The List: 10 Books to Improve Leadership Development

For many people, leadership seems to be that one skill that you either have or you don’t. And those same people struggle with believing that they just “don’t” have it. It’s simply not true. While truly astounding leaders seem to have a gift for taking charge and getting it right every time, there’s plenty that aspiring leaders can learn while they work their way up to astounding. Here are some of my favorite books on developing your skills, particularly decision-making and negotiation – two very important leadership traits that can most certainly be learned.

Leadership development

  1. Winning Decisions, by J. Edward Russo and Paul J. H. Schoemaker

If you want to get your next big decision right the first time, you might want to pick up this book. The book provides insights into reframing issues to get to the heart of the problem, improving your leadership development, decision-making options, and converting conflicting opinions into helpful information. It’s filled with worksheets, tools, questionnaires, case studies and anecdotes on the decision-making process from organizations like British Airways, NASA, Shell Oil and Pepsi.

  1. Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Where Winning Decisions focuses on making the right decisions quickly and effectively, Nudge focuses on making the right choices … for ourselves, for our families and for our careers. Through behavioral science research, the book delves into “choice architecture,” which helps us to make the best decisions without limiting our freedom of choice.

  1. Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman

Another exploration on decision-making, Daniel Kahneman’s book explores the mental blocks that prevent us from making good decisions, and from seeing that our decisions may have been flawed. According to the author, his goal is to, “Improve the ability to identify and understand errors of judgment and choice, in others and eventually in ourselves, by providing a richer and more precise language to discuss them.”

  1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini

Focused on persuasion, the book looks at the psychological reasons people say yes to certain things and how to apply these concepts into your own approach. The author’s method of providing many real-life case studies that are relatable and relevant to our collective experiences (mostly through marketing), adds to the impact of his theories. For more information, he provides a website:

  1. Mindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel and Want, by Nicholas Epley

Nicholas Epley’s book addresses some compelling questions: How good are you at knowing the minds of others? How well can you guess what others think of you, know who really likes you, or tell when someone is lying? Do you really know what your coworkers, employees, competitors, or clients want?  The book ultimately arms you with the wisdom to change how you think about others … and yourself.

  1. Conceptual Blockbusting: A Guide to Better Ideas, James L. Adams

For those of us who have struggled with creativity, especially when under the pressure of a deadline, James Adams provides a unique approach to unleashing creativity while integrating insights from psychology, engineering, management, art and philosophy. The book uses unconventional exercises and interactive elements to get teams thinking in alternative ways to solve complex problems.

  1. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton

A good leadership development list would be nothing without at least one book on negotiation, and this one is a classic that has stood the test of time. Based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, this book offers methods and insights on all levels of negotiation and conflict resolution. As much as it’s a must for new and emerging business leaders, it will also have impactful influence on your personal relationships, as well … a definite bonus.

  1. Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People, G. Richard Shell

Another stellar book on negotiation, this one evolved from The Wharton Executive Negotiation Workshop. In this book, Richard Shell explores effective bargaining tactics, his “Negotiation I.Q.” test, best practices from some of the world’s top negotiators, and insights on leveraging bargaining power to your advantage.

  1. Negotiating Rationally, Max H. Bazerman and Margaret A. Neale

While this book starts out with a bit of a dig on Getting to Yes, it’s still a great book on achieving the mindset of someone who can negotiate effectively. If negotiation is truly a skill you need to strengthen, then reading each of the three books on this list will help you cultivate the right mindset, develop a strategy for success, and implement methods and techniques that will help you succeed. It’s important to note that a truly effective leader has cultivated strong negotiation skills by the time he or she has reached the upper echelons of a company.

  1. Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, Sally Hogshead

Sally Hogshead’s book explores the concepts of likability, respect and trust through the seven fascination triggers: lust, mystique, alarm, prestige, power, vice and trust. She has recently developed a popular questionnaire focused on the 28 personality archetypes that give you the “Fascination Advantage.” You can find more information on her questionnaire, research and report here:

Need help to improve your leadership development? Christina Holloway provides expert coaching services that can help you achieve your goals. Contact Christina today to learn more!

Christina Holloway