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12 of the best books on becoming a great leader in business

By Kobo • March 23, 2022Big Ideas in Books

Leadership is tough.

How do you motivate people? How do you have hard conversations? How do you not spend all your time telling people what to do? So many questions, so many meetings, and so little time to figure this all out. If you’re lucky you’ve got a mentor, and even so, the greatest mentor is still just one person with their own experiences and perspective. To give you a broader array of leadership wisdom, we’ve assembled this list of audiobooks you can listen to on your lunch break, over breakfast, or on a walk after work. It can be lonely at the top, but you don’t have to do it alone.

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo

This is the guide to all the things you want to ask as a new manager, but you’re not sure if you should already know it. How do you interview job candidates effectively? How do you know if you're being a good manager or not? When you feel lost, how do you get back to firm footing? Julie Zhuo, former VP of design at Facebook shares all her hard-earned lessons here in this highly practical guide to the nuts and bolts stuff that every leader has to get right to succeed.

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Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Start with Why

Simon Sinek is best known as an inspirational speaker from his popular TED Talk, and here he captures that feeling in a study of purpose—the why that should power every organization and which every leader needs to be able to convey.

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

Most business books offer the kind of advice that will help you get a job as a manager, or help you improve your performance. But few have anything of value to say about how best to do the top job—which is what makes this book by Ben Horowitz, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, unique. It’s all here, from when to pack in plan A and pivot, to when to fire the executive who successfully got you here but is the wrong person to get you where you need to go. And it’s delivered in the tone of a friendly mentor taking a few minutes to chat about what’s on your mind—and what he suggests you might do about the problems you’re facing. Even if you’re not a C-level, there’s a lot of wisdom here delivered straight from the top.

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Strategize to Win: The New Way to Start Out, Step Up, or Start Over in Your Career by Carla A. Harris

Investment bank executive Carla Harris has advice for those of us who feel stuck where we are, unable to alter our course away from where we’ve always been headed and toward the career we really want. She'll help you see the obstacles you didn’t know were there, and she’ll give you a model for understanding your own work profile so you can better see your strengths and opportunities.

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Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know by Adam Grant

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant offers a guide to gracefully and confidently changing your mind—which can be among the toughest things for a leader to do when everyone’s looking to them for all the answers. He also helps you to keep your mind open enough to learn what you need to unlearn, without constantly unravelling.

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Radical Candor: Fully Revised & Updated Edition: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott

Silicon Valley executive Kim Scott explains here how to keep lines of communication open, even when some of the messages flowing through hurt to hear. This is a guide to speaking truth with compassion, and creating an environment where important information gets shared among team members who trust one another.

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Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Entrepreneur and investor Pieter Thiel is also a philosopher of business, and here he offers his view of how new successful products relate to the world that preceded them. This is an optimistic book full of big ideas to inspire the next generation of founders.

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Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Executive Producer Shonda Rhimes was raising three kids at home while managing three hit TV shows, so she knows a thing or two (or three) about work-life balance. In this book, which is part memoir and part business advice, she speaks about how her upbringing created expectations and assumptions in her that she eventually overcame on her way to reaching the top of the entertainment business.

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Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown

There’s a formula to bold, authentic leadership and researcher Brené Brown lays it out here. She’ll help you understand what real courage looks like (hint: it’s not being a jerk) and help you focus on the areas where you need to put in effort to cultivate strong relationships.

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Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

What if there was a way to get more done in a day? A way to skip the distractions and stick to the habits that move you towards your goals? Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit spells out 8 principles for doing exactly that in this highly pragmatic guide to hacking your way to peak productivity.

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Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

Can one truly lead without understanding how human motivation works? You could try, but it would be a lot easier if you knew what makes people get up in the morning and put in a solid effort. In Drive Daniel Pink explains the 3-point structure of the most effective kinds of motivation: mastery, autonomy, and meaning. Structure your team around those principles, and let them take the wheel.

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The Work: My Search for a Life That Matters by Wes Moore

Wes Moore didn’t have it easy growing up, but he found a way to succeed—as a combat officer in Afghanistan, a White House fellow, and a Wall Street banker. Here he reflects on what success really means, and how the people he’s met over the years have shared their wisdom with him on how to find one’s purpose in the world.

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Are you a leader looking to put inspiring books eBooks and audiobooks in the hands of your team?

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