As a business leader, you’re always on the lookout for ways to manage people better, identify new opportunities, drive down costs and increase revenues. We’ve found that some of the most interesting conversations between business leaders tend to start with the question “what are you reading?”

To that end, we’d like to take the lead by creating a forum for you to help each other find books that keep your forward-thinking wheels turning.

What have you read that has made you a better leader? Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, we want to know what you’ve been reading that has inspired you.

Please comment in the space below with the title of a book and a brief statement saying how it has helped you think differently or stay ahead of the curve. Use your full name, so we can give you proper credit. Each week, we will select one book recommendation and feature it in the “Weekend Reading” section of SmartBrief on Leadership, with props to you for the recommendation.

You can check out some of readers’ previous suggestions. We look forward to your contribution!

Image credit, koufax73, via iStockphoto

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68 responses to “Weekend Reading: What has inspired you to be a better leader?”

  1. Ray says:

    I just read a Book Titled: You don't need Talent to Succeed, but Everything else Coounts. While reading the book it came to me that LEADERSHIP is not so much about talent but more of doing everything else. I like to break down LEAD-ER-SHIP into three sections. L = LISTENING, E = ENCOUREGING, A = ACCOUNTABILITY, D = DEVELOPING OTHERS – – – – E= EARNING the R= RIGHT – – – – S = SERVING, H = HELPING, I = INFLUENCING, P = PEOPLE


  2. Steve McAllister says:

    I found "Leading People" by Robert Rosen to be exceptional. It offers a great insight on following principles and that the bottom line is ultimately the humna endeavor. Each chapter is written by a different corporate leader. They reflect a profound intutition that profits follow principles.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Garrett the Carrot, Jess. Jess said: Jesus :-) // RT @garrett_carrot: Love this question today: What has inspired you to be a better leader? […]

  4. Laura Lopez says:

    As a late-in-life mom who had climbed the corporate ladder to become VP at The Coca-Cola Company, I was inspired to be a better leader by my daughter. The lessons of parenthood inspired me so much that I wrote a book called "The Connected and Committed Leader. Lessons from Home. Results at Work." I capture the insights I gleaned as a parent and apply them back into the business world. My hope is that this book has helped inspire others who are both parents and business leaders.

  5. Joe Cerami says:

    Jean Monnet's MEMOIRS is one of the most inspirational book on leadership. Watching the devastation of WW I and the failures of the League of Nations, Monnet helps create the European Steel and Coal Commission that unites the economies of France and Germany. Unthinkable challenge and arrangement to build peace and security through an economic union. Given the EU today, after the centuries of European conflict, it is an important story of institution building to create new worlds. Important story of how one person can make a (large) difference in spite of historic differences. Plus, all lead by an international business man with no university education…. Amazing story that we have failed to learn from in our approaches in other regions of conflict.

  6. Mike says:

    I just finished a fiction book, originally published in 1968, called Once an Eagle. the story of a contrast of military leadership from 1915 through 1962. It provided not only an entertaining read, but basic leadership qualities: Lead from the front, setting the example, support the people implementing the mission, support the mission if though you may not agree with the mission, remain true to your values. Written by Anton Myrer, he covered territory then which is now being taught in seminars and management schools.

  7. Two books just finished include Jeb Blount's People Buy You and Jill Konrath's Snap Selling. Both are fairly quick reads. What I liked about Jeb's book is he devoted 8 pages to this one word – smile and challenged some traditional sales training concepts. Jill used the acronym SNAP to stand for Simple, iNvaluable, Aligned, Priority. She also included some great tools as well. Currently reading Switch as a Kindle E Book. Leanne Hoagland-Smith, Increase Sales Coach

  8. Joe Myers says:

    In the mid 80's I read "On Becoming a Leader" by Warren Bennis. Warren's book delineates the difference between management and leadership. The basic premise is that business executives need to "lead" rather than "manage". It is clearly written, east to read and understand, and powerful in content. Since reading the book I have always tried to lead as opposed to manage.

  9. Anthony Nicoli says:

    Marshall by H. Paul Jeffers and Alan Axelrod. A biography of General George C. Marshall.

    Clear take aways for me include:
    -His leadership accomplishments came later in life and drew on the learning and experience he demonstrated in the less glamorous roles of his life.
    -His willingness to subordinate his ambitions to serving the needs of his community, the Army and the United States, in ways that made full use of his personal strengths.
    -His ability to recognize the strengths of others and endure thier foibles to capture the contributions of which they were capable.
    -His 'little black book' of key people he ultimately called upon to prosecute WWII. He identified these people over decades of observation and interaction.

  10. Duane says:

    A book that stands out in my mind is "Management of the Absurd" by Richard Farson. I found it loaded with great stories and advice. My favorite section was about how the more you provide your employees the more petty their complaints become. SInce HR is one of the functions I oversee, I can assure you this has proved to be true.

  11. Heather Sblendorio says:

    Anything by Malcolm Gladwell, but particularly Blink. I'm constantly thinking about "thin slicing" – or what are the key pieces of information on which I should focus. I wish I could force my entire company to read and implement the book so we all keep our eye on the ball.

  12. Jay Young says:

    The hallmark for all leadership is effectiveness. As a result, I am biased toward the book "Are You Ineffective?", a book I authored on the key things that make leaders ineffective in organizations. Some key elements include the importance of personal branding and the willingness to volunteer in advance of compensation. I also enjoy Ram Charan's book on "Execution".

  13. John L Hoh Jr says:

    "Joyworks: The Story of Marquette Electronics (Wisconsin)" by Michael J. Cudahy is the autobiography and tell-all (or tell-most) written by entrepreneur Michael Cudahy. Cudahy started, with Warren Cousins, a small electronics firm building stereo equipment and amps for bands. However, collecting payment was always an issue. A timely request by Northwestern University hospital for digital ECG equipment launched Marquette Electronics into the world of healthcare. Marquette was known for world-class patient monitors and ECG devices. Marquette would buy the patient monitor business from GE Medical Systems (then some 20 years later be bought by GEMS). Marquette was a leading supplier to Cleveland Clinic's Heart Center. Cudahy shares his philosophy of running a business and treating employees with respect and filling customer needs. Many former employees of Marquette (myself included) still admire the man and fondly recall the unique work environment at Marquette (no punch clocks for hourly employees and a unique lunchroom).

  14. Bill Hartman says:

    "Lead Like Jesus" by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. I graduated from the Naval Academy and have an MBA–lots of leadership and management training. I've led at the exec level in the Navy and companies from Fortune 200 to startups. I've read quite a few of the hot leadership books over the past 20 years. I found that to be a much better leader I had to understand that it was not about me and not about executing rules from a leadership book, but understanding that I was serving my employees, my investors, and in my case, my God. It is not about manipulation of people and assets to be "effective," but a fundamental belief in who is working for who and to what end. Kinda helps with the ethics and integrity stuff that is a hot topic lately, as well.

  15. Tom Boucher says:

    I read an incredible book this summer that inspired me to look deeply at the culture of our company. The book is Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay). Very inspiring, very genuine….so much so that it moved me to take action within my own company. I’ve always believed that happy employees will result in passionate, loyal, and hard working employees. This book not only proves the theory, but it moved me in a way that a book hasn’t moved me since reading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.

  16. The Luck Factor researches situations on what behavior "creates" luck. Makes great points.

    Cathy Griffin

  17. "Leaders Who Last" by Dave Kraft. Powerful and concise. Instructs, warns, inspires, and challenges leaders to a new way to live, lead, and make a lasting difference in the lives of others. Also "Love and Respect – The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs" by Emerson Eggerichs. A great book geared towards marriage, and yet has influence me in the ways I lead and respond to leadership from others in the workplace.

    Good leaders were and are also good followers both book echo this statement.

  18. I'd have to say that one of the most influential for me was "Made to Stick" by Dan and Chip Heath. Just helped frame how and why ideas spread and how to reinforce them. Imperative for effective communication and the job of a leader involves being an effective communicator (in some way). Their other book, "Switch" was equally powerful, even more so with helping to understand how to put the right people in the right seats of an organization.

    BTW… I don't mean to do a plug here but a friend and I did a fairly large survey online asking (having several high profile partners Tweet out a survey link) "What are the Top 5 books that every young leader / influencer should read?" We had over 1000 submissions that we tabulated and turned into a report which can be found here:

    I listed the Top 33 and then there is a PDF download of all the rest. Might be a resource for others as well.

  19. Tim Huff says:

    I read a book by a former Disney Senior Executive: Lee Cockerell – Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney. He a straight shooter who explains very well how some common sense approaches to one's personal and professional life can make a huge difference. He emphasizes that being a leader means doing what has to be done, when it has to be done, in a way that it should be done, whether you like it or not, whether they like it or not.

  20. GoApril says:

    Remembering Greatness is not about self promotion! Help other along the way!


  21. Kelly Wenzel says:

    The Go Giver by Bob Burg. It's a parable and quick read, but the lessons are pure and simple. Give more in value than you receive. It reinforces everything I was raised as a child to believe about the Golden Rule (do unto others as you want done to you) and everything I've come to hold true as an adult (you get back what you give out). My CEO read the book and shared it with out executive team; we all loved it so much we now give a copy to every single new hire.

  22. Yvette Sánche says:

    I am currently reading Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society by Peter Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers. Presence is an itimate look at the development of a relatively new theory about change and learning. In wide-ranging conversations held over a year and a half, organizational learning pioneers Senge, Scharmer, Jaworski and Flowers explored the nature of transformational change – how it arises and the fresh possibilities it offers a world dangerously out of balance.The book defines our capabilities that underlie our ability to see, sense, and realize new possibilities – in ourselves, in our intstitutions and organizations, and in society itself. This work thus far has inspired me to change the way I approach organizational change – out of habit and truly begin to develop my own sense of presence while exploring new possibilities for the future.

  23. Mike Howard says:

    A great leadership book is Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips. Wonderful book which takes the principles that Lincoln used in leading the country through the Civil War, and applying them to the current business environment. I refer to it often.

  24. Kevin says:

    Atlas Shrugged, still relevant after all these years. Brilliantly written.

  25. My all-time favorite book is Timothy R. Clark's "The Leadership Test". Because, in my opinion, if you pass the test you can skip reading many of the mountains of other leadership books on the market today.

    And don't be fooled by the book's conversational writing style and story-telling approach, or by its compact 100-page size that you'll read through in less than an hour. Because, the message is powerful and the test is revealing. And, it engages leaders in important soul searching.

    Clark's book provided me a personalized assessment to chart my course for becoming a better leader. The book is so strong that it was used as an incentive to increase registration at a recent conference for Midwest nonprofit leaders.

  26. Kerry Palmer says:

    "When the Buck Stops With You – Harry S. Truman on Leadership" by Alan Axelrod. Truman was a great leader and his leadership style is worth serious study. I also recommend "Truman" by David McCullough and "Plain Speaking" by Merle Miller.

  27. Mike Henry Sr. says:

    My favorite ones challenge my thinking. Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright challenged my thinking related to how leaders affect others and how the best leaders create and thrive in communities, or tribes. It also challenged me to create triad relationships – those that no longer require me to be the hub. Great leaders and great cultures create those relationships that enable others to achieve beyond the leader.

  28. Wanda says:

    I agree with Ray. I like the way he has defined Leadership and the different aspects of being a great leader.

  29. Leigh Dow says:

    I really liked "Hardball for Women, Winning at the Game of Business" by Pat Heim. A former boss gave me the book which addresses women executives. The book gave me new ideas for expressing my technical proficiency, teaches women how to demonstrate their hard work and managerial skills without appearing to be self promoting and how to compete for promotions. When I read the book, I realized how often I started sentences with the word "Sorry", apologizing for things I had no control over just as a common phrase women use. I also liked her techniques for competing with male colleagues because she doesn't take an us vs. them approach nor does she ask women to lose their personality to be successful.

  30. Marie says:

    Dainne Crampton, author of TIGERS Among Us has a winner! Building an "Authentic Team" will come from a true team-based work culture. Dianne's coaching is based around the TIGERS model of collaborative values-trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk and success.

    What an ideal work environment that embraces and builds around these core values. Worth the read with best practices from four successful business who had authentic team culture. Inspiring! The pathway can get you on the road to success! Thank you Dianne.

  31. John Wareham's Anatomy of a Great Executive says it all. Great Leaders tend to have a prominent shadow side, they learn how to tame it and use it. Sometimes it gets away though. Not a big fan of self help leadership books that don't do a deep dive into the psyche.

  32. Bill says:

    As a business owner I have been looking for ideas on how my employees can work better as a team, a real team, not just the word. I have a read a few things but an interesting, insightful book is "Tigers Among Us: Winning Business Team Cultures and Why" by Dianne Crampton. It does a good job showing how business of different sizes have created true and sustainable team cultures , which is what I am hoping to do.

  33. Gerald Hill says:

    Atlas Shrugged
    what more can I say

  34. Andrew Bennett says:

    John Adair – Effective Leadership.

    All about enhancing your existing qualities to become the best leader that you can be. This is not a dry book at all and contains many interesting case studies.

  35. Paul Jarossy says:

    "The Customer Comes Second" by Hal Rosenbluth. So simple – hire the right people, give them the right training, make work fun and the customers will naturally benefit!

  36. Robb says:

    Todd Whitaker's "The Ball" is an inspiring book that reminded me of the Simple Truths video, Johnny the Bagger. Not quite as emotionally overwhelming, but with a gentler reminder to us to focus on what's really important – valuing employees, quality service, not just looking the part but being the part, listening to the wisdom and insight of others. It's a short book, beautiful interior, and a great one to pass around to mid-level managers to remind them of what inspired the business in the first place.

  37. Tom Gable says:

    Here's a short list of favorites we found helpful for small and mid-sized companies and working with and understanding start-ups:

    The E-Myth Revisited, Michael E. Gerber (organization and systems for the entrepreneur, creativity and vision); Jamming – The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity, John Kao; High Output Management, Andrew S. Grove, 1983 classic on the team ethic and the theory of assumed responsibility; Organizing Genius, Warren Bennis; Built to Last, James Collins and Jerry Porras; Keys to Success, Napoleon Hill; Innovation – The Five Disciplines for Creating What Customers Want, Curtis R. Carlson and William W. Wilmot

  38. Colin Strainge says:

    Tom Peters- Thriving on Chaos! I know how dated that makes me sound but I think Tom's message is as valid as it was 15 years ago when he was writing it. Could we be living in more chaotic times- I suspect we can and will . . . . We better learn to thrive.

  39. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. First book I ever remember. Made me cry the first time I read it and still I get a huge lump in my throat reading it now. Mandatory reading to my 4 year old daughter on a weekly basis. Always puts my life in perspective and makes me want to be a better person. Much kindness, Elena

  40. Casey says:

    Love him or hate him, Former President George W. Bush's book, Decision Points, is a great leadership reference. A bird's-eye view from behind the most important desk in the world!

  41. Pam B. says:

    Probably one of my all time favorites is "Influencer" by Grenny, Maxfield, Patterson,et al. Based on years of research, the book defines and illustrates the impact that one person can have. Influence is something that we use whether we are a leader or a follower. People don't resist change, they resist being changed. However, using the principles of influence as the authors describe can lead to significant, positive, and lasting change.

  42. Tim Milburn says:

    In my experience, The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes & Posner, has been the bible of leadership development and insight. I have read all four releases of this book and found both the research and application to be very sound. It is the first book I recommend to my aspiring leaders and one that I try to put into the hands of those who are in positions of leadership over me.

  43. cksyme says:

    Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney hands down the best leadership book I have ever read–former Jesuit to corporate man. Great book. I agree with sentiments above also about Gladwell and Blink.

  44. Doug Bland says:

    Start with Humility: Lessons from America's quit CEOs on how to build trust and inspire followers, Merwyn A. Hayes and Micheal D. Comer. First and foremost it reveals that a genuine concern for others rather than self can and will be respected. In this world of "hey look at me", this book reveals how humility will always win out

  45. Melvin Stanberry says:

    Good Boss, Bad Boss; by Robert Sutton, Ph.D
    Think you're a good boss? Read this and then re-evaluate…

  46. Sharene says:

    The most insightful book I've read on the complexities of leadership is THE PURPOSE LINKED ORGANIZATION; How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results. It is written by Alaina Love and Marc Cugnon. It features a brilliant on-line assessment tool to determine someone's "Passion Archetypes," a critical bit of knowledge if someone is to be an effective leader.

    Leadership is an interactive, interpersonal process. I don't subscribe to many of the traditional leadership theories because many merely focus on the skills and traits of the leaders without taking into consideration the personalities of the employees or those who are being led. As a psychologist, I don't believe you can study leadership in isolation. This books honors individual temperaments of leaders and employees, and captures the fluidity of personality, a concept lacking in many of the tedious and simplistic books on leadership I've read.

    This is not simply a book on leadership though, it can serve as a roadmap for people who feel as though their life is lacking in purpose and passion. I highly recommend this book to my clinical and consulting clients as well as my family and friends. They have all said this book was quite valuable to them.

  47. J.TorresT says:

    "Community" by Peter Block has inspired me to start working on the desing of a behavioral pattern for the civil society here in Colombia based on a leading up-graded community. Leaders are the natural product of communities. Great book with powerful insights.

  48. "The New Gold Standard" by Joseph Michelli is a great read. The book provides readers with an inside look at leadership at the Ritz Carlton.

    I hope that my new book, "Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around" will be on this list next year as this is a pragmatic guide to helping new leaders thrive in any economy.

    Roberta Matuson <a href="” target=”_blank”>

  49. Jamie R. says:

    One of the most important leadership books I've read this year is The Purpose Linked Organization: How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results (McGraw-Hill, 2009), by Alaina Love and Marc Cugnon

    The book finally addresses the missing link in improved productivity and employee engagement: Passion! I also found it helpful because associated with book is an access code that allows you to go online and complete a tool called the Passion Profiler, which identifies your own 'passion archetypes'. When I took the tool and got my results, they felt spot on. I've also had every member of my team take the tool and we now have great information about one another that has helped improve team dynamics and results. Great read!

  50. Janet Eckhart says:

    I highly recommend Patrick Lencioni's The Five Dysfunctions of the A Team. He is very insightful in his use of the pyramid and modification of Maslow's hierarchy to identify what makes for success or failure of a team. He also provides strategies for leading and being a member of a team. I use this book in teaching my graduate students as well as guide for myself when working with groups because it helps to focus on what's important and to anticipate as well as identify opportunities and threats to the success of the team I am working with.
    A very easy read and based on common sense! From novice to expert leader, regardless of your field, this book provides a guide to building and maintaining successful teams and achieving outcomes.

  51. Chris Douglas says:

    The book that has inspired me and that I pick up almost daily Is Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. The book resonates at such a deep level challenging the way I lead. It really makes me aware that what I say and how I say it will absolutely determine what will or won't happen in my life, my work, may career. You'll learn to have conversations that drive great results, have clarity, reflect ground truth, and demand authenticity, respect, and engagement..

  52. I have been teaching at the graduate MBA level for over 10 years. Last April my wife and I adopted a beautiful yellow labrador from the Humane Society. Recently I read "Cesar's Way" by Cesar Millan, the 'Dog Whisperer". By reviewing some very practical items concerning leadership, discipline, and respect in dealing with animals, it emphasized some very basic premises for all leaders…say what you mean & mean what you say, ignore political correctness and achieve professional competency, establish non-negotiable core values and reward achievement, not entitlement.

    H.D. Sinopoli, D.Ed.

  53. Missy says:

    The book that really improved my ability to lead and relate to people was Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. It is not based on gimics or manipulation but on really connecting with the people in your life to improve all relationships.

  54. Alin Jacobs says:

    I have read a lot of business books over the past year. While Seth Godin's Tribes, like so many of his books really gets my creative juices flowing, I was most inspired by Bob Gilbreath's The Next Evolution of Marketing.

  55. El Biddulph says:

    One of my favorite leadership books is the fable style "Greater Than Yourself" by Steve Farber. The lessons in the story is that extraordinary leaders help those around them become great – even greater than they are. In the end, everyone benefits by that effort.

  56. laura Lopez says:

    So reconfirming to hear. Great leadership lessons can be learned through kids!

  57. Built to Serve, Dan J. Sanders. "How to Drive the Bottom Line wiht People-First Practices" The book helps you see and understand that the old ways of thinking, old ways of doing things, old skill sets, old tool sets are broken. We are in the Information/Knowledge Worker Age. This puts enormous pressure on understanding the premium on people, on their options and powers of choice, and on the kinds of interactions and communities they want to create. This book is engages your spirit, and helps you understand that we are built to serve. Read it!

  58. […] The book of the week is chosen from suggestions that SmartBrief on Leadership readers submit on the Weekend Reading blog post. Thank you SmartBrief […]

  59. BetteK says:

    In the fast paced and often hectic world we live in as leaders, it is easy to fall into the trap of blaming others for the circumstances or events that shape our day. The book, "Be the Hero," written by Noah Blumenthal, has inspired me many times not to fall into the victim mode — but look at the opportunities to be an everyday hero. The book identifies practical strategies that are simply stated with a clear motivational message…we can all be a hero.

    Bette Krakau

  60. Shae Kennedy says:

    "Purple Cow" by Seth Godin – it was a reading assignment in the Principles of Advertising class I took about three years ago at Oklahoma State University. Godin talks about being remarkable – purple cows stick out in a field of brown cows.

  61. As a business leader, you’re always on the lookout for ways to manage people better, Its all right