12 must-read leadership books to add to your reading list

With the morning and evening commute out the window for most of us, we reckon it’s about time we fill up some of that spare time with some good quality leadership books.

Adding a bit of personal development to your day really is quite simple when you think of it this way. So, if you’ve been hanging out for something interesting and perspective-shifting, you’ve come to the right place.

Read on for a list of our top twelve must-read leadership books, as selected by the Pragmatic Thinking crew.


Must-read leadership books to add to your list.


#1: Leaders Eat Last – Simon Sinek

This book has found its way onto the top of plenty of business and leadership lists, and it’s easy to see why. In typical Simon Sinek fashion this book takes a storytelling approach, exploring some of the best examples of leadership in modern times. There are a few concepts inside this book that may sound familiar (given how often they’re referenced in mainstream media) such as ‘Circle of Safety’. Overall it’s an engaging read that you’ll keep coming back to, time and time again. 

Our executive director, Darren Hill, had this to say about the book, “There’s some useful neurochemistry links amongst the hyperbole. Well worth a read.”


#2: Dare to Lead – Brené Brown 

Another recognisable author, Dr Brene Brown is a well-respected researcher who’s arguably best known for her viral TED Talk on the power of vulnerability. We’d happily add Dare to Lead to a list of essential leadership reads, it’s just that good. Filled with actionable strategies and examples from her research-based leadership program, this one will help you to step up your leadership game like nothing else. There’s also some amazing insights on feedback cultures to be found inside this book, so make sure to pick yourself up a copy, stat.


#3: Lean In – Sheryl Sandberg

Recognise this one? Since its publication in 2013, Lean In has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. It explores many of the challenges that women face in pursuing leadership and is filled with statistics and studies that are nothing short of eye-opening. Pick yourself up a copy and if you want to take it a step further and provide development opportunities for the next generation of female leaders in your workplace, take a look at our Lead Boldly program.


#4: Drive – Dan Pink

Motivation is a curious thing – something that we all want to be able to tap into at a moments notice to get things done, while also being something elusive that can disappear in the blink of an eye. So, what’s the deal with motivation? If you’ve ever wanted to know what really motivates us and what you can do to motivate your people long-term, you’ve got to add this book to your reading list. Based on four decades of scientific research, Dan Pink explores the three elements of true motivation–autonomy, mastery and purpose–and shares how to practically put these into action in your workplace.


#5: Give and Take – Adam Grant

Ever wondered why some people rise to the top and achieve astronomical success? In this book, Adam Grant tackles this question with cutting-edge research and thought-provoking perspectives. Given that this book has been highly praised by social scientists, business theorists and corporate leaders, we reckon this one has more than earned its place on our must-read leadership books list. Wouldn’t you agree?


#6: Creativity Inc – Ed Catmull

We all want our teams to embrace innovation and share new, compelling ideas, but do you have what it takes to inspire the kind of creativity required? If you’d like to create a workplace culture that fosters creativity, this is going to be right up your alley. You’ll learn from Pixar co-founder and president, Ed Catmull, throughout this book and to say it’s a world-class introduction to creativity in the workplace is an understatement. Go on, add this one to your list.


#7: Finite and Infinite Games – James Carse

Does this title sound a little familiar? You might’ve seen Simon Sinek’s book, The Infinite Game, which in itself is a great read although we’re keen to give credit where credit is due. Finite and Infinite Games is the original – a book that explores an epic approach to game theory that can completely shift your perspective if you dig in deep enough. 


#8: Mindset – Carol Dweck

Is your mindset supporting or hindering your leadership capability? Are there people in your team who need help shifting their mindset in order to reach their full potential? The answer to these questions will help you decide what choice to make next, but regardless we’d highly recommend that you pick up a copy of this book. In fact, this one would make for a great virtual team building activity and book club experience. Written by world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, this book is based on over 20 years of research, so it’s definitely got legs to stand on. 


#9: Start with Why – Simon Sinek

Okay, we’re back to Simon Sinek. Another must-read leadership book to add to your list is Start With Why, and well… there’s a couple of reasons why. Right now we’re all in the midst of a time of change and challenge (thanks 2020) and for many, this has led to lowered levels of motivation, engagement and team morale. If you need to turn your ship around and find new ways to engage and inspire your team, this is a book you need to read ASAP.


#10: The Element – Ken Robinson

When you go to work, are you using your unique talents? Are you able to identify the talents and passions of your team members, and support them to make use of them during their day-to-day? In this book you’ll find plenty of inspiring stories and recommendations that’ll help you to unlock your full potential. Ken Robinson has been named by Fast Company as one of the world’s elite thinkers on creativity and innovation, so it’s safe to say this book is worth the read. 


#11: The Power of Moments – Chip & Dan Heath

Chip and Dan Heath are the authors of some of the Pragmatic Thinking crew’s favourite books. In this one, Chip and Dan explore the extraordinary stories of people who’ve turned businesses and organisations around through powerful moments of intervention and course correction. These stories may just give you the inspiration you need to turn things around in your organisation. So, if that’s something that appeals to you, pick up a copy


#12: The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell

If you’re a change-maker and the previous book sparked a bit of curiosity, this is another one that you’re bound to love. Malcolm Gladwell has written quite a few impactful books in his time, including The Tipping Point – a story of sudden and dramatic changes in direction. It’s a fascinating read; one that’ll have you pausing and reflecting as you go.


Found some books to add to your reading list? We sure hope you have. If you find one that’s particularly useful, make sure to share it with your team. Heck, take it a step further and set up a team book club – it’s a great way to stay connected and build rapport while working remotely.