Before you read “Strengths Based Leadership 2.0” you should read “How Full is Your Bucket” by Donald Clifton & Tom Rath. I also highly recomend “Less is More” by Jason Jennings and “Primal Leadership” by Goleman/Boyatzis/McKee.

  13. […] 5. Death by Meeting First, let’s dispense with meeting-hatred. In reality, we don’t hate all meetings – we hate bad meetings, those poorly run, soul-sucking, endless, vampiric drags on motivation and productivity. The good news is that meetings don’t have to be that way. Lencioni provides a few key principles to make meetings energizing, mission-focused, and intensely valuable for everyone in attendance. via […]

  14. Jerome Swersky says:

    The first 90 days – Michael Watkins
    Execution -Larry Bossidy

    Both books would be serious candidates for.inclusion in any shortlist.

  15. Surprised no one has mentioned the genius of leadership John P. Kotter… I’d add 3 more books starting with a Kotter’s one:

    * The Heart of Change (J. P. Kotter)
    * Leadership Without Easy Answers (R. A. Heifetz)
    * The Leadership Experience (R. L. Daft)

  16. Tim says:

    Great list. I’ve ready many (but not all) of these. Here’s one for your consideration:

    The Leaders We Need and What Makes Us Follow, by Michael Maccoby: Harvard Business School Press.

    Maccoby’s penetrating insight into the relationship between leaders and followers will make you look at every leadership relationship differently. He also goes wide and considers the broad socio-economic forces that shape the values of attitudes of people in the workforce. This is a theoretically sound, yet immediately practical piece of work – especially for senior leaders.

  17. Tina Miles says:

    An excellent list, thanks for the suggestions. I’ve read several of the ones you suggest along with several of the ones mentioned in the Comments.

    I’ll work on reading the others.

    I recently enjoyed the practical suggestions in “Reality-Based Leadership – Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace and Turn Excuses into Results” by Cy Wakeman.

  18. Thanks David, great list. I’ve bought 3 already and look forward to reading them. Just finished One Piece of Paper, it sure gets your brain working.

    • Mike Figliuolo says:

      Hi Gillian. If you liked One Piece of Paper, I’d be most appreciative of a quick review being left on Amazon if you have a few moments. Thanks!

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