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9 must-read leadership books for business professionals

Want to progress your leadership skills? Check out recommendations from University of Florida Warrington College of Business faculty and staff. 

Glue: How Project Leaders Create Cohesive, Engaged, High-Performing Teams

Glue: How Project Leaders Create Cohesive, Engaged, High-Performing Teams

By Anh Dao Pham

“This book is a hidden gem for aspiring leaders and project managers. Every leader engages in project management in some capacity, even if it’s not their main role. Glue easily provides a step-by-step process on how to make sure projects and teams run effectively and efficiently. Understanding how you as a leader can become the ‘glue’ for your own respective team, whether personally or professionally, is an underrated skill that will set up for long-term success.”

– Tara Routie, Career Coach, Business Career Services

Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times

Lincoln on Leadership: Executive Strategies for Tough Times

By Donald T. Phillips

“Only ten days before Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office in 1861, the Confederate States of America seceded from the Union taking all Federal agencies, forts, and arsenals within their territory. To make matters worse, Lincoln, who was elected by a minority of the popular vote, was viewed by his own advisors as nothing more than a gawky, second-rate country lawyer with no leadership experience. What Lincoln did to become our most honored and revered president is history, how he can help you to run your organization is not. Lincoln On Leadership is the first book to examine Abraham Lincoln’s diverse leadership abilities and how they can be applied to today’s complex world. You’ll discover why you should:

* Seize the initiative and never relinquish it

* Wage only one war at a time

* Encourage risk-taking while providing job security

* Avoid issuing orders and instead – request, imply, or make suggestions”

– Brian Ray, Instructional Professor of Leadership & Ethics, Management Department

The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature

The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature

By Gad Saad

“Saad uses our biological evolutionary heritage to explain the choices we make. He maps what we do to four key Darwinian drives, namely, survival, reproduction, bias for people we view as related to us, and reciprocal altruism. The lessons apply to our behaviors in society and business, and to our decisions as consumers.”

– Mark Jamison, Director and Gunter Professor, Public Utility Research Center

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

By Jocko Willink

“If you’re a business school student or professional seeking to excel in leadership and management, ‘Extreme Ownership’ by Jocko Willink is a must-read. Drawing on their experiences as Navy SEAL officers, Willink and co-author Leif Babin provide invaluable insights into effective leadership strategies that are directly applicable to the business world.

‘Extreme Ownership’ emphasizes the importance of taking full responsibility for your actions and decisions, a crucial mindset for success in any business endeavor. Willink and Babin’s real-world examples from combat situations translate seamlessly into lessons for corporate leadership, illustrating the power of accountability and decisiveness in achieving goals.

What sets this book apart is its practicality. Each chapter concludes with actionable principles that can be implemented immediately in business scenarios, making it an ideal companion for those navigating the complexities of organizational dynamics. Whether you aspire to lead teams, manage projects, or drive innovation, the principles of extreme ownership will equip you with the tools to inspire and motivate others towards success.

‘Extreme Ownership’ will challenge you to elevate your leadership skills, instilling the mindset of ownership, discipline, and effective communication that are essential for driving positive change in any business environment.”

– Houston Bailey, Associate Director, Graduate Business Career Services

Leadership: Theory & Practice

Leadership: Theory & Practice

By Peter G. Northouse

“This book is the standard for most if not all academic programs based on leadership. The University of Florida’s Leadership department uses this as their textbook. The book contains a breakdown of the history of the study of leadership and its origins at the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. It also provides analysis of different leadership strategies that help the reader identify their own personal leadership philosophy.”

– Heath Davis, Student Engagement Coordinator, UF MBA

Spin Selling

SPIN Selling

By Neil Rackham

“Mastering the art of sales is a critical stepping stone for anyone aiming to excel in business leadership. Understanding and engaging in the sales process drives company success and sharpens a leader’s ability to influence and achieve strategic goals. ‘SPIN Selling’ by Neil Rackham is an essential read for business leaders due to its evidence-based, consultative selling approach. Unlike traditional sales methods, SPIN Selling is built on extensive research, analyzing thousands of sales interactions to derive a robust methodology that promises consistent sales success. This book introduces the SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-payoff) technique. This revolutionary approach shifts focus from the seller to the buyer, encouraging sellers to engage deeply with customer challenges. Such engagement is crucial for leaders who foster a customer-centric culture within their organizations, enhancing their ability to solve real-world problems and strengthen customer relationships. Furthermore, SPIN Selling is invaluable in developing vital communication skills such as effective questioning, active listening, and persuasive speaking—skills that transcend sales and are critical in all leadership scenarios. Overall, SPIN Selling equips business leaders with the tactics to improve sales figures and a comprehensive skill set that enhances their leadership capabilities, making it a fundamental resource for anyone aspiring to lead in the business world.”

– Mike Carrillo, Clinical Assistant Professor, Marketing Department 

Daring Visionaries: How Entrepreneurs Build Companies, Inspire Allegiance, and Create Wealth

Daring Visionaries: How Entrepreneurs Build Companies, Inspire Allegiance, and Create Wealth

By Ray Smilor

“Daring Visionaries contains the practical secrets that have given some entrepreneurs phenomenal success. Ray Smilor discovers the spirit which drives successful entrepreneurs to overcome obstacles, persist in the face of adversity and succeed in a hostile market-place.”

– Jamie Kraft, Director, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center

Career Magic:How To Stay On Track To Achieve A Stellar Career

Career Magic: How To Stay On Track To Achieve A Stellar Career

By Lee Cockerell

“Mr. Lee Cockerell started from humble beginnings as a college dropout, but was able to create a great career for himself with major companies like Hilton, Marriott, and Disney. This book tells the tales of how he navigated hurdles in his life and rose through the ranks of these companies, eventually becoming the Executive Vice President of Operations for Walt Disney World. This book will help business professionals succeed in a leadership capacity by providing strategies of leadership used to manage a team of 40,000 employees, 20 resort hotels, four major theme parks, and much more! I, myself, have found inspiration in my own career in higher education that I use daily when working with students in my program.”

– Ryan Chin-Hing, Academic Advisor, Information Systems & Operations Management Department

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

By Angela Duckworth

“Angela Duckworth’s ‘Grit’ is essential for business leaders because it highlights the vital role of perseverance and passion in achieving lasting success. As leaders, challenges are constant and setbacks are inevitable, so cultivating resilience is paramount. Duckworth’s research demonstrates that grit—a combination of passion and perseverance—is a key predictor of achievement, usually surpassing talent or intelligence alone.

By delving into the components of grit and providing actionable strategies for its cultivation, ‘Grit’ empowers leaders and managers to foster a culture of determination and resilience within their teams. Through understanding the importance of aligning personal passions with professional goals and instilling a growth mindset, leaders can inspire their teams to persist in the face of adversity, drive performance, and ultimately achieve long-term success in their leadership capacity.”

– Carly Escue, Director, Graduate Business Career Services

Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential

Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential

By Brian Johnson

“Leadership development is self-development. The best leaders are the best learners.

You will learn and develop a ton from this book. It is a compilation of the best ideas from 100’s of books.

Great or the greatest book of all time?

Within 1 year of studying Brian’s work, my wife said I was 80% more thoughtful and kind and a 40% overall better person. 100’s of life-changing ideas included.”

– Adrian Gritz, Application Developer Analyst IV, Technology Solutions