37 Life-Changing Leadership Books You Need to Read ASAP

At Single Grain, we’re readers.

After all, when we hire employees, we’re not just hiring them for what they’ve done in the past. We handpick our team members because we hope and believe they can contribute now and truly flourish in the future. If that sounds weird, think of your business as a baseball team for a moment.

You want the best players, right? So you watch tapes, you scout, you scour the analytics. But you also look for latent potential players who are coachable and want to get better. Once you’ve signed your players (whether they’re prospects, rookies or all-stars), the real work begins. You hire hitting coaches, sports massage therapists, nutritionists, maybe even a hypnotist! Anything to get better.

Nobody bats an eye. After all, you want the best, most-developed version of your players, right? Well, your business, and your employees, are no different. It’s totally OK to ask employees to expand their minds, learn new tools and become better at their jobs from day one.

Great business books are an inexpensive, interesting way to get your team thinking differently, developing new skills and acquiring new knowledge. So pick one (or ten!) and see how you and your team like it.

Without further ado, here are the 37 life-changing books (and articles!) that my Single Grain team and I swear by.

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3 Must-Read Business Books

Every hire at Single Grain, regardless of position, reads these three books. You should, too.

  • Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. Written years ago, this book still holds up, and shares every secret to good copywriting. It’s dense, it’s advanced, and it’s worth it. Schwartz, who died in 1995, was once paid $54,000 for four hours of crafting copy!
  • The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert. This easy, non-fiction read is actually a series of letters written from an imprisoned father to his son. The father, it just so happens, is one of the greatest copywriters who ever lived. Full of wisdom and life skills, this book will also provide actionable advice on how to market your products.

The Boron Letters

  • The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. This fast-paced, best-selling novel helps readers understand that the best business goals are those that push us to keep improving. This book is applicable to any and every type of business. Goldratt, who died in 2011, was an Israeli businessman known for his work on the theory of constraints and organizational psychology.

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13 Leadership Training Books, Articles and Videos

Single Grain requires every leader to read these books and articles. If you’ve yet to establish a leadership curriculum, take note!

  • Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute. Another best-seller, this guide to getting out of the box helps leaders truly understand what’s happening around them. Learn to tap into what’s right and what’s real with this self-help book for business people.
  • The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni. Good hiring is everything. At Single Grain, we use the same criteria the author swears by: hungry, smart and humble. Hiring true team players will save you blood, sweat and tears. And money!
  • The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Discover the five major reasons even the best teams fall short. Then, learn to overcome these hurdles with clear and actionable team-building and leadership advice.
  • Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. Wiseman theorizes there are two types of leaders: energy drainers and idea amplifiers. Learn to be the type of executive who makes everyone around them smarter.
  • The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier. This bestseller teaches leaders how to coach regularly, informally and effectively. The end result? More effortless, impactful leadership that saves time and improves, well, everything. Our lead team uses this book to guide our one-on-ones with employees. It takes patience, but works to instill empowerment and critical thinking. Learn more about this book on my podcast.

The Coaching Habit book

  • Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMIllan and Al Switzler. This guide for high-stakes situations will help you keep your cool during even the most uncomfortable conversations. Our leaders swear by the tools revealed in this book for navigating sticky situations not just at work, but in their personal lives, too.
  • What the Heck Is EOS? By Gino Wickman. EOS stands for Entrepreneurial Operating System, and Gino Wickman has written the manual for it. If you’re running your business this way, then this book is required reading. At Single Grain, we use EOS to structure our team meetings.
  • “Discovering Your Authentic Leadership” by Bill George, Peter Sims, Andrew N. McLean and Diana Mayer. This article from the Harvard Business Review will help your leaders strive to be the best version of themselves, not some cookie-cutter, robot exec.
  • Tales from Twelve O’Clock High by Major Attila J. Bognar. Charisma is everything, but only if leaders channel it properly. Learn the history of charismatic leadership and how it can be properly wielded to transform your business. (Yes, this piece was written about army leadership, but it still applies.)
  • “What Makes a Leader?” by Daniel Goleman. Another brilliant piece from the Harvard Business Review. This one details why sometimes excellent employees fall short as leaders, while less extraordinary hires often become outstanding executives.
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by FightMediocrity. This animated book summary of Stephen Covey’s best-seller is, in my opinion, must-see TV.

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9 Can’t-Miss Marketing and Sales Books

If you have a marketing team, buy them these books. They are all excellent.

  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. This guide to an intuitive user experience will help you build a website that’s practical, effortless and brilliantly usable. If your website is even a little frustrating, read this now before you lose another lead.
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, PhD. Uncover the psychological foundations of marketing in this evidence-based business book. If you want to learn what makes people say “yes,” this is the book for you.
  • The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout. Easy-to-digest marketing rules that’ll turn into guidelines for your growing brand. Whether you adopt every law or just take what you need, this old-school book will certainly get you thinking.
  • Content Inc. by Joe Pulizzi. Learn how brilliant content marketing is changing the way entrepreneurs do business. Learn to make great content, find your audience, and then release an awesome product for your followers. Listen to Joe on my podcast.

Content Inc

  • Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy. Revealing and painfully honest, this classic by the advertising guru still holds up thirty years later. Every marketer should read this book.
  • DotCom Secrets by Russel Brunson. At Single Grain, we use this book to learn about powerful sales funnels and successful online business building.
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly. Clear, convincing and forever helpful, this is the ultimate step-by-step guide to crafting money-making copy. You’ll learn to write to get attention, to communicate, to sell and so much more.
  • The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns. You can sell without lengthy proposals by proving that you’re the best in the business — and it’s not even close. This guidebook will show you how.
  • Top of Mind by John Hall. In this book, Hall helps readers develop the right content strategies to become the most influential and authoritative figures in their industries. Learn more about effective content strategies and authentic, meaningful brand-building. And check out Hall on Growth Everywhere!

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5 Business Books to Buy Now

These are general business books that’ll help you start, grow and cultivate the business of your dreams. I love all of them, and I think you will, too.

  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. Practical wisdom for all the tough things about running a real business. They don’t always teach you this stuff — like firing your friends and knowing when to walk away — in business school.
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Building a startup? Learn to create a nimble business that uses both money and creativity as efficiently and effectively as possible.
  • Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. The Zappos CEO shares how to build a company with core values and a can’t-wait-to-get-to-work culture. The big lesson? The happiness of your employees is everything.

Delivering Happiness

  • The Dip by Seth Godin. Feeling stuck, scared or broke? Learn when to quit and when to stick with it. By understanding how to differentiate a dead end from a temporary stall, you’ll become a better businessperson.
  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin. This Godin book has revolutionized marketing by claiming that a business is either remarkable or invisible. Which will you choose for your brand?

Related Content: The Startup Story You Didn’t Hear About: The Billion Dollar Company That Was 4 Days From Going Bankrupt [podcast]

3 Game-Changing Productivity & Lifestyle Books

  • Atomic Habits by James Clear. Promising amazing results for just tiny changes, this New York Times bestseller will help you form good habits and break bad ones while perfecting little behaviors that pay off in a big way. Clear went from zero to nearly half a million email subscribers in just five years. Hear all about it on our Growth Everywhere podcast!
  • The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. What if you could focus on just one thing at a time? How would that improve your work, your health, your family life? This best-selling productivity book will help you achieve more by doing less.
  • Eat That Frog!by Brian Tracy. Is there some awful task you can’t seem to knock off your to-do list? Stop procrastinating by getting the worst part of your day out of the way each morning.

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3 Reads When You Need Even More

For overachievers and voracious, business-building readers alike, check out these books. I’ve had some awesome discussions with many of these big thinkers on Growth Everywhere, so definitely tune in to the podcasts, too.

  • Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal. We read this book in our Single Grain book club, and it was quite well-received. Any SaaS founder or CEO needs to buy this right away to learn how to create sticky products. Want a sneak peak? Check out Eyal on the Growth Everywhere podcast.
  • Wise Guy: Lessons from a Life by Guy Kawasaki. Guy Kawasaki is a marketing guru and venture capitalist who popularized the concept of evangelism marketing and wrote a bunch of books. My favorite is his most personal work, Wise Guy, in which he shares lesson-latent stories from his life. Now he’s the chief evangelist at Canva. Hear more from Kawasaki on the Growth Everywhere podcast.

Wise Guy

  • The Alter Ego Effect by Todd Herman. What’s the secret to the amazing performances of extraordinary athletes and executives? An alter ego. After all, even the most confident all-stars have down days. Having a heroic persona you can turn on when you aren’t feeling your best can help you rise the occasion, even on days you’d rather watch Netflix in bed.
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1 Book that Truly Changed My Life

  • The Billionaire Who Wasn’t by Conor O’Cleary. This books tells the story of a remarkably modest New Jersey businessman who gave away $10 billion anonymously while he was still alive and well. Chuck Feeney, a true philanthropist, went on to start a “giving while living” movement that has personally inspired me and so many fellow entrepreneurs. It might inspire you, too.
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