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These 5 books will teach you the most valuable lessons on leadership

I’m not a leadership expert by any means, but I love to absorb and learn from as many leaders in their respective fields as possible.

I mainly do this through books, podcasts, videos etc. Over the last few years I’ve come across a number of great pieces of leadership material, this compelled me to think about what 5 pieces would I recommend to anyone.

Below you’ll find my favourite pieces, some insight into what I’ve learnt from them and what I’ve been able to implement in my day to day.

These are my essential books on leadership.

Leading – Sir Alex Ferguson

A legendary figure in world football and probably all of sports management.

Sir Alex Ferguson lead the Manchester United football team for 26 years, winning a list of awards so long I couldn’t list them here. He’s considered one the greatest and most successful managers of all time.

I also have a soft spot for Sir Alex as he’s a fellow scot (technically I’m half scottish) from Glasgow, who is very much a by product of his working class roots, which we can see flows through his leadership style which he describes within the book.

I finished his book titled “Leading” at the end of 2018 and it purely focused on how he lead a multitude of groups of individuals over his 26 year tenure, his insight on human behaviour, experiences in multiple situations and his part in developing the global brand of Manchester United.

What I learnt most from this book were the ideas of presence, compassion, forward thinking and how to adapt to constant changing and high stakes environments.

If you walk away with anything from this book, I firmly hope it will be the 3 key components of watching, listening and reading. The example to how these 3 elements can build the foundation of a good leader presented in the book are remarkable.

You can get this book for less than £10 @ Amazon

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

If you’ve read any of my work before, you’ll know I’m a superfan of Marcus’ work and if he was alive today, I would most likely be his marketing agent.

I won’t delve into too much detail here as I wrote a pretty comprehensive piece on this book and it’s many insights already, which you can read here.

What I will say, is that I can think of no one more interesting to study than the now proclaimed philosopher king, who is considered to be one of the last of the 5 good emperors to rule Rome.

Marcus held one of the most if not the most senior positions in world history and led one of the largest empires the world has ever seen, so I’m sure we could all learn a thing or two from him.

I’ve learnt so much from this little book that I would need to write another book to do justice to its benefits. Hopefully that endorsement alone may peak your interest and you can find it @ Amazon for less than £5.

It’s one of the few pieces of literature I class as life changing.

Extreme ownership – Jocko Willink & Leaf Babin

Now I’m not usually into reading books from military personnel on leadership as I seem to find there are way too many and they generally all talk about the same key component of discipline, which of course is great yet I know there is more to it than that.

I’m happy to say that Extreme Ownership is very different and in a good way, it promotes discipline of course, but it provides insights on much more and has a brilliant concept behind the makeup of leadership.

The authors are two former US Navy Seals who were key leadership figures in the battle of Ramadi in Irag, which is considered one of the fiercest battles of its time.

Post their military careers, both Leif and Jocko still work together as the masterminds behind the leadership consultancy Echelon Front.

Through Echelon they now work with some of the world’s leading businesses to provide a consultative service on developing leadership and high performing teams from their collective wealth of experience.

The book itself is a masterclass on a number of areas and I must say it pleasantly surprised me in how I was able to understand the concepts simply and find ways to apply these in my own day to day.

I took a number of learnings away from this book, but to summarise it would be:

Ultimate responsibility lies with the leader in all situations. In order to deliver success at the highest level, you must collaborate and enable the people in your teams for that success. It’s a leader’s prime responsibility to recognise this in any task they face.

It’s not about ordering people around, this doesn’t work and is not leadership, it’s poor management – you must lead if you wish to succeed.

Finally it’s not about accountability, it’s not about making all of your team ‘accountable. It’s about empowering the people around you to make plans, decisions etc and instilling ownership in everyone in whatever they do, this is real leading.

This one is a bit more pricier on Amazon but no means less worth the investment at £14 on paperback at time of writing this. You probably spend more on crap coffee over a few weeks than the price of this excellent resource.

Speaking of resources, if you’re on the fence about this one, I’d suggest watching Jocko’s Ted Talk which clocks in at less than 15 minutes and this short 5 minute clip on the concept of extreme ownership.

Start with Why – Simon Sinek

My most recent read, well actually listen as it was my first ever audiobook.

The people that know me best are well aware that I’m a geek for human behaviour, exploring the things we do, why we do them and how we connect with the world around us.

Although I’m late to the party on the Simon Sinek movement, it’s no surprise to me that his work eventually came my way.

This book does exactly what it says on the tin. It builds upon Simon’s 2009 Ted talk where he introduced (I think!) the world to the concept of the golden circle and the importance of finding/understanding your why for the first time.

You might be familiar with the increasing videos of Simon sharing his work on Youtube, which I encourage you to explore too if you haven’t seen any.

What I took away from this book is something I’ve always believed in when connecting with people and in finding your own meaning, which of course is the why.

Why should people connect with your product, email or learning solution?

How can you find your own why? What makes you tick and what will give meaning?

You can pick up this one @ Amazon for less than £7 or any other reputable book seller, this isn’t a sponsored post after all

The Art of War – Sun Tzu

This is a very short read from Chinese general, military strategist, writer and philosopher Sun Tzu.

Some might find it difficult to pick up as some of the translations of the book can make the concepts sound more complex than they actually are, but if you get a good one you’ll be in for a historic treat on strategy and leadership.

The Art of War has long been held as one of the most influential works of military strategy, which has been praised by not only a variety of military leaders, but also those in high demanding leadership positions within the business world.

Although it’s marketed as a handbook on warfare, military strategy and tactics, it’s concepts have been used by many in applications beyond the military, particularly across many leading businesses where they have been used to formulate multiple strategies and tactics.

This book will really be what you make of it.

I feel it has a number of insightful concepts that you can translate from military strategy and apply to not only business, but everyday life.

Again you can fill your boots with the knowledge of this book from Amazon all for less than the price of a morning coffee and bagel.

That’s all for now…

These are my top 5 recommendations right now and of course this list will change and evolve over time.

I hope you find all or some of these helpful, I’d love to hear you recommendations too, so please share these with me in the comments.

Before you go… 👋

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