12 Books That Every Leader Should Read in 2017

In the modern business environment, the greatest leaders continually learn and reinvent themselves to adjust to change. As the marketplace develops, experts from various disciplines offer insights about the latest industry trends and reveal exciting successes and breakthroughs. As we apply lessons learned, some quickly become obsolete while others are “classic” solutions worth revisiting and reapplying. Consequently, effective leaders never cease learning how to best manage their operations. By examining the lessons revealed by others, leaders successfully guide their organizations forward.

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Learning for Leaders

Effective organizational heads consistently consult trade resources to learn about the latest industry developments and use that information to lead their organizations forward. [1] This requires quick adaptation to change and commitment to continual reinvention. Therefore, leaders continually acquire new information or reconfirmed strategies for a world where much knowledge and many skills have a short lifespan. The following is a recommended list of books acknowledged as exceedingly useful among leadership circles.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t by Jim Collins

This funny, readable book by leadership educator Jim Collins discusses his research and other findings considering a key question. Why do some firms achieve long-term success? In his book, Collins examines many of the most successful organizations for common traits and offers pithy advice such as “Get the right people on the bus.”

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

This classic from the sixth century BC remains one of the most insightful strategy tomes published ever, with leaders from around the world including the volume in their toolkit. Originally penned for military use, various organizations now integrate Sun Tzu’s philosophies into their corporate culture to contend in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

Penned by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, this work explores corporate culture in the firm that has revolutionized the footwear industry. In this work, Hsieh – in his unique perspective – highlights a different kind of business culture by revealing the business lessons he learned during his career.

The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits by C. K. Prahalad

Professor of Business Strategy C. K. Prahalad contemplates entrepreneurship in undeveloped regions in this enlightening text. The book offers empirical evidence that such an endeavor is not only feasible – but possible.

Stand Out by Dorie Clark

In this narrative, marketing strategy consultant Dorie Clark enlists a modern spin on working smarter. The award-winning consultant writes about developing forward thinking and suggests tactics to help leaders discover and promote new ideas. Using these concepts, leaders reinvent business processes and ensure their career success.

People Over Profit by Dale Partridge

In his bestselling book, renowned brand expert Dale Partridge shares his insights on investing in human capital. The high-tech entrepreneur discusses running organizations from a perspective that revolves around people rather than profits and explores ways to run enterprises incorporating moral values as well as the emotions hidden behind corporate life.

Team Genius by Rich Karlgaard and Michael S. Malone

In this insightful chronicle, Forbes Magazine publisher Rich Karlgaard and technology expert Michael Malone examine teamwork. The text incorporates personal experiences with scientific research to present solutions that help leaders remain competitive.

Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

In this work, advertising expert Linda Kaplan Thaler and youth advocate Robin Koval retell inspiring tales of perseverance. [2] The book also reveals the latest success research and offers strategies to help leaders remain focused in today’s demanding business environment.

Leading Across New Borders: How to Succeed as the Center Shifts by Ernest Gundling and Christi Caldwell

Leading strategists Ernest Gundling and Christi Caldwell examine leadership in a business environment with steadily expanding borders. The experts provide tools and advice, as well as detailed insights, into the emerging international markets.

Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Known for his ability to demonstrate the secrets that lie behind personal and professional success, Gladwell’s first book demonstrates the power of the tipping point phenomenon – the point when an idea or trend reaches a turning point and suddenly becomes the next viral sensation. This best seller can help any leader to gain both a better understanding and a new perspective of how to sell products, disseminate ideas, or flip a trend. It is no wonder why Donald Rumsfeld himself believes this book should be added to everyone’s vocabulary.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

It’s no secret that JK Rowling’s seven book series was a worldwide phenomenon, but the magical world she creates can also go to show the importance of perseverance, bravery, and creative problem solving. Although administrators will never need to defeat a dementor, Harry Potter’s story can help anyone to better understand the power of dedicated leadership in the face of challenging times.

Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

In business, it may seem as if some challenges are insurmountable, but Kidder’s story of a man on a mission to cure the world is an inspirational ode to anyone facing the impossible. As a Pulitzer Prize winner, Tracy Kidder eloquently demonstrates how beautiful the world is even though at times it may seem as if it’s problems are endless and unrelenting.

Why Continual Learning Matters

In today’s rapidly changing and expanding business climate, continual learning is critical. Effective leaders evolve by combining their knowledge with the experiences of others and evaluating the best actions to take in an ever changing work setting.

Industry experts consistently share their retellings of new, informative and inventive developments. These developments remain innovative for short periods. Therefore, understanding the current marketplace is a continual process of renewal that effective leaders pursue regularly.

Learn More

By learning more about the University of San Francisco Online Master of Public Administration (MPA), you will be taking an important first step toward pursuing your professional goals and commitment to social justice. Our program is designed for professionals who want to become effective managers and civic leaders who affect change through policy management and advocacy.


Mondalek, A., & Lubin, G. (2013, August 02). 27 Business Leaders Name Their Favorite Books Ever. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from http://www.businessinsider.com/27-business-leaders-name-their-favorite-books-ever-2013-8
Stewart, K. S. (2011, August 16). Best Leadership Books of All Time. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from http://www.inc.com/ss/best-leadership-books-of-all-time
Taylor, I. (2016, November 25). 10 New Leadership Books You Must Read in 2016. Retrieved January 31, 2017, from http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/12/best-leadership-books-list-2016.html
The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer. (2003, October 20). Retrieved January 31, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1472188

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