What Books Have Shaped Your Approach to Leadership?

What Books Have Shaped Your Approach to Leadership?

Diving into the wisdom of seasoned leaders, we've compiled the perspectives of CEOs and Directors on the books that have shaped their leadership ethos. From learning to embrace joy from One Bold Move a Day to stepping out of the box with Leadership and Self-Deception, explore the diverse insights in these twenty invaluable reads.

  • One Bold Move a Day
  • Crucial Conversations
  • Dare to Lead
  • The Fifth Discipline
  • The Power of Habit
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
  • The Radical Leap
  • Multipliers
  • Good to Great
  • Drive
  • Turn the Ship Around!
  • The One Minute Manager
  • Start with Why
  • Principles
  • Radical Candor
  • Leaders Eat Last
  • Quiet Leadership
  • Welcome to Management
  • Extreme Ownership
  • Leadership and Self-Deception

One Bold Move a Day

Shanna A. Hocking, a friend and former client, wrote One Bold Move a Day to provide meaningful actions for women to take to fulfill their leadership and career potential. One of my favorite lessons in this book comes from her chapter on Bold Mindset Shifts, specifically about happiness. Hocking explains, 'You're more than your outcomes. And when you make happiness contingent on your success, you're inadvertently postponing your own joy.' Remembering this helps me find more joy in my work and ultimately makes my leadership style more positive and productive.

Ronica Cleary
Ronica ClearyFounder & CEO, Publicist, Cleary Strategies

Crucial Conversations

When I first stepped into a leadership role, having difficult conversations was definitely not my forte. Let's just say my family and community hadn't exactly set me up with a toolkit for navigating those tricky, high-stakes talks! But then I discovered the book Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, and it was a game-changer.

This book broke down all the reasons we get stuck in our own heads and bungle sensitive discussions. It's that classic 'fight or flight' instinct kicking in when we're stressed about confrontation or hurting someone's feelings. Crucial Conversations offered a step-by-step roadmap to make these convos feel safe for everyone involved.

One 'aha!' moment for me was the concept of 'adding to the pool of shared meaning.' Basically, by openly sharing your own perspective, you're more likely to find that sweet spot of common ground with the other person. It's like a Venn diagram of understanding.

Crucial Conversations has honestly transformed how I approach tough talks as a leader. Sure, they'll always be a bit stomach-churning, but now I've got the tools to handle them with way more confidence and care. 10/10 would recommend to anyone looking to up their leadership game!

Stephanie Solheim
Stephanie SolheimOwner, CEO, Grow With Meerkat

Dare to Lead

In times of uncertainty, many leaders feel compelled to adopt a façade of toughness and unwavering confidence. However, my experiences, coupled with key insights from Brené Brown's Dare to Lead, have shown me the profound impact of leading with vulnerability. This book underscores the importance of courage and openness, advocating that these qualities are vital for fostering an environment where innovation and trust can flourish.

Traditionally, leadership was synonymous with a strong, impenetrable demeanor. But Dare to Lead challenged this notion by illustrating that vulnerability is not a weakness but a formidable strength. Embracing my vulnerabilities allowed me to cultivate a more inclusive and supportive culture within my team, enhancing our creative capabilities and willingness to take risks. This shift not only bolstered our problem-solving skills but also strengthened our collective resilience and adaptability.

During stressful times, I've learned the value of being transparent about what I know, what I don't know, and what I need to learn to make the best decisions. This honesty, even when it involves admitting mistakes or issuing apologies, does not diminish a leader's authority but rather reinforces their integrity. Moreover, adopting a collaborative approach to problem-solving—actively seeking input and being open to new strategies—signals confidence rather than weakness.

To other leaders navigating challenging periods, I recommend implementing regular opportunities for open dialogue, such as 'open mic' sessions. These forums encourage team members to voice their challenges and co-create solutions, thereby deepening trust and cooperation. Starting with transparent communication about your own challenges and uncertainties can profoundly demystify the notion of the 'perfect leader,' empowering your team to reach their full potential. Through vulnerability and flexibility, leaders can transform their organizations into resilient and innovative powerhouses.

Erica William
Erica WilliamHarvard Business Review Advisory Member, Harvard Business Review

The Fifth Discipline

The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge has been an invaluable resource in my leadership journey. It revolutionized my perspective on learning and work, guiding me toward a deeper understanding of organizational dynamics and the importance of nurturing a learning culture. Senge's insights, drawn from a diverse range of sources, illuminated the path toward transforming dysfunctional organizational structures into vibrant learning communities. This book has profoundly influenced my approach to leadership, emphasizing the integration of learning and work, and the cultivation of reflective practices that foster continuous growth and development.

Andrew Barry
Andrew BarryCEO, Curious Lion

The Power of Habit

Not seen as a straightforward leadership book, but one that is great, is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It delves into the reasons why you do the things you do and teaches you how to change habits that are not helping you in life. In doing so, it brings you the power to transform, succeed, and lead by example. It also gives examples of other successful people and their effective habits, as well as instances at the company level. It has influenced my approach to leadership by making me think about everything I do each day, and why, and if there would be a better way to do things that would be more effective in my day-to-day at work and how it translates to leading my team. The habits that I have changed have translated into success at work for myself and in leading my team.

Jessa Farber
Jessa FarberDirector of Creative Operations, Bristol Associates, Inc.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

I've read many books on leadership over the years, and many spout the same old things I read about in business school decades ago. Then, one year, my brother gave me a book for Christmas that helped change my perspective when I needed it.

By Mark Manson, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is a terrific book and an easy read. While so many of us have continued to feel disconnected from the work that we do, no longer enjoying each day or struggling to stay motivated, Mark gets real and talks about how to push through those tough days and focus on what matters most to YOU!

Nikki Green
Nikki GreenLife & Business Resiliency Expert, Green Chameleon Collective

The Radical Leap

The book The Radical Leap by Steve Farber is one of the best I've read. This book emphasizes the importance of leading with love, energy, audacity, and proof, which are fundamental elements that have shaped my approach to leadership at Tech Advisors. By integrating these principles, I've cultivated a workplace culture that thrives on passion, inspires bold actions, and values transparency and accountability.

Implementing these concepts has led to significant transformations within our team dynamics and operational efficiency. For example, by focusing on 'energy' as Farber suggests, I encourage a vibrant and positive environment where team members are motivated to contribute their best. 'Audacity' has pushed us to undertake bold IT projects that have not only expanded our capabilities but also positioned us as leaders in the cybersecurity field.

Moreover, 'proof,' or demonstrating our commitment through actions, has reinforced trust with our clients and within our team. This approach has fostered a loyal client base and a dedicated workforce, driving sustained growth and innovation in our services. The impact of this book is evident in our day-to-day operations and our overarching strategic goals, making it a cornerstone of my personal and professional development.

Konrad Martin
Konrad MartinCEO, Tech Advisors


Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman is a standout in the realm of leadership literature. What makes it invaluable is its insight into the multiplier effect that certain leaders have on their teams.

Wiseman categorizes leaders into two main types: multipliers and diminishers. Multipliers are those who amplify the intelligence and capabilities of those around them, while diminishers tend to drain energy and capability from their teams.

This book has influenced my approach to leadership by emphasizing the importance of empowering others and fostering an environment where everyone can contribute their best.

It's not just about being a strong individual contributor, but about creating a culture where everyone's talents are utilized to the fullest.

I've learned to focus on asking questions, listening actively, and providing opportunities for growth and development, rather than micromanaging or dominating discussions.

Ultimately, Multipliers has taught me that true leadership is about enabling the collective intelligence of the team to shine.

Marissa Sabrina
Marissa SabrinaCreative Director, LeadLearnLeap

Good to Great

One leadership book that profoundly changed my perspective is Good to Great by Jim Collins. This book introduced me to the concept of the Level 5 Leader, who combines humility with fierce resolve. Applying this, my approach has evolved to prioritize collective success over personal accolades. By focusing on empowering others and making data-driven decisions, my leadership has led to more effective team dynamics and sustained success in my web development and marketing endeavors.

David Wilfong
David WilfongFounder and CEO, DavidWilfong


Drive by Daniel H. Pink has profoundly influenced my leadership approach. Pink's exploration of what truly motivates people—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—resonated deeply with me. Implementing these principles, I've focused on empowering my team, encouraging skill development, and aligning roles with what they find meaningful. This shift not only enhanced engagement and innovation across the board but also solidified my belief in leading with empathy and intent, ensuring that motivation and productivity are sustainably high.

Jonathan Gerbe
Jonathan GerbePresident, RVW Wealth

Turn the Ship Around!

For me, it's Turn the Ship Around! by retired Navy captain L. David Marquet—there's just nothing else like it.

Although it may seem unlikely that a submarine command could provide business mentorship, its core principles of team empowerment through understanding and accountability have proven invaluable to our creative, agile organization.

Specifically, Captain Marquet's approach of assigning teams 'speaker authority' over the execution of the commander's intent, rather than simply following fixed orders, contributed greatly to the success of the mission. The team operates more effectively when members co-author the path rather than just follow prescriptive instructions.

I've increasingly adopted that model with accounts and operational leads, and so far, the results have been great.

Stephen Hudson
Stephen HudsonManaging Director, Printroom

The One Minute Manager

The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson has been a cornerstone in shaping my leadership style. This book demystifies management, presenting it not as a complex, elusive skill but as an achievable art with clear, concise principles.

It inspired me to simplify my approach and focus on key practices that yield immediate results. I've applied its techniques extensively in managerial coaching and in designing programs for emerging leaders, making leadership more accessible and effective within my team.

Marco Genaro Palma
Marco Genaro PalmaChief Marketing Officer, PRLab

Start with Why

One leadership book that has profoundly impacted my approach is Start with Why by Simon Sinek. It emphasizes the importance of defining the purpose behind our actions and inspiring others to share in that vision. This philosophy has guided me in aligning my team's efforts with our company's mission, fostering a sense of purpose and passion that drives us toward success in real estate investment while enriching our collective journey.

Jeremy Resmer
Jeremy ResmerCEO, Value Land Buyers


One leadership book that has been incredibly helpful to me is Principles by Ray Dalio. This book has deeply influenced how I lead by encouraging me to think differently. Dalio stresses the importance of understanding yourself and the world around you, not just following usual success paths.

Adopting the mindset Dalio suggests has greatly improved my decision-making and leadership style. He teaches not just what to think, but how to think, which has been essential for achieving real success in my work.

Amar Ghose
Amar GhoseCEO, ZenMaid

Radical Candor

One leadership book that has greatly influenced my approach is Radical Candor by Kim Scott. Yes, it taught me the power of caring personally while challenging directly. Instead of harsh criticism or excessive praise, radical candor is about giving candid feedback in a compassionate way.

This philosophy has transformed how I develop and empower my team. By creating a culture of open dialogue, we can have tough conversations that drive growth while still preserving psychological safety. Radical candor has made me a more effective coach and helped build trust through real talk. It's a simple yet profound mindset shift that has elevated leadership across my organization.

Alex Adekola
Alex AdekolaCEO, ReadyAdjuster

Leaders Eat Last

One leadership book that has been invaluable to me is Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. It emphasizes the importance of creating a culture of trust and collaboration within teams, focusing on the well-being of employees, and serving as a selfless leader. This book has influenced my approach by reminding me that a leader's primary responsibility is to support and empower their team members, fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and motivated to contribute their best toward our mission in sustainable energy.

Robert Roth
Robert RothCEO, Quote For Solar Group

Quiet Leadership

The book named Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work by David Rock has helped me understand that effective leadership isn't always about being the loudest voice in the room. Rather, it's about fostering meaningful connections and empowering individuals to unlock their potential. By focusing on listening, asking powerful questions, and providing support rather than solutions, I've been able to cultivate a more collaborative and empowering leadership style.

Ashley Connell
Ashley ConnellSolicitor & Founder, Lease Extensions

Welcome to Management

Welcome to Management by Ryan Hawk was a very good read for me. It's a guide tailored for top-performing individuals who are moving into team leadership roles. In the book, Hawk introduces new leaders to the world of management, providing insights and guidance. This book is helpful because it assists star performers in becoming effective leaders by helping them discover the best ways to learn and lead, while fostering a positive work environment.

I found the book filled with practical information. It was particularly interesting because it focuses on the transition from being an individual contributor to managing a team. Many leadership books are aimed at executives and involve a different set of skills. A lot of the insights Ryan shares are tied back to sports analogies—something that resonates deeply with me. I really appreciate the impact of team sports on personal development. I frequently reflect on my experiences to find solutions to business challenges I face.

Erin Hendricks
Erin HendricksPresident and Owner, Sammy’s Milk

Extreme Ownership

One leadership book that has been significant in my leadership career is Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink. Initially, I was skeptical due to its seemingly anecdotal and 'Rambo-fied' approach to leadership advice. However, once I engaged with the content, I found that the book's core message about taking full responsibility—or 'extreme ownership'—for actions and outcomes resonated deeply with me.

This book shifted my perspective on leadership from a hierarchical, command-and-control mentality to one where leaders empower their teams by modeling accountability and decisiveness. The principle that we should own our mistakes and learn from them, rather than shifting blame, has profoundly influenced my approach. It helped me realize that effective leadership is about creating an environment where everyone feels responsible and motivated to contribute their best.

Listening to the Jocko Podcast further reinforced these concepts, providing real-world applications and deeper insights. Despite the initial impression, Extreme Ownership has taught me that straightforward, common-sense leadership principles can be powerful tools when applied consistently and with intention. This approach has enabled me to lead with more confidence and has encouraged a more cohesive and proactive team dynamic.

James McNally
James McNallyManaging Director, SDVH [Self Drive Vehicle Hire]

Leadership and Self-Deception

One leadership book that has profoundly influenced my approach is Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute. This book delves into how self-deception can lead to leadership failures and provides insights on how to overcome this barrier to become a more effective leader.

Getting Out of the Box: The book introduces the concept of 'being in the box,' a state where leaders are blind to their own faults and how these impact others. It emphasizes that leaders need to step outside of this 'box' to see things from others' perspectives and understand the realities of their team's experiences and challenges.

Focus on Results and Relationships: Leadership and Self-Deception has taught me the importance of balancing attention between achieving results and building strong, trusting relationships. Recognizing that these two elements are deeply interconnected has shifted my focus towards more holistic leadership practices.

Empathy and Accountability: The book stresses that effective leadership requires a combination of empathy and accountability. It has guided me to foster a work environment at Zibtek where empathy is paramount, but so is holding oneself and others accountable for their actions and responsibilities.

Resisting Blame and Encouraging Ownership: It's easy to blame others when things go wrong, but this book has helped me see the importance of taking responsibility for issues that arise under my leadership. This approach encourages a culture of ownership and continuous improvement, both personally and across the organization.

Incorporating these lessons into my daily leadership practice at Zibtek has not only improved my effectiveness as a leader but has also enhanced our company culture, making it more inclusive, responsive, and forward-thinking. Leadership and Self-Deception is a tool I regularly recommend to my peers and team members to help them grow and succeed in their own leadership journeys.

Cache Merrill
Cache MerrillFounder, Zibtek

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