10 New Leadership Books You Must Read in 2016

As the year winds to a close, you’re probably taking a look back at your year and taking a hard look at what worked, what didn’t and starting to craft some goals and strategies for the new year.  If improving, growing or transforming yourself as a leader is on your list (and it probably should be), then you’ll want to take a look at this leadership books list of newly released books on the topic.

One thing I’ve come to notice as review copies of books land on my doorstep is the subtle trends that they reveal about any given topic. When it comes to leadership, the leadership books on this list reveal a couple of things I think you should know and be aware of if you want to reach your goals in 2016.


Don’t Give Up – Be Persistent, Be Consistent

best leadership books list 2016Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary

By Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval

Do you compare yourself to leaders like Steve Jobs, Colin Powell or Alibaba founder Jack Ma and think they must have been born special and you weren’t? As it turns out, each of these leaders was utterly ordinary growing up.  It’s not about being extraordinary or having high self-esteem.  It’s about having GRIT. That special kind of pluck that includes guts, resilience, initiative and tenacity — and these are all elements of choice. “Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary and its author Linda Kaplan Thaler (@LindaThaler2) shows you how to incorporate them into your business and your life.

best leadership books list 2016Leading with GRIT: Inspiring Action and Accountability with Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth

By Laurie Sudbrink 

Are you feeling miserable about your business and/or your life? Author Laurie Sudbrink (@LaurieSudbrinkstarts “Leading with GRIT: Inspiring Action and Accountability with Generosity, Respect, Integrity, and Truth with a powerful observation of herself – that she was choosing to have a bad day.  Well, if you can choose to have a miserable day, you can certainly choose to have a great day. Don’t worry, there’s a process for that and the author walks you through her GRIT® process: Generosity, Respect, Integrity and Truth.  There’s an assessment you can take and lots of opportunities to practice. And before you know it, you will have created a powerful life for yourself and example for your team.

best leadership books list 2016Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed

By George S. Everly Jr. and Douglas A. Strouse

A Navy SEAL, a stress management expert and an entrepreneur walk into a bar.  No, actually they got together and explored the leadership dynamic that allows some people to rise above adversity and excel under pressure, while others choke.  After interviewing more than 1,000 highly resilient people working in extremely stressful professions, they’ve identified the traits that define the most resilient people on Earth and how you can develop those same attributes at any age.  Don’t worry, there are self assessments, engaging stories and prescriptions in “Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed that will teach you how to build your resilience and lead successfully in any situation.

Lead as a Team

best leadership books list 2016Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

By Jocko Willink and Leif Babin 

If you’re looking for a way to get your leadership testosterone on, it doesn’t get any better than getting some leadership tips from the Navy SEALs.  “Without a team”, the authors say, “There can be no leadership”. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win takes lessons from SEAL training and operations and applies them to business leadership.  At the core is the idea of leading as a team.  In addition to that, the SEALs (@JockoWillink) and (@LeifBabin) have their own way of learning from failure that they share with you.  If you’re a military buff, this is a wonderful read.

best leadership books list 2016Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season

By Urban Meyer and Wayne Coffey 

With football season in full swing, why not combine your love for the game with some leadership lessons?  Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer (@UrbanMeyer) and New York Times sports writer Wayne Coffey (@wr_Coffey) team up to deliver a leadership lessons that will easily translate from the gridiron to your business and your life in “Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season.” You’ll cheer, you’ll wring your hands, you might even shed a tear or two. Whether or not you’re a football fan, you’ll appreciate the lessons and the skillful storytelling in this sports inspired leadership book.

best leadership books list 2016Leading Across New Borders: How to Succeed as the Center Shifts” 

By Ernest Gundling and Christi Caldwell 

Leading a global organization is no longer reserved for big businesses.  Even a solopreneur can be leading a virtual team that includes people from all over the world.  The authors (@ChristiCaldwell) challenge old assumptions about what it means to manage and grow a global business. In “Leading Across New Borders: How to Succeed as the Center Shifts, you’ll get examples from current executive and leaders who are trying to grow their business and cultivate future talent.

best leadership books list 2016Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership

By Harry M. Kraemer 

If you are committed to developing your leadership style around your core values, then “Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership is an ideal book for you. It’s a follow up from the author (@HarryKraemerJr) and his bestseller, “From Values to Action” and outlines a clear path towards becoming your best self, developing a team that understands and appreciates what they are doing and why, helps you lay out a path toward the vision of your organization and shows you how to make a real difference in the world.

best leadership books list 2016Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today’s Young Talent

By Bruce Tulgan 

More than 1-in-3 Americans in the workforce are Millennials (Ages 18-34). They’ve recently surpassed the number of Gen Xers in the workplace. Studies over the years have shown that while Millennials look-up to previous generations as mentors, the feeling isn’t mutual.  Typical complaints include: “They don’t know how to behave professionally”, “They know how to text, but can’t write a memo”, “They don’t know what to say or how to behave in meetings.”  Author, Bruce Tulgan (@BruceTulgan) says that people get hired because of their hard skills, but often get fired because of these softer skills.  If you’re dealing with a millennial workforce, “Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today’s Young Talent is a must read.  Tulgan uses fast, easy engaging lesson plans that can be completed in less than an hour that participants enjoy participating in.  

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously – It Will All Work Out

best leadership books list 2016Rising Strong

By Brene Brown 

Ever feel like a soft shell crab? You’ve grown beyond the business you have, but not quite into the business you’re building. It’s a vulnerable time and “Rising Strong is the ideal book to be reading as you go through that transition. Social scientist Brene Brown (@BreneBrown) has studied vulnerability for years and discovered that being vulnerable (the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome) is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But how do you get up again after colossal failure and disappointment that comes from being vulnerable? That’s what you’ll learn in this book.

best leadership books list 2016Stupid On Purpose: The Art of Ignoring Good Advice, Doing Whatever The Heck You Want, and Actually Enjoying Your Life

By Mark Messick 

Every book list needs some comic relief and this is it.  “Stupid On Purpose: The Art of Ignoring Good Advice, Doing Whatever The Heck You Want, and Actually Enjoying Your Lifeis a low-cost e-book that is a blast to read, especially if you’re going through a series of academic books on leadership.  Author Mark Messick (@MarklMessick) takes a passionate and humorous approach to leadership and living a life you love. You’ll see yourself in the stories Messick tells and before you know it, you’ll be looking for opportunities to “Do whatever the heck you want” in every aspect of your day – who knows you might even find yourself pursuing a true dream. There’s also something that will surprise you about this author (not telling but I promise you’ll be shocked).

No one leadership book is going to transform your business or your life.  What’s great about seeing a bunch of leadership books as a list is that you can identify a few elements that you want to work on or practice in the next year.  There aren’t too many things in life that you can treat like a “cafeteria”; picking and choose what you want to get out of it. But in this list of new leadership books for small business owners, feel free to grab as many leadership nuggets as you can handle.

Update: For a look at the latest picks on top management books, you’ll want to read Best Management Books for 2017.

Books Image via Shutterstock


Ivana Taylor - Book Editor

Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."

13 Reactions

  1. Hi Ivana,

    Amazing list! I love these sorts of lists because you can just bookmark it and work your way through it during the next year.

    ‘Grit to Great’ and ‘Stronger’ sound great. I know what I’m asking for for Christmas!


  2. HEY Naomi — Great to hear! I’m a total book junkie and loved all of these. I have to admit that I’m pretty hard to buy for, but a book is always appreciated — it’s what you can get for the person who has everything.

  3. Aira Bongco

    I’m already keeping a list of books that I will read for 2016. I am aiming for 1 book per month. That’s the most I will do since I will be busy with work and business most of the time.

  4. Hi Aira – WOW — that is an awesome goal! I really do believe that whether you implement something you learned or not — the good stuff gets in there

  5. Martin Lindeskog

    Ivana: So many books, so little time! 😉

  6. Great list Ivana . I was hunting for leadership books.

  7. Rising Strong is very good book for leadership

  8. Aira Bongco

    Leadership will always play a vital role in businesses. It helps leaders not only deal with their roles but also learn how to manage their people better.

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