Reading List for Leaders

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leadership book

One way to up your game when it comes to leading and influencing people is to learn from others who’ve walked the road you’re walking. That may be through books, podcasts, conferences, etc. I’ve started a list of the most influential books I’ve read that really moved the needle for me when it comes to relating with and influencing people, with some commentary about specifically how each one helped me:


Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud

This book shares the number one spot on my list of books you should read when it comes to solving difficult people problems. Necessary Endings is a very well thought out paradigm shift when it comes to ending important parts of our lives including jobs, habits and relationships. As kids we heard, “…if you quit that team you’ll always be a quitter!” and we wanted to avoid that at all costs. But Dr. Cloud reframes our thinking by showing us that sometimes we must prune things away to make room for new things to come. Dr. Cloud gives us a framework to really process important decisions regarding endings so that we can have confidence in these life changing decisions. I’ve had the privilege of working with Dr. Cloud on several occasions when he led the strategic planning meetings for our inner circle board at Ramsey Solutions. This book is freeing when it comes to letting go of seasons that are coming to an end. It will give you a process and language to use when it comes to letting go of people on your team that you care about, letting go of friendships that have become unhealthy or in my case letting go of a 22 year wonderful career in order to step into the next season of life.


The Road Back To You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

Sharing the number one spot on my list is The Road Back To You. This was the book that introduced me to the Enneagram. As a people person, I have never met a personality profile I didn’t like. But the Enneagram took my understanding of people to a new level. In this book, Ian explains the nine personality types in a way that will literally bring images of people you know to your mind while you read. He unpacks the greatest motivations, fears and weaknesses of people in a way that just turns the lights on in the room if you are trying to understand people. The Enneagram isn’t a crystal ball and every person is unique in so many ways; but this will give you a solid foundation of understanding of people that will help you to walk a mile in the shoes of the people you lead. I’ve met Ian on several occasions and he is a very unique (type 4 ) person and he cares deeply about others. 

EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey 

About a year after I started working with Dave, our company began to grow quickly. We only had 20 people on the team then and Dave knew that if we didn’t bottle the culture we had, that we would lose it as our numbers grew. He began to write out the cultural pillars that were the heart and soul of who we were as a company. Once a week we would all get together and Dave would walk us through how to hire people, how to fire people, the importance of integrity, never gossiping about others, etc. Along the way, team spouses and parents and friends asked to sit in. Before long, we had dozens and then hundreds of people showing up to hear the inside scoop on how to run a business and how to treat people. Dave put these lessons into this book in 2011 and millions of copies have been sold since. From this book, you’ll experience Dave’s raw and down to earth principles on how to treat leaders in your business and how to create a culture you’ll be proud of.


How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie was my very first introduction to the world of understanding and influencing people. In this easy to read book, you will learn the importance of treating every person as if they are the most special person in the world. You’ll learn the power of making a good first impression, the importance of calling people by their names, and how to offer criticism that builds a person up vs tearing them down. Many of the lessons in this book feel so simple that you may feel like you already knew them; but this book will help you unlock some areas that you needed to learn again. This book has sold over 15 million copies for a reason. I have even offered my children money to read this book as they get old enough to begin interacting more with others and we all agree it was well worth it.

Rocket Fuel by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters

A good friend introduced me to this book just a few years ago. This book removes the guilt leaders carry from not being all things to all people. It introduces us to the idea that people are born with different gifts and specialties. It breaks us into Visionaries and Integrators and unpacks both in a way that helps us see the crucial need for both types of leaders. And if we follow it’s instruction on how to value both types of leaders, the resulting turbo boost your leadership team will feel is huge. 


The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath

Chip and Dan Heath have become two of my favorite authors. The stories and examples they give in any book they write will make it difficult for you to put it down. In this book, they do a fantastic job of helping us pay close attention to the opportunities we have to make big impressions on customers, leaders, and other we care about. This is a book that has the power to really change the way you see your day. When it comes to building relationships with people, this book has made me more aware of the everyday opportunities to make life lasting impressions and increase my influence with people at all levels.


Ten Signs of a Leadership Crash by Stephen Mansfield

The first time I heard this content, it was when Stephen Mansfield taught it to our leadership team from notes he’d handwritten the week before. While he never sought it out, Stephen is a leader that other publicly known leaders call after making career ending, marriage ending, leadership ending bad decisions. Stephen is a leader other leaders trust to help them begin the long process of understanding just what happened and how to begin to pick up the pieces of what’s left. Stephen went on to tell us that while each crash was unique, he also began to see similarities and patterns in the lives of these leaders leading up to the crash. At only 52 pages, there is no fat in this straightforward book. It’s so short that you’re more likely to find it as part of a talk he has given somewhere. As a leader who works with other leaders, this content helped me to spot the signs of a leadership crash before a leader hits the wall. It’s helped me coach leaders as to when to keep fighting or when it’s time to stop. And it’s given me my own boundaries to be careful of as a leader living in the stressful roles we’ve all signed up for. 


Winning With People by John C. Maxwell

John Maxwell may be one of the most naturally gifted authors and speakers I’ve ever heard when it comes to relating to and influencing people. I once attended an event at his home. John was immediately best friends with everyone in the room. He spent time with each person. He told stories that made us laugh and relax. John Maxwell has a truly unique style. He doesn’t own a computer. He tells stories to illustrate his teachings. In this book, John Maxwell unpacks his playbook on how to win with people and you will fill a legal pad with his teaching, quotes and stories. 


Other leadership books that have made a big impact on me but aren’t as people specific.

  • Anything by Malcolm Gladwell. Favorites include The Tipping Point, Outliers, David & Goliath and The Bomber Mafia
  • Upstream by Dan Heath. Awesome accusation that we are addicted to the hero story of saving people from a crisis vs being the leader that could’ve helped us avoid the crisis to begin with. 
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Arguably not a business book; but the clever way Lewis flips our perspective helped me to see people differently. 
  • How The Mighty Fall by Jim Collins. Probably the best book I’ve read concerning the sometimes fatal mindsets that can creep into a successful business. 

This is just a short list of my favorites and I’m sure I’ve left some great ones out. What are some of the best books, podcasts or events you’ve experienced when it comes to leading people?

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From hiring to firing, to dealing with conflict to any problem with people, I’m glad to help you work through it.