10 leadership books to strengthen your skills in 2020

Check out these books for wisdom to help you lead with courage, compassion, and emotional intelligence in the year ahead
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Looking to take your leadership skills to the next level in 2020? Or are you making a resolution to finally read the stack of books that’s been piling up on your desk? We’ve got you covered with our annual list of leadership must-reads.

The books listed below can help you become a stronger leader in the year ahead. Whether you are looking for lessons from the most successful leaders and organizations of the last decade or new insights to guide your approach to leadership in the next decade, these books can help you lead with more courage, compassion, and emotional intelligence.

Let’s dive in.

The Infinite Game

By: Simon Sinek

Book description (via Amazon): “In this revelatory new book, Simon Sinek offers a framework for leading with an infinite mindset. On one hand, none of us can resist the fleeting thrills of a promotion earned or a tournament won, yet these rewards fade quickly. In pursuit of a Just Cause, we will commit to a vision of a future world so appealing that we will build it week after week, month after month, year after year. Although we do not know the exact form this world will take, working toward it gives our work and our life meaning. Leaders who embrace an infinite mindset build stronger, more innovative, more inspiring organizations. Ultimately, they are the ones who lead us into the future.”

Why you should read it: Leaders who have undergone a digital transformation often tell us that a key learning on their journey was realizing they are never “done” transforming. For anyone dealing with the complexities of an infinite game, as Sinek calls it, in which the endpoint is unknown and priorities, rules, and players are in a constant state of flux, this book might just offer the shift in mindset you need.

[ Are you leading culture change? Get the free eBook, Organize for Innovation, by Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst. ]

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

By: Robert Iger

Book description (via Amazon): “Robert Iger shares the lessons he’s learned while running Disney and leading its 200,000 employees, and he explores the principles that are necessary for true leadership. This book is about the relentless curiosity that has driven Iger for forty-five years, since the day he started as the lowliest studio grunt at ABC. It’s also about thoughtfulness and respect, and a decency-over-dollars approach that has become the bedrock of every project and partnership Iger pursues.”

Why you should read it: Daniel Coyle, author of The Culture Code, called Iger’s memoir “a playbook for handling the key challenges of our age: how to drive change, leverage technology, build an enduring culture, and empower people.” Learn how Iger led with optimism, courage, decisiveness, and fairness to build Disney into the company it is today.

Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth

By: Richard Boyatzis, Melvin L. Smith, and Ellen Van Oosten

Book description (via HBR): “The authors use rich and moving real-life stories, as well as decades of original research, to show how a distinctively positive mode of coaching – what they call ‘coaching with compassion’ – opens people up to thinking creatively and helps them to learn and grow in meaningful and sustainable ways. Filled with probing questions and exercises that encourage self-reflection, 'Helping People Change' will forever alter the way all of us think about and practice what we do when we try to help.”

Why you should read it: If you are working on your emotional intelligence, this book can help. The authors provide a blueprint for inspiring growth and positive change by connecting to “a person’s positive vision of themselves or an inspiring dream or goal they’ve long held.” You’ll learn how great coaches do just that and go from trying to “fix” everyone’s problems to leading them to solutions with compassion and empathy.

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries

By: Safi Bahcall

Book description (via Amazon): “In Loonshots, physicist and entrepreneur Safi Bahcall reveals a surprising new way of thinking about the mysteries of group behavior that challenges everything we thought we knew about nurturing radical breakthroughs. Drawing on the science of phase transitions, Bahcall shows why teams, companies, or any group with a mission will suddenly change from embracing wild new ideas to rigidly rejecting them, just as flowing water will suddenly change into brittle ice. Mountains of print have been written about culture. 'Loonshots' identifies the small shifts in structure that control this transition, the same way that temperature controls the change from water to ice.”

Why you should read it: This book was recommended by Bill Gates, Daniel Kahneman, and Tim Ferriss, and chosen by Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Dan Pink, and Adam Grant as one of the most groundbreaking new nonfiction reads. It made the must-read book lists from Inc., Business Insider, Financial Times, Management Today, Newsweek, and others in 2019. Don’t end the year without picking up this highly esteemed book – it could lead to your breakthrough innovation in 2020.

See Sooner, Act Faster: How Vigilant Leaders Thrive in an Era of Digital Turbulence

By: George S. Day and Paul J. H. Schoemaker

Book description (via MIT): “When turbulence is the new normal, an organization’s survival depends on vigilant leadership that can anticipate threats, spot opportunities, and act quickly when the time is right. Day and Schoemaker describe how to allocate the scarce resource of attention, how to detect weak signals and separate them from background noise, and how to respond strategically before competitors do.”

Why you should read it: In an age when any company can be disrupted, vigilance is a coveted trait. The authors of this book point to examples from Adobe, MasterCard, Charles Schwab, Honeywell, and Amazon to show how vigilant leaders not only act faster but also act wisely to achieve stronger market positions, growth, and organization longevity.

Let’s look at five more books to explore: