3 Must-have Leadership Books

Inspired by the Next Big Idea Club, I’ve been thinking of the many, many leadership books that I have read and given to clients. If I could only give leaders three books to support their development, what would they be?

The field of leadership is home to so many models that can help leaders illuminate something that was hard to see before—whether that is a strength, a pain point or a path to resolution. Different leaders need different things at different times.

What I love about these three books is that together, they make up a timeless leadership library that any leader can turn to again and again for the most useful and sustaining ideas.

The Leadership Challenge | Corcoran Leadership

The Leadership Challenge

How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations

James M. Kouzes + Barry Z. Posner

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A Taste | “Model the Way” is one of the concepts in the book that details the importance of clarifying your values and then setting the example by living them. It is a simple practice that supports clarity in direction and decision-making, yet many leaders either don’t do it or don’t do it well. Their Leadership Challenge values card sort is one of the great tools they offer to help you define values.


Bottomline | This book provides a well-researched, complete set of fundamental leadership practices. If you could only have one book this would be it.

In Action | I recently gave this book to a client who had taken over a new team. The values exercise was the first thing she did in establishing and connecting the team to what it stood for.


What I Love | This book does a great job of breaking down important leadership concepts and providing practical exercises to help you make use of them. Now in its 6th edition, it’s both well researched and pragmatic. You will walk away with a clear idea of why leaders need to define and articulate values and vision, in addition to other practices, and it gives you tools to do it.

About the Authors | James Kouzes and Barry Posner are internationally renowned scholars associated with the Leavey School of Business in Santa Clara (both now are Fellows and Professors, Posner was the Dean for 12 years).

For Your Improvement | Corcoran Leadership

For Your Improvement

FYI | For Your Improvement

Korn Ferry

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A Taste | “One of the competencies in FYI is called Interpersonal Savvy. The chapter on this competency describes relating openly and comfortably with diverse groups of people. It defines in detail what skilled Interpersonal Savvy looks like (e.g. “picks up on interpersonal and group dynamics”) and what less skilled looks like (e.g. “shows little interest in others’ needs”). It also offers a number of ways to support building the skill.


Bottomline | This is the complete encyclopedia and “how to” guide for all the leadership skills. It names them, explains what they mean and provides multiple ideas for developing them.

In Action | One of my clients had a direct report who others complained was aloof and cold. As a result, people didn’t want to interact with him and worked around him. My client was struggling with how to explain this blindspot in a clear, understandable way so that together they could discuss a path forward. The Interpersonal Savvy chapter in FYI gave my client the language needed to help the direct report see and understand the problem. Together, armed with the information about what skilled Interpersonal Savvy looks like and with lots of effort on both of their parts, they were able to ultimately resolve the issue.


What I Love | This guide provides clear language and development ideas to a well researched and complete set of 38 leadership competencies (a chapter is devoted to each competency) relevant across organizations and globally. I give this to many clients to help them see what leadership competencies are. This is useful as a way to reflect on their own performance and that of their direct reports.

About the Authors | Robert W. Eichinger, Ph.D. and Michael M. Lombardo, Ed.D. wrote the first book in the 1990s. Their firm Lominger was acquired by Korn Ferry in 2006. This guide has become a gold standard among leadership academics and coaches alike. It is based on strong research and continually updated.

Nine Types of Leadership | Corcoran Leadership

Nine Types of Leadership

Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace

Beatrice Chestnut, Ph.D.

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A Taste | “The Enneagram is a personality typing system that outlines nine different types, each representing a distinct worldview and core motivations. These motivations can contribute to making leadership skills easy or hard to do.


Bottomline | A clear guide to identifying the core motivations that inspire and limit leadership behavior.

In Action | Recently, I have been giving this book to clients who are hitting the wall of their own effectiveness—they have exhausted the possibilities that result when they operate as they always have and realize they need to explore new ways. This book can jumpstart their insight into their operating system, and suggest how to evolve their ways of thinking and acting to more appropriately meet whatever challenge it is that they are facing.


What I Love | It’s a great tool for understanding your own strengths and blind spots as well as those of anyone you are managing. I think of this book like a map that can help you identify what leadership competencies come easily to you and what you likely need to develop. Pair it with Korn Ferry’s FYI to more deeply understand this territory!

About the Author | Beatrice Chestnut is a Bay Area local who published this book in early 2017. She’s a well regarded Enneagram expert and clinical psychologist who balances psychological depth with real world business application.

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As managing principal of Corcoran Leadership, Heather is a seasoned Executive Coach that helps leaders get to where they want and need to be. Learn more about Heather, connect with her on LinkedIn, send her an Email, or just call 415.991.5177.