6 Books to Inspire your Leadership Approach

The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. So this lockdown, why not replace the time spent on your morning commute with some soft skills upskilling with the help of a good read? Our Activate Leaders Programme Director, Penny Harrison, has shared some of the top business and leadership books for leaders of all levels to build into their skills toolbox. 


  • Playing Big: Find your voice, vision and make things happen, Tara Mohr

Author Tara Mohr began to see a pattern in her work as an expert leadership: the women—who had brilliant leadership talent and the aspirations and ideas to match, weren’t recognising their own brilliance. To them, these women thought that they were playing small in their careers and lives and wanted to play bigger, yet feel like they didn’t know how. To give women like this the practical skills to find their voice and the insight to make it happen, Tara Mohr penned this book. ‘For anyone who feels they’re being held back in their career, this is the book for you’ praised Marie Claire magazine.


  • The coaching habit: Say less, ask more and change the way you lead, Michale Bungay Stanier

Michale Bungay puts forward a great case for coaching in the workplace. But not as we know it necessarily: the book explores how to turn coaching into an informal, effective daily habit all by asking seven essential questions. It’s a great read for managers yet to sink their teeth into coaching, those who might avoid it, think that it’s another thing on the to do list, or that it might be a complicated process to get into swing. On the other hand, it’s a great way of rerouting coaching for managers who might mistakenly believe that they’re coaching already—when in actual fact they may simply be giving advice. 


  • Leaders eat Last (why some teams pull together and others don’t), Simon Sinek

The best workplaces are ones that foster trust and cooperation because leaders, as author Simon Sinek points out, build a ‘circle of safety’ that separates the security inside the team from the challenges outside. Inspired by the work he undertook with different teams around the world, Simon Sinek’s book looks at the difference in levels of trust within teams, and what that means for synergies and their performance. Some teams trust each other so deeply, whereas others—no matter the incentives that are offered—are riddled with infighting, fragmentation and failure. 


  • Lead with a Story, Paul Smith

Penned by the director of Consumer & Communications Research at The Procter & Gamble Company who’s also the leadership and communications trainer for P&G’s management, this book highlights the power of storytelling no matter your industry or position. The reason for this is simple: stories have the ability to engage an audience the way logic and bullet points alone never could. This book is designed to help you harness storytelling in a wide range of business contexts and for all kinds of business challenges. From defining cultures and values, foster innovation, build relationships and aid collaboration, leading change to providing feedback — the power of narrative is yours to harness. 


  • The Advantage: why organisational health trumps everything else, Patrick Lencioni

Competitive advantage doesn’t simply rely on a superior strategy, faster innovation, or smarter staff. This book argues that it’s the health of companies that see them become successful. It carries on from author Patrick M Lencioni’s previous The Five Dysfunctions of a Team to provide an approachable model for organisational health, while explaining why it’s so important. Gone are the days of building competitive advantage simply based on intelligence — maximising human potential and aligning the organisation to common principles is all part of the new equation. 


  • Never Split the Difference, Chris Voss

Life is a series of negotiations you should be prepared for, which this book tackles and equips you with the tools to negotiate life that way. Whether it’s buying a home or car, negotiating a salary or debating with a peer, growing your intuition and emotional intelligence are key. Nine effective principles are shared, along with tactics and strategies to use to be more persuasive in your work and personal life. Also worth noting are author Chris Voss’ TED talks on rapport building, tactical empathy and conflict resolution.