5 Books for Improving Leadership Skills


About 6 month ago, I decided to work on improving my leadership skills. I lead Accessible Community and co-lead the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group. I care deeply about the missions and participants in both so want to be as effective as possible in these roles. I owe that to the talented and passionate people who dedicate their time and energy to making the world better for people with disabilities.

My approach, likely based on my background in libraries, was to create a reading list of books related to leadership. I searched for recommendations from others and have now read (or read and rejected) most of them. I have compiled a list of the five books I found most helpful in case you too want to improve your leadership skills and want a short, succinct list.

I’ve linked to Amazon here, but these are likely available at your local library.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

If you want to improve your leadership and can only read one book, this is the one I’d recommend. It combines leadership advice with practical recommendations on how to deal with conflict and constantly improve yourself and teams.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

This book presents strategies and behaviors to transform an organization into a place that produces great results and where people thrive. It also goes through developing skills and approaches to being an effective leader in these types of organizations. This book is helpful for mid-level leaders who want to move up, but priceless for someone in charge of a business or organization.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

This book presents the skills you need to be a good leader and ways to assess yourself one each skill. It compliments Dare to Lead and Good to Great. These three books together provide a great roadmap for leading an organization.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This book is more generic and focuses on interpersonal skills. It is an older book but its a classic for a reason. It provides the basic skills needed to work well with others.

The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino

This is also an older book and may not seem an obvious choice for this list but I’ve found it invaluable for becoming a better leader of a non-profit. While written for salesmen, it really is about how to lead a joy-filled and productive life. Several of the Laws of Leadership from Maxwell include being productive and modeling the actions and values you want others to embrace – this book helps you improve yourself to do this.

Note: The book includes a fictional story of a salesman placed within the bible but if you find that part offensive instead of fun, you can read only chapter 8-17. The book is intended to be read over 300 days, with each chapter read 3 times a day for 30 days (they are short). You can adjust this however you wish but I did commit to this a few years ago and found the process really useful. I revisited the book again while reviewing leadership books and felt it still has great value on this list.