Executives Share the Top 7 Leadership Books That Changed Their Career

Photo Credit: Stocksy/Mek Frinchaboy

By Courtney Connley

When you Google “how to be a good leader,” thousands of results may appear but there just isn’t one source of truth. Leadership, to be clear, is complicated. What can work for one may not work for another, and with the speed at which business (and society) is changing, there simply isn’t a playbook one can follow. But, there are a few books that can be helpful, and in fact, even downright life-changing.

In a survey of more than 120 Chief Members, we asked top C-Suite professionals about the leadership books that have influenced their career the most — and these were the top seven most frequently recommended. There are some of the usual suspects, like Brene Brown’s bestseller Dare to Lead, or Adam Grant’s Think Again, but some are new hits that’ll help you be a step ahead, like Tara Jaye Frank’s The Waymakers.

While there might not be a magic playbook, these seven tomes will help leaders lean into their power and achieve even greater success.

How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back From Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job by Sally Helgesen

“[This book] gave me insights and courage to lean into my power.” — Rose Roth, VP of Operations at Comcast Business

“[This book] offers meaningful and actionable advice.” — Cyanne Demchak, Chief Strategy Officer, Evernorth Care Delivery at Cigna

The Waymakers: Clearing the Path to Workplace Equity with Competence and Confidence by Tara Jaye Frank

The Waymakers offers a fresh perspective on what it means to lead with purpose and literally make a way for others. [It is] loaded with practical applications for any leader.” — Kanika Williamson, VP, Global Human Resources at Elo Touch Solutions

“[This book discusses] the importance of inclusive leadership with practical tips on how to do it.” — Virginia G Essandoh, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Ballard Spahr LLP

Ready to Be a Thought Leader? How to Increase Your Influence, Impact, and Success by Denise Brosseau

“Denise reinforces how we all have the genius of thought leadership within us and shares practical tips on how to step into our power.” — Janet Miller Evans, Founder and CEO at coaching company, Entevos LLC

“It is a practical guide for leaders in finding their voice and building their influence. Denise has great ideas and is an excellent writer.” — Corina Davis, Chief Legal Officer, EVP Business Development at art conveyer Redbubble

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

“If you Google the top 25 leadership books currently available, they are all written by men. But, Brene's perspective is unique to women who are challenged differently in their respective professions — perhaps now more than ever. The four courage-building skills she focuses on were instrumental in transforming my leadership of a global organization. It is not only a must-read, but a resource to turn to again and again.” — April A. Salomon, Executive Director at Musical Instrument Museum

“It takes a very human approach to leadership which I think has been missing from the conversation for a long time. The main idea is that to effectively lead, we must be vulnerable — two ideas which used to be seen as opposing. I am a huge fan of all of Brene's work but to be able to really apply her thinking around courage and vulnerability to my professional life changed the way I show up at work.” — Lauren Schuman, VP of Product Growth at MURAL

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

“In a world where we are continuously pushed toward finite goals, it reminded me (and proved through data) that remaining focused on the infinite (goals, purpose, what really matters) pays off both in business and in terms of personal professional growth.” — Angela Bramham, VP of People and Shared Services at IHI Power Services

“As a competitive person in a competitive, results-based industry, the perspective on work and life being an infinite game, not finite, filled with numerous finite goals was refreshing. Lots of books address how to achieve or close deals; this helps establish a mindset to do so contentedly no matter what the outcome.” — Sloane Nichols, Brokerage Senior Vice President at real estate company Colliers

The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael Watkins

“I read it with every career change to remind myself of the leadership blindspots when starting a new job. I also recommend it to others changing jobs.” — Asha Aravindakshan, VP at CXM company Sprinklr

“As I was entering my first executive role, it helped me shape my thinking and approach to the new role.” — Cathlin Sullivan, General Counsel at DNSFilter

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

“It gives great advice to make both large and small-scale changes in your leadership approach.” — Emma Zumsen, VP of Bain’s digital marketing team FRWD

“The entire premise is that in order to grow, adapt, be nimble, and achieve all the things we want, we have to routinely and consciously get comfortable with rethinking anything and everything. [Leaders need] strategy, tactics, assumptions, and to come with an ability to change [our] mind in order to progress.” — Stephanie Hudson, iCMO at marketing group Grow Powerful

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