5 Great Leadership Books for Brand Leaders

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It never fails that at the end of each training we run, someone asks me for book recommendations. Most recently this happened during a discussion about how brand leaders have to be strong cross-functional leaders.

I shared some of the most influential books on leadership that I’ve read—ones that I’ve continued to apply to my work over the years. And here, I’d like to share them with you.

The links in this article are affiliate links. So, if you decide that one of these books might help you, you can support our educational content by using these links.

Turn the Ship Around: A true story of turning followers into leaders
By L. David Marquet

Why I recommend the book: David delivers a useful framework for turning an ordinary organization into a high-performance organization. Told through stories of his time as a Navy captain, the lessons apply directly to any business. As a brand leader, I’ve incorporated his concepts directly into my leadership philosophy. The application of these concepts helped me become known as someone everyone wanted to work with.

“One of the 12 best business books of all time…. Timeless principles of empowering leadership.” (USA Today)

Get Turn the Ship Around.

Leadership is an Art
By Max Depree

Why I recommend the book: Max lays out a compelling case, and manual, for servant leadership. Gone are the days of a boss brow-beating teams into getting things done. Max helps instill a mindset of serving your team and allowing them to soar. If you aren’t intimately familiar with what servant leadership looks like, you should definitely read this book.

“Leadership Is an Art is one of the best books I have ever read in my life on the subject of leadership and business management philosophy.” (Sam Walton)

Get Leadership is an Art.

The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations
By John P. Kotter & Dan S. Cohen

Why I recommend the book: What makes or breaks a great brand leader is often how well they can rally others in the organization around a common cause or objective. Easy to say—very hard to do. Partly because humans are emotional beings and analysis doesn’t always win the day. Luckily, The Heart of Change spells out exactly how to create change by understanding how people feel, and encouraging the urgency and motivation to act against shared goals.

Get The Heart of Change.

Doing What Matters: How to Get Results That Make a Difference – The Revolutionary Old-School Approach
By James M. Kilts, Robert L. Lorber, & John F. Manfredi

Why I recommend the book: Being a great leader means making tough choices, and James Kilts has turned around a few renowned businesses during tough times. Doing What Matters provides unique insight into how a good leader thinks, identifies key issues, makes strategic choices, and then works to move an organization forward—all using the case study of Gillette’s turnaround.

“Doing What Matters is an insightful and practical approach to business by a transformative leader with a great track record of success.” (Jack Welch)

Get Doing What Matters.

Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works
By A.G. Lafley & Roger L. Martin

Why I recommend the book: While not necessarily a pure “leadership” book, Playing to Win is an invaluable strategy resource for brand leaders. After all, one of the biggest characteristics of a great leader is the ability to think and act strategically. A.G. Lafley walks through the exact framework P&G and similar large companies use for strategy and decision-making. From vision, to where to play, to how to win and beyond, you’ll learn to think through strategy from real-world P&G examples. The foundational framework is very similar to one we teach in our strategy workshop—so it definitely gets my ringing endorsement.

“Playing to Win is a rare tale from the front lines of business and from two of its smartest minds.” (Washington Post)

Get Playing to Win.

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