12 Most Influential Books to Help Grow Team Leaders

12 Most Influential Books to Help Grow Team Leaders

Effective Team Leaders are always looking for ways to inform, inspire, and grow their people. How about books?

Business managers, school principals, and athletic coaches are all tasked with making their organization more successful but… the best way to ensure you develop and improve your organization is to develop and inspire your people!

The following list of titles is a tremendous resource for introducing and discussing ideas that will improve the people in your organization. Great team leaders realize that building a better sales force, or faculty, or athletic program is not achieved by providing content area knowledge and training only. Phil Jackson, who has coached two different organizations to a total of nine NBA Championship titles, is famous for giving his players books to read during their season together. But he did not give them books about basketball — he knew that to perform well as athletes, they needed to grow as people and teammates.

Take a look at the following list of the twelve most influential books to grow team leaders. As you read each title and its brief description, consider who on your team would benefit from the gift of its lessons and insights.

1. Leadership and Self Deception

This is a book by The Arbinger Institute that shares a parable about a business executive who is struggling both at work and at home. The main character eventually comes to find that much of his struggle is the result of being “in the box” — and his development is keyed by the realization that most of our problems are the result of self-deception and justifying self-serving behaviors. It is a powerful story that illustrates how we can sometimes “unwittingly sabotage relationships at work and at home.”

2. Made to Stick

People don’t just want to be heard, they want to be remembered. Chip and Dan Heath wrote this terrific collection of ideas and examples of how to make your ideas stick. All “sticky” messages throughout history have shared a few common traits, and if you are interested in crafting your messages to help them become viral and/or memorable, this book shares a number of useful suggestions. Be sure to have a highlighter handy as you flip through each chapter!

3. The Greatest Salesman in the World

Although the word “salesman” is found in the title, this book by Og Mandino is far less about sales than it is about living a quality life. The main character, Hafid, is in a short book that was first published in 1968 — but the 12 lessons that are shared by his mentor are tremendously powerful if they are followed each day. Profound in its simplicity, it will be a book that you want to read and reread throughout your life to be reminded of the priorities and principles it offers.

4. Success is a Choice

Rick Pitino is an impressive and successful basketball coach. This book gives us a valuable insight into why he has been so successful at every one of his coaching stops along the way. One of the main lessons it offers is that great teams must “deserve success.” Each point he makes, while relevant to teams in any field or industry, is supported by examples from his time at Kentucky. It is very effective as a collection of messages intended to help you and your organization understand how to build a culture of overachievement.

5. Soup

This book by Jon Gordon is a fable, much like his book The Energy Bus. What sets this story apart is its focus on building a great team and the importance of complimentary ingredients. Built on the idea that virtually every success is based upon the quality of the relationships you share with others, this story is a terrific reminder that team building begins with someone being willing to “stir the pot” and promote positive change.

6. The Five Love Languages

The golden rule is what we were taught as kids, but this book by Gary Chapman shares information that will help your people move beyond that paradigm and begin to enjoy the benefits of the “platinum rule.” Instead of treating people the way you want to be treated, we should treat people according to how they want to be treated. This is a powerful idea and is similar in importance to understanding team personality types and leadership style of influence that your teammates bring to the table.

7. Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins

No matter how knowledgeable or skilled you may be in your field, the ability to inspire and influence others is a requirement to accomplish truly great things. The power of stories is a tool that many teammates can benefit from discovering. In this “how-to” manual by Annette Simmons, you will learn that while most business communication is assumed to be effective when it is delivered in brief, concise, bulleted points, it is actually far more impactful to couch your ideas in a compelling story that your audience can identify with. Meaningful connections are made through stories, not by simply sharing information. This is a useful guide to help you begin to fashion stories to assist you with the process of building relevant stories.

8. Developing The Leader Within You

John Maxwell’s biblically based collection of leadership books have sold millions of copies but in my opinion, this is the best. He explains that the traits of great leadership can be acquired and developed, and provides examples and advice to assist you in that regard. Maxwell has been often quoted for saying “leadership is influence,” and this text offers insights into how you or others can maximize the amount of leadership you exert on your teammates and your organization.

9. The 4:8 Principle

Another book based upon biblical leadership principles, this book by Tommy Newberry takes one specific verse, Philippians 4:8, and expands upon it to emphasize the importance and impact of our thoughts and how they eventually manifest themselves as our reality. In an increasingly negative world, filled with people who harbor RATs (really awful thoughts), it is that much more necessary to remain focused on is what is honorable, admirable, and right. In fact, it may just be the wisest thing a leader can do and hope for people to emulate.

10. How to Win Friends and Influence People

This classic by Dale Carnegie, published originally in 1936, is one of the best known self-help books in history. That said, the lessons and examples that are provided will never go out of style because while technology continues to advance, our social and relational skills will always depend upon our understanding of how to create and maintain positive and mutually beneficial relationships with others. Human nature will never be outdated and this is a book that will forever be relevant and useful reading for leaders.

11. Fierce Conversations

If you are a leader, or if you are on a team with other people, there will come a time at some point that you will need to have an uncomfortable discussion with someone on your team. This book by Susan Scott provides you with the techniques and courage to confront those who need to hear the truth. It addresses the need to have internal honest conversations as well, but is mainly a collection of ways to approach situations you will likely encounter and shares useful ideas on how to build deeper and more productive relationships “one conversation at a time.”

12. QBQ! The Question Behind the Question

This last title is a tremendous resource written by John G. Miller. Strong leaders recognize the need to build a culture of accountability and this book, while a quick read, examines the powerful way that our questions either empower us or turn us into victims. Instead of asking “Why me?” or “Who was supposed to…?,” Miller encourages us (through real-world examples) to ask instead questions such as “What can I do to improve things?” This is an easy idea to implement and the decision to practice personal accountability will eventually filter down to everyone in your organization.

Remember that your team wants to grow, improve, and perform better. Your task as a leader then, is to offer the encouragement and information and inspiration that will help them to become not just better salesmen, or teachers, or engineers — but to help them become better people.

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. There are many others that had to be removed from my initial brainstorming list to cut it down to twelve titles. But I think I would kick myself if I didn’t at least mention that other books, such as 20,000 Days and Counting, or Entreleadership, or The OZ Principle, are all valuable and come highly recommended. Also, if you are looking for a book to inspire athletes or leaders in any field, you may also want to consider my team leadership book, Fistitude, as well. It is a short parable about a struggling basketball team that shares five steps to leading any team to success.

Whether as an unexpected gift or as a part of your upcoming newsletter, I encourage you to share the titles in this list and help grow your team leaders! Tweets of 140 characters or less, or email updates on a current project may be entertaining or necessary daily reads, but they cannot replace the powerful impact of a quality book and the insights it can offer.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once wrote, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” Readers are leaders — and the results of sharing these titles with your people may amaze you.

Featured image courtesy of merra muchut licensed via Creative Commons.

Sean Glaze


Sean Glaze is an interactive speaker who delivers motivational team leadership keynotes and facilitates teambuilding events that inspire groups like yours to improve communication skills, boost morale, and become better teammates!

468 ad

Sean I am following one of the very well known leader & author plus he is associated with many other big cause. The personality I am talking about is Arindam Chaudhari. However, would definitely love to try one of those as just a step towards moving one step ahead of others.

Appreciate your post..Thanks for sharing these with us ..I would refer these to all .. including me http://www.adjutantfraud.co.uk/service/forensic-accountants/ Forensic Accountants


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni has been very helpful for us as well. I appreciate your post.


I am a big Jon Gordon fan. In light of that, I would add "Training Camp" to the list. That is by far my favorite Gordon book.


Great list, Sean! I am a QBQ Fan. I am a fan but am utterly failing to instill its principles with my own 13 and 16 year olds. Maybe I should do a post of the 12Most ways someone with a Masters in Counseling and Human Systems can fail to implement what she knows on the home front. :-)


Thanks Sean. I'd add 'Zapp: The Lightening of Empowerment', by William Byham. A great little book to show how we, as team leaders and our attitude on life, can make a huge difference to how our people are!