Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 | By: Mike Donahue

My Top 10 Leadership Reading List

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Twice this month, people have asked what books on leadership I recommend. Here’s my Top 10 list, with comments.

1. The Five Temptations of the CEO by Patrick Lencioni

This book isn’t for just CEOs; it should be titled “The Five Temptations of the Leader.” I make it required reading for all my executive coaching clients.

2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

This book mirrors Lencioni’s Five Temptations of the CEO. It’s an excellent follow-up to his first book and a great guide to leading a team and running effective meetings.

3. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Pressfield didn’t intend to write a book on leadership, but he did. It’s an easy read and two members of my leadership peer groups call it a game changer. If you’re going to read just one book on this list, make it this one.


4. Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney

The author shares the leadership lessons he learned as a member of The Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order also known as the Jesuits. Though this book isn’t for everyone, it’s been on my Top 5 list not just because of the impact it’s had on me, but also because of how I use it in my coaching.

5. Leadership: Thinking, Being Doing Second Edition by Lee Thayer

Thayer’s books aren’t easy reads. Take it a chapter at a time. Skip around; read the chapters that interest you as if they were a series of articles.

6. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

This is one of the best selling books of all time. The first half chronicles Frankl’s time as prisoner in a concentration camp in WWII. In the second half, he discusses what he called logotherapy, success v. fulfillment and the importance of discovering your mission or purpose in life.


7. Managing Thought by Mary Lore

Inspiration for this book came to Mary from two sources, her own journey as an entrepreneur and her time as a Vistage group chair working with small and midsized business owners. Mary spoke to two of my leadership groups over the years; she understands that much of leadership is about being and dealing with that voice in our heads that disputes our thinking 24/7.

8. Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

Like Mary Lore, Susan Scott is a former Vistage chair. This is an excellent book on coaching executives and my #1 resource when I started coaching. I’ll be blogging about Fierce Conversations before the end of the month.


9. Becoming a Resonant Leader by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis and Frances Johnston

Annie McKee is a highly regarded executive coach and Dr. Boyatzis is an expert on emotional intelligence and behavior change. This is a workbook that I’ve used to improve my own emotional intelligence and as a tool in my one on one coaching as well.

10. A Failure of Nerve by Edwin H. Friedman

Friedman was a rabbi and family therapist who began writing about leadership when he saw how the members of dysfunctional families played roles not unlike people in dysfunctional organizations. My friend, No Sweat Kosinski blogged about Friedman’s book on Feb 24 and again on March 17.

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Posted in: Leadership, Leadership Books | 2 Comments »

2 responses to My Top 10 Leadership Reading List

  1. Good blog post. I certainly love this website. Continue the good work!

  2. This is a really good tip particularly to those new to the blogosphere.

    Short but very precise info… Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read post!