Top Books Every Young Influencer / Leader Should Read

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“What are the TOP 5 books ever young influencer/leader should read?”

That’s the question Jason Young and I asked recently in a non-scientific poll that we released primarily via Twitter. We didn’t just ask the question of our followers, we asked several key influencers to join in and share the survey with their followers as well. They did and now we have compiled the results to share with you.

A few points worth noting:

  • Over 200 people completed the survey, each sharing their top 5 recommended books.
  • That’s nearly 1000 books we combed through and put into a simple, easy to read, downloadable PDF. We listed the books by “Vote” which is basically how many times the book appeared or was recommended overall throughout the survey.
  • While the survey respondents varied by all types of backgrounds, the results slanted more from the perspective of those involved with some aspect of ministry. This is primarily due to the number of people in the ministry space who retweeted the survey link.
  • While we were looking for traditional books for the results of this survey, it’s also worthwhile to note that the Bible was the #1 suggested resource overall.

You can download the survey results HERE in a PDF format. Feel free to print and/or share this list with others you know. The whole point was to create a quick reference guide of books that might help and equip young leaders of today and next generation leaders of tomorrow. It does no good if we don’t share it.


Good to Great, Jim Collins
The Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley
How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie
The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership, John Maxwell
Tribes, Seth Godin
Linchpin, Seth Godin
Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi
Crazy Love, Francis Chan
The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
Spiritual Leadership, Oswald Sanders
Axioms, Bill Hybels
Getting Things Done, Dave Allen
The Magic of Thinking Big, David Schwartz
The Dip, Seth Godin
Visioneering, Andy Stanley
Made To Stick, Dan & Chip Heath
Rework, Jason Fried
The Energy Bus, Jon Gordon
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
The Principle of the Path, Andy Stanley
Courageous Leadership, Bill Hybels
Mere Christianity, CS Lewis
Radical, David Platt
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller
The Future of Management, Gary Hamel
Developing the Leader within You, John Maxwell
The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes & Posner
Now Discover Your Strengths, Marcus Buckingham
E-myth, Michael Gerber
The Alchemist, Paolo Coelho
Who Moved My Cheese, Spencer Johnson
Uncommon, Tony Dungy

Do you agree with this list?

What else would you add? Feel free to share your thoughts here.

On a side note, here are a few additional books that I would suggest be added to the list:

SOUP: A Recipe to Nourish Your Team and Culture
The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work
The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success
The 4:8 Principle: The Secret to a Joy-Filled Life
Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • I certainly agree with this list as I have read many of them myself.

    My personal top 5 would be:

    Covey – 7 habits
    Maxwell – 21 Irrefutable laws
    Maxwell – Developing the Leader Within You
    Coelho – The Alchemist
    Anthony Robbins – Unlimited Power

    I've recently picked up Bill Hybels' Axioms, and am enjoying that so far.

    After that, I should be getting hold of some of Andy Stanley's books.

  • Switch by Chip and Dan Heath is also really excellent. Especially if your organization is going through change. But it’s also relevant for minor changes and lifestyle changes.

    • SWITCH is one of my personal favs. Love that book.

  • Kevin Garrett

    These are all really good books. However, they are useless until you are able to rightly divide the scriptures of the Bible. Effective leaders must read and understand the Bible first.

  • Great list! I am rather surprised that "The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make" by Hans Finzel ranked at the bottom of the list however. This has been considered one of the great "classics" on Christian leadership for myself and many other Christian leaders I know. Perhaps this is just a sign that the trends in leadership are starting to shift from where they have been the past decade or so.

    • Thanks Stacey. It could be that just not enough people are familiar with the book and it need people like you to continue to share and suggest it. I'll be checking it out myself.

  • chris

    I was surprised to see The Alchemist on there. i know a lot of people liked it, but i just didn't 'get' it. instead of The Alchemist, i'd suggest The Dream Giver by Bruce WIlkinson. just my honest opinion.

    i'd also throw on Gladwell's The Tipping Point.

  • This may be outside the circle of Christian authors, but an excellent, thought provoking book that raises important questions, benefits, and potential surrounding the dynamics of men and women leading together is, Marie C. Wilson's Closing the Leadership Gap–Add Women Change Everything. Readers won't agree with everything she says, but a lot of what she is saying will ring true for both men and women.

    • Since the list doesn't just include Christian authors, I think it's fine to highlight influential books by women even if they are not solely Christian writers. After all, it would be great to have more female representation on this list! I think Deborah Tannen's books (especially You Just Don't Understand) are critically important for both male and female leaders in understanding the gender differences in the way we communicate and relate with one anther. And speaking of great books by women, Carolyn, I think your book Lost Women of the Bible and its description of the word "ezer" as warrior vs. helpmate is a must-read as well!

    • Thanks Carolyn. This list was never meant to be nor is it exclusive to the Christian leadership perspective, although servant leadership and the leadership Christ exampled is certainly the style proven to be effective. It's leadership overall so any books you'd suggest on the topic of leadership are welcomed. Thanks for stopping by.

  • I would agree with Helen, Carolyn's Lost Women of the Bible is a great read, and Nancy Beach's book Gifted to Lead gives women AND men great perspective on what it's like to be a young female influencer in the church.

  • Thanks to all who have commented and visited this post. The question has be raised in direct messages via Twitter and in a few of the comments about the lack of books by women being suggested. This survey was solely based on the books that survey respondents suggested. If you would suggest any additional books, by men or women, feel free to share by posting comments here. Thanks!

  • Unleashing the Power of the Rubber Band by Nancy Ortberg is a solid leadership resource. We have used it as a training tool to equip leaders and have found it to be insightful and practical. It resides in my top ten list for 2010.

    • GREAT suggestion Gary. I love Nanvy's book (and Nancy). She is a great person and a truly gifted leader with superb insights to share. I may do a review of just her book alone sometime soon. Thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  • I would have to add My Orange Duffel Bag by Sam Bracken and Echo Garrett as it's a memor/journal/leadership book that shares Sam's horrific upbringing BUT allows children to learn they have a choice to not be like that and then the books leads them on how to make the right choices to lead a productive and purposeful life. Sam and Echo have started a not-for-profit that helps homeless children and those aging out of the foster care program to be leaders and empowers ALL of us to remember that our world is a reflection of how we treat our children! Five Diamonds in my Tiara as the founder of The Pulpwood Queens and Timber Guys Book Clubs, the largest "meeting and discussing" book club in the world. It's "The Blind Side" meets "Same Kind of Different as Me". I gave copies to all my First United Methodist Church Youth Group as their leader and plan on making it my graduation gift to all seniors from now on. This book has to added to your list!

  • Some must be on this list:

    M. Buckingham: First, Break All the Rules

    Richard Branson: The Adventure of Business

    Jack Welch: Straight from the gut

  • Great list, Daniel. I've read many of the books on the list and have been influenced greatly by their content. Some of my favorites are…

    For aspiring writers: The Alchemist. A masterpiece of words on paper.
    Should be read once a year: How to Win Friends and Influence People. Uncommon sense.
    Motivational: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Create a better story.
    Time Management: Getting Things Done. How next actions can change your life.
    For Speakers: Made to Stick. Tell your story… better.

    Books that should be on the list…
    The Way We're Working Isn't Working, by Tony Schwartz. Puts the pieces together.
    Fascinate by Sally Hogshead. Take the test, communicate better.
    Wide Awake, by Erwin McManus. Get the book and the video DVD. Powerful.
    The Noticer, by Andy Andrews. A story about little things that make a big difference.
    Becoming a Person of Influence, by John Maxwell. A step by step guide for leaders.

    Authors you should read…. almost any book from Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, or Og Mandino will make you think and see things in a different manner.

    Did you know… Many of the books on your list can be used as part of the Personal MBA program ( An inexpensive way to get the knowledge contained in a traditional MBA program.

    And finally… for anyone searching for God's plan for their life, I recommend reading the Book of John in the Bible. This is the book of good news. If Christianity doesn't make sense, Don Miller does a great job in Blue Like Jazz to take you along on his spiritual journey from confusion to clarity with a sense of humor along the way.

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  • Greg

    I highly recommend "The Carrot Principle" by Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick — excellent advice on maximizing employee potential via regular feedback, and positive affirmation.

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  • A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards should be read first and then after a young leader reads all the books on this list, read again. I am an avid reader and I have a top twenty books list on my blog. A Tale of Three Kings is on that list.

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  • Really? This is the list. I guess I'm disappointed that they are so "leadership principle" heavy and not so much Gospel-heavy. If we're not careful we will repeat the mistakes of the previous generation of church leadership and feast on the shallowness of methodology and praxis and think we are being well-fed. I've read a handful of the more popular books on this list and it seems most of them are saying the same stuff… Just with their own cool phrasing or unique methaphor (bus, sticky, etc)

    My top 5 (in no particular order)
    Humility – C.J. Mahaney
    Desiring God – Piper
    Now, Discover Your Strengths – Buckingham
    Spiritual Leadership – Sanders
    Worship Matters – Kauflin (for the pastor or worship leader)

    There are many great books BUT too often they don't say anything more helpful than the last 3 books they wrote OR they are so disconnected from the Gospel that they have little to no redeeming qualities at all other than a possible good idea that is as fleeting as the time it will spend on the NY Times bestseller list…

    • Thanks for adding to the conversation Jake. Good points you made but also know that this survey was wide reaching and not specifically faith oriented although it slanted that way due to the types of people who retweeted and shared the survey link. As noted, the number one response was the Bible (which we view as the foundation for all leadership). The survey was simply asking people, of all types, what they felt the best books for young influencers should be. Many who responded were Christians, some were not.

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  • Hi Daniel, I would add to your list AHOD 🙂

    • I agree Joe. All Hands on Deck is indeed an excellent book for young, and experienced leaders!!

  • Ryan

    The Bible ought to be first and foremost- the wisdow found therein is simple and practical yet profound and unparalleled…

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  • I agree with a lot of these, as I've read over half this list, probably, but there are several that are getting added to my list, now that I read these. Thanks!

  • Blithe

    You have a very thorough list here. To balance the one vote for Machiavelli's The Prince, I would like to place my one vote for Xenophon's Cyropedia ("The Education of Cyrus"). Thomas Jefferson owned two copies of it and you can hear its echoes in the US Constitution. Cyrus the Great was an interesting man whose leadership should not be forgotten.
    I would also like to second To Kill a Mockingbird, The Art of War, Lord of the Flies, and add one vote for Beowulf.

  • Elias Humphrey

    "To Venture All" by I.E. Kingsley

  • Yvonne Green

    Everyone Communicates Few Connect — Connecting is a Key for those in Leadership

  • make it simple

    can you guys create a list in Amazon with the 33 books on it? that would create a great compare and the opportunity to prioritize the reading list

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  • Debbie

    Here are a few more suggestions: Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden, It's Your Ship by Michael Abrashoff, The Game of Work by Charles Coonradt

  • Joe Akuoko

    Daniel thanks for the list. Can we consider books like 48 laws of power by Robert Green, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Tipping Point- Malcolm Gladwell, Pareto Principle by Robert Koch? Cheers and God bless

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  • Dave

    I would have to add "Servant Leadership" by Robert Greenleaf, and "The Servant" by James Hunter

  • Spot on with this write-up, I actually suppose this website needs rather more consideration. I’ll probably be again to read far more, thanks for that info.

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  • Rick Williams

    The Power of Influence, book and teaching strategy was quite impressive.

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