Based on many years of experience, research and thousands of hours of coaching, I have reviewed hundreds of books. Here are my reviews of the best books (and two PDFs) for your Growth, Achievement and Leadership.
Personal Mastery Reading List
Training programs come and go but mastery is forever. Save your money and your time and begin investing in your most valuable asset YOU! I promise you will quickly see that self-education and self-development is the most powerful and effective way to continually expand your ability to create the results in life that you truly desire.
Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune. – Jim Rohn
For Best Results Read This Book First:
High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies For Your Ascent is a comprehensive and foundational overview of how to interpret and digest everything you’ll read on this list. The book distills the most fundamental and important ideas in leadership, business and psychology, in a single volume.
I strongly recommend reading this book first. You will get much more out of the other books and develop based on your preferences, plans and desires.
The Sine qua non of leadership development and personal growth.
Pithy without being overdone.
Easy to digest, intricate enough to make me pause and will challenge me to put it to work in my day-to-day life.
Simple. Straightforward and elegant…. leadership boiled down to the essentials.
Great book. Easy to read but the lessons are valuable.
The High Impact Leadership Manifesto, by Brian Braudis
To learn more about the criteria used to develop a list of the best books for your Growth, Achievement and Leadership, download the High Impact Leadership Manifesto.
You will find it an inspirational starting point, you get answers as to where to start, what to work on each day, the mindset to adopt and approaches to embrace. Brian helps you develop, achieve, advance and LEAD with decisiveness, conviction and resolve.
What Makes A Leader, by Daniel Goleman
Skilled executives with excellent technical abilities are promoted into leadership positions and they derail. While others who may seem like average performers excel when promoted.
As you climb the organizational ladder to the highest rungs technical abilities matter less and what comes to the surface as defining factors for effectiveness are the components of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills distinguish great leaders and superior performance. These components are expressed as self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, trustworthiness and integrity, a drive for achievement, cultural sensitivity, and team building. Goleman acknowledges that some of these factors are easier to observe than others. But assures us that emotional intelligence can be developed with effort. This is the defining paper that started all the interest in emotional intelligence.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey
This is a seminal book on reinvention, achievement and impact. Covey spells out what is important. You begin thinking of leadership as a continuum—leading with impact from the miniscule tedium of daily life to the start-up, or to the Director’s chair.
As Covey hints, leadership is everything. Begin leading yourself well and if you get that right everything else will fall into place but not without work and struggle. The 7 Habits requires work. But if you can visualize the end result and the reward, you will have no trouble applying what is here. Seeing is believing but if you first don’t believe you can, you may never see.
This book thoroughly describes the necessary steps to take in sequential order and it’s easy to read, a challenge with rewards waiting to be seized. Continuous improvement is implied in the way of perspective; Covey calls it a paradigm shift. He explains, work to be open minded, always looking to improve how we perceive, adopt and adapt our thinking to the ever-changing world.
How To Win Friends And Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
Deceptively basic tenets of human relations and personal change, learn how to:
- Magnificently handle people including yourself.
- Get people to like you and learn to enjoy others
- Win people to your way of thinking and be open minded to others’ way of thinking.
- Change people without causing resentment and change yourself while staying true to yourself.
Written in an engaging way with enjoyable stories of famous people. The stories demonstrate how famous people such as Abraham Lincoln, Charles Schwab, Ben Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt grew, learned and evolved into the successes that we all know them to be. Greatness really is self-taught. The real-life lessons are here for you to emulate.
Think And Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill
This is the definitive book on achievement. When you are stretching out of your comfort zone and blowing past perceived limitations, Napoleon Hill reminds you that all is well. What you are attempting has been done before and you certainly can live the life you choose. He writes, “Sometimes we foolishly believe that our own limitations are the proper measure of limitations.”
Hill goes into great detail as to what is necessary for achievement. “Thoughts are things and riches begin in the form of thought.” Aligning what you want with what you do is crucial.
What Hill shares in this book is what famous and wealthy people do but don’t talk about. He spells out how to use your power, your gifts and your burning desire to become everything you desire.
Mastery, by George Leonard
If you are interested in savoring life, exceeding previous limits and breaking out of the status quo, you will enjoy this little book. Leonard describes mastery as “The mysterious process during which what is at first difficult becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable with practice.” Read this book and discover a design for long-term success and fulfillment.
On Leadership, by John W. Gardner
In this classic work, Gardner points to how the context and resistance in external systems—that create difficulty for leaders, is overridden by “leadership” that moves in any direction. The best leaders make their impact felt through unconventional methods.
Gardner’s insights include:
- Most people who have power are without leadership gifts.
- The first step is not action, it’s understanding.
- Values decay over time without rejuvenation.
- Executives are given subordinates but earn followers.
- Our federal government is the biggest carrot-and-stick warehouse in the world.
Taking a positive view is not something that effective leaders have to work at. It is in their temperament, and no doubt had much to do with their attainment of a leadership role. It may have been a leader who said, I’d be a pessimist but it would never work.
Gardner promotes the idea that individual development and renewal be built into corporate developmental practices. Human talent and energy is too often overlooked—“as though technology invented itself.” He speaks of the swift transitions ahead and our most unquestionable assets being motivated men and women guaranteeing our future with their ideas.
Gardner says, “ What is needed is an attitude, widely shared throughout the society, toward individual growth, through development and learning in the context of our shared values—an attitude that sees learning as lifelong, that never ceases to seek out the undiscovered possibilities in each of us.”
Even though this book was written some time ago it remains relevant to today’s issues.
The Effective Executive, by Peter Drucker
The over arching message of this book is self-development leads to effectiveness and ultimately organizational improvement.
Drucker makes the point early on that we do not come by effective executive status without development. Executive effectiveness is learned but it cannot be taught. It is not a “subject” it is a discipline that is activated through self, a “self-discipline.” He points to time as the most valuable and critical asset for effectiveness. To this end he recommends a focus on results rather than effort stating, “Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.”
This classic piece is focused on improvement. Making a difference, building personal strengths, and the strengths of others. Throughout the book the question of “What makes for effectiveness” resounds. The development of executive effectiveness raises the bar from preoccupation with problems to what is possible. From an over concern with weakness to exploitation of strengths.
Drucker explains near the close of the book, “Organizations are not more effective because they have better people. They have better people because they motivate to self-development through their standards, through their habits, through their climate. And these in turn, result from systematic, focused, purposeful self-training of the individuals in becoming effective executives.” Copious and applicable insight from the father of management.
For Your Improvement, by Lombardo and Eichinger
For Your Improvement (FYI) offers a comprehensive list and description of competencies needed for leadership, according to the Lominger Group.
The book describes 67 competencies, 10 performance dimensions, 19 career stallers and stoppers, and 7 international focus areas. What to do, what not to do, what to look for….it’s like having a mentor on your desktop.
If you have recognized areas where personal growth may help you or you have questions about your boss’s behavior, this is the definitive guide to what you see and experience in the workplace.
Some of what you will learn:
- Business acumen.
- Learning on the fly.
- Dealing with trouble.
- How to recognize an overused skill.
- What overly ambitious looks like.
- The effects of lack of composure.
- The cost of insensitivity.
- Why cultural agility is important.
This book offers a great model. But what’s most important is how you interact with the model. How you express yourself through the use of these ideas is what’s most powerful.
The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge
Senge expounds on the idea that learning is an organization’s competitive advantage. He teaches you how to rid yourself of “learning disabilities.” Senge is a believer that mindsets, beliefs and assumptions are oftentimes mythical—why we believe in them is a mystery and they confine and limit our actions. Fundamental ideas of the book include:
- Why personal mastery is essential.
- To become a better leader we must first become a better human being.
- Our thoughts and subsequent actions create our reality.
- Our mental models limit our choices and thus, our actions.
- Any system is essentially a feedback process.
- Short-term gains are limiting without long-term commitment.
The concepts in this book harnessed with an open-minded leadership team could create a new/better workplace. Just thinking about it stirs excitement.
Maintaining Your Momentum
Learned Optimism, byMartin Seligman
When I met Martin Seligman a few years after this book was published he emphasized how his research has caused his thinking to evolve even higher since first publishing this book. He stressed, work and focus intensely on creating well being. Give less effort to reducing stress and removing what’s wrong. The most effective way to live your best life is to focus on creating well-being.
Learned Optimism is subtitled, How To Change Your Mind and Your Life. It couldn’t be clearer. The distilled message here is that the individual can act on himself and improve. The self-improvement “drivel” is not drivel at all. Self-improving efforts actually do improve the self. There are highly reliable ways to change and improve. You can lose weight, get in the best shape of your life and become the person you dream about becoming. You can become a high-impact leader.
This well-researched book will offer options to rethink your habits of thought and patterns of behavior. For example, how you explain and rationalize a setback or failure can determine your final results. Research shows that after defeat, optimists get better, faster, smarter, pessimists decline, get worse and slower. The difference is their explanatory style.
The War Of Art, by Steven Pressfield
Whether you are working toward your own business, a start-up, writing, a fitness goal or becoming your best self, you will encounter roadblocks. This book helps you maintain momentum.
Based on the premise, if you can name it you can tame it, Pressfield has written the definitive book on resistance. Topics include:
- Resistance and procrastination.
- Resistance and self-doubt.
- Resistance and self-medication.
- Resistance and avoidance.
- Resistance and unhappiness.
Pressfield helps you understand yourself when creative frustration causes dissonance, problems and conflict.
Resistance causes discomfort and is the primary reason we avoid….and it will be strongest when pursuing something that matters a great deal to you. If your lifelong dream is to write, a publisher’s rejection letter might sink you into depression. But if you only submit a piece on a whim, it won’t faze you.
Pressfield says the antidote to resistance is show up like a “pro” everyday for the work you want to do, keep going and keep striving.
Linchpin, by Seth Godin
This book is about how your attitudes and actions affect you, your future, your potential and your impact. Godin wants you to recognize the incredible capability you have to deliver impact. Also, he wants you to recognize when you do something… “anyone could have done it but anyone didn’t, YOU did.”
The message is, small things are important, significant, impactful, and they add up to big things! When other people say, “I could have written that book, painted that painting,” they’re missing it. It’s not the book, it’s the art, insight, bravery and courage to step up that makes the impact. This is great inspiration for you to keep going and keep creating.