3 Essential Leadership Books for Future Leaders

Julius Caesar may not have

Whether you are a leader now or want to be a leader in the future, you should start preparing now with an effort to read as many leadership books as possible. Here is a lesson why:

When I first entered my leadership development program after graduating university in 2018, I couldn’t help but feel discouraged at just how little I knew. Four years of exams, reports, and presentations, and I still felt like a fish out of water for the first few months. Dead weight. I couldn’t even imagine the idea of being ready to lead a project, never mind being ready to lead a team. And yet, six months later, I learned that I would be moving to Florida and into a supervisor role for my second rotation. What was I going to do?

As much disbelief as I felt at the idea of managing my own team after being out of school for just 8 months, the truth is that with some careful preparation and the right attitude, young professionals can surprise others and themselves at the adeptness with which they are able to step into leadership positions at a young age. For my own story, I can tell you that my mentors and experiences played an extremely important role in this readiness. However, I would be remiss to leave out the fact that I was influenced by several fantastic books as well.

Below you will find three amazing leadership books, along with some of the key lessons from which I believe all young and future leaders can take.

Extreme Ownership – How Navy Seals Lead and Win

"Extreme Ownership", written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Written by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, was written by U.S. Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, and I cannot overstate the impact this book had on my mindset and understanding of the fundamental mistakes I was so often making when facing challenges in my professional career. The basic principle of “Extreme Ownership” is just that – No excuses, no blame, no passing the buck. Total and complete ownership over problems and your response to those problems. This idea, so essential to our brave men and women overseas, is also applicable to the professional world. In this book, the two men explore this principle in detail with both examples from their dangerous experiences overseas, and with examples from their experiences consulting in the professional world.

As a new (and future) leader, I found that after reading this book and understanding the principle of “Extreme Ownership”, it became much more difficult to make excuses for my own failures and to place blame on the team members for which I soon found myself responsible. Instead, I was forced to look deeper towards the true root cause of each shortcoming: Myself. Was a direction to one of my employees not carried out? That was a failure in my communication skills and clarity. Was a customer upset that we did not have a team member on-site when promised to troubleshoot an issue? That was a failure in my follow-through with both the team member and the customer. Did my own supervisor fail to make a recommended adjustment to a major process our department follows? That was a failure in my ability to adequately convey the need for improvement.

If you are a young leader who had responsibility thrust upon you, or if you are a future leader who wants to begin preparing themselves mentally today, Extreme Ownership is absolutely required reading.

The Book of Five Rings

"The Book of Five Rings", written by Miyamoto Musashi

Written by Miyamoto Musashi and translated by William Scott Wilson

The Book of Five Rings was written near the year 1645 by Miyamoto Musashi. A Japanese Samurai and swordsman renowned for never having lost a duel, he then retired to a quiet hermit life. Broken up into five scrolls or “books” Musashi shares the wealth of knowledge that he learned over his long career. With topics ranging from leadership, to competition, to strategy, to how you think about the tools of your trade, I immediately recognized the value in reading this book as a young professional and leader. I am not one who generally returns to the same book twice, but I have found myself flipping back to certain pages when I find myself in a situation that requires a bit more wisdom.

You will find that each scroll’s wisdom is written in almost proverb-like short paragraphs, thus making the material easy to digest. In case you need more convincing, here are just a few of the key lessons on leadership and competition that left an impact on me:

  • Establishing a good reputation and retaining good people are two keys to effective leadership
  • Take initiative and keep your opponents off-guard
  • Determination in action, efficiency, and attention to detail are all central aspects of strategy

Even if only one of the dozens of the pieces of wisdom truly stick with you, you will nevertheless be that much more prepared for your leadership role.

The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar – Modern Lessons from the Man who Built an Empire

"The Leadership Genius of Julius Caesar - Modern Lessons from the Man who Built an Empire", written by Philip Barlag

Written by Philip Barlag

Julius Caesar is one of the many historical figures whose actions, ideas, and words may have failed the litmus test of our world today. And yet, despite this fact he remains a celebrated person in large part for the example he set and lessons he taught in leadership and influence. In his book The Leadership of Julius Caesar, Barlag dives into the various nuanced aspects of Caesar’s leadership style and political maneuvering.

Written in a straightforward manner with succinct yet engaging summaries of historical events tied into parallels of the professional world today, this will prove to be a hard book to put down as you hungrily absorb as much information as you can. As a young professional and leader, there are so many valuable lessons to be learned from Caesar’s life: Leading from the front in the face of overwhelming odds, showing mercy and forgiveness to your political rivals, and the mindset alone required to manage the lives and logistics of tens of thousands of men in dangerous lands.

This book serves as an excellent primer for both leadership and workplace politics, and a young professional can truly prepare themselves to excel in both arenas by learning from it.


While I could share my thoughts on so many more leadership books and the ways in which they have helped me in my professional life, I hope that the summaries and lessons of these three will inspire you and guide you as you prepare for a current or future leadership role. If you are ready for more inspiring leadership lessons, check out one of our related articles below:

5 Leadership Skills to Start Developing Today

Note: If you are interested in purchasing these leadership books for yourself, please see a link to select your own Amazon copy by clicking on the book title above!

Have you read any of these books? Do you have books on leadership of your own that you would recommend to The Young Professional audience? Please share in the comments below!

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