Leadership books are good, but not my favorite. Here’s why.

Moving into a new leadership role is a great time to engage a coach, or read some books about how to succeed in your leadership job. Whether this is your first-time leading people, or if you’ve elevated your role (i.e., moving from leading individuals to leading people leaders), you will be met with new challenges.  A coach can help you build awareness around what you are good at and what got you to this amazing place.  They can also help you identify and build on what you need to grow.  Books can help too, and they’ll be the focus of this post.

When starting on a new endeavor, knowledge is key.  Let’s begin by getting clear on some vocabulary. It is entirely possible that your title contains the word “manager”, and not the word “leader”. Make no mistake that managing and leading are not the same thing.  You can manage without leading, and you can lead even if you do not have direct reports.  

A manager is someone who is often a technical expert, gives direction, and can make changes to make work flow more efficient.  

A leader inspires others to do their best work and gets work done through others.  There is emotion involved in leading.  

You can read more about the differences between managers and leaders here.

If you like to read, you can literally spend the rest of your life reading nonstop about leadership. I did a search on Amazon for leadership books.  You know how many results there were?Over 60,000.

Hmm…with that many hits, how do you know which ones to read? Here’s the thing. I’ve been giving leaders guidance since the dot com bubble burst. Good leadership has not evolved, but people keep reading about it, which is fantastic!  There are GREAT leadership books out there. Some may resonate with you more than others. You may have joined a book club to read and discuss leadership.  There is nothing wrong with that, and I can guarantee you will learn something.  

My preferred way to learn about leadership is unorthodox. I like to read memoirs to learn about leadership. Why?  Memoirs are often impressive stories of people overcoming obstacles that you can’t appreciate unless you have either lived through it or read a really good book about it.  Truth is stranger than fiction, right?

When you lead people- you lead people.  Real people.  People come from messy backgrounds, and sometimes they overcome obstacles to become Harvard Lawyers, Best Selling Authors, or recovered addicts. If you’re leading people, you sure as hell better care about people. Opening your eyes to the plights of people on a regular basis is sure to change your heart.  Operational efficiencies absolutely matter, but not nearly as much as people. Memoirs will teach you to understand people better.  Once you start to understand people, follow up with some leadership books about how to talk to people, inspire them to be their best, to listen to you so you can truly understand them, ask questions that challenge them appropriately,  and give them feedback that will build them up and make them better.  

If you want to increase your leadership capability by reading, I encourage you to balance you reading of leadership books with reading memoirs.  The memoirs will change your heart, and your heart is what will make you a great leader.  The leadership book will give you skills to implement the changes in your heart.


Interested in some of my favorite reads? They are listed below.  Do you have a book you think I should read? Drop me a note!


Just for fun, some of my favorite memoirs:

Brain on Fire

A Drinking Life

My Bloody Life


The Glass Castle


Just Mercy

You Will Know My Name

Leadership books:

What got you here wont’ get you there

7 habits of highly effective people

Crucial conversations

more blogs


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