Top 10 Books of the Century (so far) for Servant-Leaders

Read any good books for servant-leaders lately?

I have.

Here’s how I responded when a client asked me to list the top 10 books for servant-leaders, published since this century began.* 

In order of publication:

  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck (2006). People who believe that abilities are fixed are less likely to flourish than those who believe that abilities can be developed. In Mindset, Stanford University professor Carol Dweck reveals how servant-leaders can use the idea of a “growth mindset” to foster individual and organizational success. 
  • Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2006). Lincoln had extraordinary empathy and generosity – traits that enabled him as president to bring his disgruntled opponents together, create the most unusual cabinet in U.S. history and marshal their talents to win the Civil War. A true story of servant leadership, more informative than any fable.
  • Unbowed: A Memoir, by Wangari Maathai (2006). The autobiography of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women. An exemplary servant-leader, her life story is inspirational and instructive.
  • It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks, by Howard Behar (2009). Few (if any) people know about servant leadership than Howard Behar, retired president of Starbucks International. Howard played an essential role in making servant leadership a foundation of the Starbucks success story. A practical and enjoyable read based on real world experience.
  • To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, by Daniel Pink (2012). Best-selling author Dan Pink says is that, broadly defined, “sales” is the practice of motivating people. And all of us – especially servant-leaders in the workplace – are trying to do just that – motivate people. The last chapter, called “Servant Selling,” offers an ingenious take on the servant leadership idea.
  • A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader (Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading), by Ari Weinzweig (2013). Quirky and fun to read, Zingerman’s Deli co-founder Ari Weinzweig provides an explanation of servant leadership that is clear and practical. Among the best nuts-and-bolts book about servant leadership in the workplace that you can find today.
  • Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, by Adam Grant (2013). Award-winning researcher and Wharton’s highest-rated professor, Adam Grant, makes an overwhelming case that generosity – a cardinal virtue of servant leadership – is a source of success in business and in life. One of the most important servant leadership books since Greenleaf.
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain (2013). Traditional leadership approaches tend to favor the extroverts, but acclaimed author Susan Cain shows that introverts can also lead successfully – maybe even more successfully. Indeed, readers may wonder whether introverts are more natural servant-leaders than their extroverted peers.
  • Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time, by Jeffrey Pfeffer (2015). Stanford Business School professor Jeffrey Pfeffer suggests that most leadership development efforts in business are ineffective and that most leadership “experts” are full of . . . full of . . . nonsense. A compelling critique with a whole chapter devoted to servant leadership.
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth (2016). Grit – passion plus perseverance – great servant-leaders have it, lead with it, and develop it in others. Servant leadership ain’t just about being nice; it’s about achieving results. MacArthur “genius grant” winner Angela Duckworth shows how grit works and each of us can leverage it to achieve the results we seek.

What do you think? Would you recommend any of these books? Are there any books you would add?

Let us know.

As always, we appreciate your views.

Thanks and Happy New Year!



*And speaking of books, we have a new one coming out later this year. Email me at [email protected] if you want to be notified when it arrives.