16 of the Best Books on Team Building Every Leader Needs

A group of employees sharing their thoughts on a book.

In today’s fast-paced business landscape, the concept of leadership is undergoing a paradigm shift. Gone are the days when titles and hierarchies defined true leaders. Today, true leadership is about fostering growth, facilitating teamwork, and driving vision from any position in the organizational chart. And from great leadership comes great team building! While there are countless books on leadership, a few stand out as essential game-changers. They provide invaluable insights that every leader, aspiring or established, should be privy to. From understanding the intricacies of team dynamics to mastering self-awareness, to a straight-forward list of activities leaders can use to build up their teams, this list has it all. So read on for our curated list of the best team building books and leadership books.

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You Are The Team: 6 Simple Ways Teammates Can Go From Good To Great by Michael G. Rogers

Every leader dreams of a team where collaboration runs deep, drama and politics are absent, and commitment to results reigns supreme. Michael G. Rogers, a visionary in the realm of team dynamics, offers an unmatched guide of effective ways for fostering great teams. Drawing from a rich background, including his role as Director of Learning for a Fortune 50 company, Rogers delves into the heart of team excellence. He communicates it all with relatable stories and actionable insights.

Central to this masterpiece are tenets such as prioritizing the team’s needs, open communication, embracing constructive feedback. Importantly, it also goes over rejecting negativity, and showing profound gratitude for the benefit of your company culture. The focus isn’t just on individual leaders but extends to every team member. This book teaches everyone to:

  • Foster a culture of selflessness and uphold promises.
  • Embrace open, direct dialogues, ensuring transparent communication.
  • Continuously aim for personal and collective excellence.
  • Celebrate successes, big or small, creating a positive team spirit.
  • Understand and support fellow team members, cultivating deep-rooted connections.

Michael’s insights illuminate the path to transforming groups of individuals to successful teams. As a leader, this isn’t merely a recommended read – it’s essential. Dive in, and uncover the essence of team brilliance.

Trust and Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others by Stephen M.R. Covey

Stephen M.R. Covey, known for his business books centering around trust, outlines the pressing need for a revolutionary approach to leadership. While the world has undergone significant changes, many leadership styles remain stagnant, adhering to an outdated “command and control” model. This method, based on hierarchies and compliance, no longer resonates in our modern era. Nowadays, the best work is performed through collaboration, flexibility, and choice. You may know Covey from his other famous work, “The Speed of Trust.” (And not to be confused with his father, Stephen R. Covey, who wrote a different book in this list!).

Covey presents a compelling argument: For today’s diverse and dispersed workforce, leaders need to transition from merely managing to genuinely leading. “Trust and Inspire” is not just a title; it’s a mantra. Leaders should believe in the potential, creativity, and collaborative spirit of their teams. When led by such a philosophy, individuals feel valued, are inspired to tap into their best selves, and deliver unparalleled results.

The future of work demands a shift in leadership dynamics. With teams spread across different cultures, time zones, and technological interfaces, trust and inspiration are the linchpins. Covey’s book isn’t merely a guide on leadership skills; it’s a clarion call for 21st-century leadership. Every leader seeking to inspire and elevate their team’s potential should immerse themselves in this insightful masterpiece. It paves the way for a more collaborative, trusting, and impactful leadership approach.

101 Team Building Exercises: To Improve Cooperation and Communication by Herman Otten

In the quest to create cohesive teams, effective communication and collaboration are paramount. “101 Team Building Exercises” is one of the best books for elevating group dynamics. This book is more than just a list; it’s a holistic journey into team enhancement, with each exercise meticulously detailed over two pages, ensuring clarity and precision.

Whether you’re looking to infuse some fun with team games or dive deeper into profound communication drills, this book has it all. What sets it apart is its dedication to understanding ‘why’. Every exercise outlines its core benefits, allowing team leaders and members to appreciate its significance fully.

But here’s the kicker: it’s seamlessly integrated with technology. Each exercise has an associated QR code, which, when scanned, directs you to an animated YouTube tutorial. This feature amplifies the learning experience, making the execution of each activity effortless and engaging.

Furthermore, the book recognizes the diverse needs of each group of people. Thus, it provides variations for each exercise, ensuring adaptability and relevance.

Regardless of your profession – be it teaching, coaching, or managing – if you’re responsible for group dynamics, this book is your go-to guide. Dive in and transform your team from ordinary to extraordinary with these tried-and-tested exercises.

Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers: 50 Exercises That Get Results in Just 15 Minutes by Brian Cole Miller

In today’s fast-paced work environment, team cohesion is paramount, yet often overlooked due to time constraints. “Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers” emerges as a solution for leaders seeking efficient yet impactful team-building exercises. In an age where diverse workplace cultures meet tech-savvy generations and where competition brews tension, this book proves essential for managers aiming to foster unity and team spirit.

This second edition zeroes in on pressing challenges that inhibit team productivity and offers activities that:

  • Promote seamless collaboration.
  • Equip teams to adapt to change.
  • Encourage problem-solving as a unit.
  • Bridge communication gaps across cultures and generations.
  • Ignite creativity.
  • Embrace and harness team diversity.
  • Cultivate a sense of healthy competition.

The brilliance of this guide lies in its practicality. Each activity is designed for swift implementation, requiring minimal prep and commonplace office supplies. The promise is enticing: in merely 15 minutes, witness the transformation of a lackluster team into a dynamic, confident, and cohesive unit.

For teams navigating the virtual space, this book doesn’t fall short. It ensures inclusivity, leaving no team member behind. Dive in, and in moments, uplift the spirit and functionality of your team, redefining teamwork for the modern age.

Stick Together: A Simple Lesson to Build a Stronger Team by Jon Gordon and Kate Leavell

Navigating the intricacies of team dynamics becomes an exhilarating journey in “Stick Together”. This masterfully penned fable by renowned author Jon Gordon, in collaboration with Kate Leavell, serves as a beacon for teams aiming to forge an unbreakable bond.

The narrative revolves around Coach David, a high school basketball coach gearing up for the upcoming season. The story’s core is a unique team-building exercise: each player receives a stick inscribed with a word. Their missions? Pair up with a teammate holding a matching word, discuss its significance in team synergy, and, intriguingly, make their sticks indestructible.

This captivating tale isn’t just about basketball or sports. It’s a universal lesson on the power of belief, unity, love, consistency, and hope. As the players embark on their quests, they unravel the profound impact of collaboration and shared purpose. Their revelations offer invaluable lessons applicable to teams in myriad sectors – be it business, education, healthcare, or nonprofit.

“Stick Together” is not merely a book; it’s an experience. Designed for individuals across age groups and professional backgrounds, this fable is a clarion call for anyone aspiring to elevate their team dynamics. Dive in and discover the timeless secrets to team resilience and success.

Building a Killer Team: Without Killing Yourself or Your Team by Shawn Lovejoy

True leadership transcends mere staff management; it’s about crafting an impressively cohesive team. “Building a Killer Team” by Shawn Lovejoy underscores this by equipping leaders with the tools to form, as defined by Merriam-Webster, a “strikingly impressive and effective” unit. But here’s the twist: it’s about achieving this without draining your energy or the team’s spirit.

Diving deep into the mechanics of team-building, Lovejoy unravels actionable insights to:

  • Nurture team unity and camaraderie.
  • Pinpoint, attract, and retain standout talent.
  • Conduct productive and meaningful meetings.
  • Establish a culture of accountability.
  • Deepen your team’s talent pool.
  • Motivate and invigorate your members.
  • Address underperformance constructively.
  • Gracefully and respectfully let go of team members when necessary.

In the quest for organizational success, having a robust team isn’t just desirable – it’s paramount. This book stands as a beacon, guiding leaders to not only assemble their dream teams but also to do so with integrity and mindfulness.

So, if you’re looking to transform a group of individuals into a formidable team without compromising your well-being or theirs, this guide is your key. Embrace Lovejoy’s wisdom and navigate the intricate art of building a killer team.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute

“Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box” is not just a book; it’s an awakening. With over 2 million copies sold globally, this third edition of an international sensation goes beyond the surface-level understandings of leadership. Instead, it delves into the very essence of leadership and self-awareness, shedding light on how we often become our own biggest impediments.

At the heart of this transformative book lies a profound revelation: the real key to leadership isn’t rooted in our actions, but in our very being. This insight isn’t just vital for organizational growth but holds deep implications for personal evolution. By narrating a relatable tale of a man juggling work and personal life challenges, the book brilliantly uncovers how we often deceive ourselves about our motivations. This self-deception leads us to unconsciously sabotage our pursuits of success and happiness. In this self-created “box”, we continually justify our actions, blinding ourselves to our true nature and intentions.

However, it’s not all grim. The true beauty of this book lies in its illuminating path out of this self-imposed box. It teaches readers to tap into their intrinsic understanding of right and wrong, paving the way for enriched relationships and genuine happiness.

The third edition amplifies the book’s core message by introducing new research on the prevalence of self-deception in organizations and offering practical strategies to bridge this gap. Further, the authors provide tools to introspectively gauge one’s mindset and its alignment with organizational goals. The added glimpse of Arbinger’s “The Outward Mindset” is a cherry on top, giving readers further food for thought.

In a world rife with leadership manuals, “Leadership and Self-Deception” stands out, urging leaders to introspect, evolve, and ultimately, lead from a place of authenticity and clarity.

High Ten: An Inspiring Story About Building Great Team Culture by Martin Rooney

Culture – the elusive thread that binds teams together. In “High Ten,” esteemed coach and best-selling author Martin Rooney unveils the intricacies of cultivating an exceptional team culture. Leveraging his profound expertise from coaching elite athletes, global executives, and diverse teams, Rooney showcases the pivotal role culture plays not only in workplaces but in families and sports arenas too.

The essence of “High Ten” is not just about acknowledging the existence of a company’s culture, but deliberately sculpting it. Through an engaging parable, readers are given a firsthand look into the nuances of culture-building. You’ll learn that while culture pervades every organization, it doesn’t come with a handbook. Enter “High Ten” – a leadership guide designed to be that very manual.

The book charts a path towards:

  • Building a cohesive environment where teammates, bound by mutual trust and shared goals, thrive.
  • Gaining clarity on the desired culture and initiating the steps to manifest it.
  • Aligning the culture with the foundational values and overarching vision of the organization.
  • Transforming culture into an organizational immune system, shielding it from adversities.
  • Distinguishing the ‘3 Cornerstones of Culture’ and weeding out the ‘5 Culture Killers’.

For any leader or coach determined to craft an environment that radiates trust, camaraderie, and excellence, “High Ten” is the touchstone. Dive in, and set the stage for a culture where everyone feels cherished, motivated, and primed for unparalleled success.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Dive deep into the transformative power of purpose with Simon Sinek’s groundbreaking bestseller. In an era where features, benefits, and strategies dominate our decisions, Sinek turns the table by compelling us to ask a simple yet profound question: Why?

Rooted in the essence of some of the most influential figures and companies in history, “Start with Why” isn’t just a book; it’s a revelation. It offers readers a fresh lens to view success, innovation, and influence, challenging the status quo of how we approach leadership, decision-making, and human behavior.

Sinek presents a persuasive argument: The most influential individuals and companies, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Apple, aren’t necessarily the ones with unique resources, but the ones with a crystal-clear sense of purpose. They begin every endeavor with a straightforward question: Why are we doing this? This sense of purpose helps them become the best equipped at problem solving.

Central to Sinek’s thesis is The Golden Circle, a transformative concept that places ‘Why’ at its core, surrounded by ‘How’ and ‘What.’ It’s not just about doing things; it’s about understanding the core motivation behind our actions. And when this understanding is evident, success isn’t just achieved—it’s repeated.

But beyond its strategies, this book resonates on a deeper level. In the age of TikTok and ephemeral content, it’s a testament to the book’s enduring value that it’s being championed by a new generation. And that’s because, at its heart, “Start with Why” is about rediscovering our passion, reigniting our purpose, and reshaping our world.

For those seeking more than just transactional successes, for those yearning to create a legacy that lasts, “Start with Why” is the compass you’ve been seeking. Get ready to redefine success and discover your ‘Why.’

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

“Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win” is an unparalleled lesson in leadership, drawn from the crucible of combat. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two esteemed U.S. Navy SEAL officers, share their firsthand experiences from the treacherous battlegrounds of Iraq, underscoring the pivotal role of leadership in determining a team’s success or downfall.

The duo’s narratives, laced with tales of valor, losses, and triumphant victories, illuminate the essence of leadership: accountability at all levels. Their experiences in Ramadi, a volatile city teeming with insurgents, reveal that the keys to success lie in owning one’s actions, decisions, and their outcomes. It’s this “extreme ownership” mindset that Willink and Babin brought back home, embedding it into SEAL leadership training and subsequently into the corporate world. They do this through their company, Echelon Front, where they help business owners facilitate great teamwork through leadership.

Since its debut in 2015, this has been one of the most popular books helping leaders create high-performing teams. It’s not just a read, but a leadership manual that’s found resonance across industries. Whether it’s military squads, corporate teams, or emergency responders, the teachings of “Extreme Ownership” have become fundamental. By encapsulating the ethos and strategies that empower SEAL units during intense combat, the book equips leaders to steer their teams through any challenge. For those who aspire to lead, not just manage, this book is a clarion call, challenging them to take complete responsibility, harness their team’s potential, and ultimately, lead to triumph. It’s not just about leadership; it’s about winning through unwavering accountability. Every leader aiming for excellence should delve into this transformative guide.

The Wisdom of the Bullfrog: Leadership Made Simple (But Not Easy) by Admiral William H. McRaven

Dive deep into the reservoir of leadership wisdom garnered over four transformative decades with the Navy SEALs in “The Wisdom of the Bullfrog.” Bestselling author of “Make Your Bed,” Admiral McRaven, is no stranger to the grueling tests of leadership. With the honorific title of “Bullfrog,” denoting the longest-serving active-duty Navy SEAL, McRaven exemplifies the path to becoming a better leader.

Charting his awe-inspiring trajectory—from leading the most high-stakes combat operations like capturing Saddam Hussein, rescuing Captain Phillips, and executing the raid for Osama bin Laden, to steering the vast University of Texas System—McRaven’s experiences are nothing short of a masterclass in leadership development.

What sets “The Wisdom of the Bullfrog” apart is its focus on specific examples from the Admiral’s life. Mirroring the narrative style of his hit memoir, “Sea Stories,” each chapter in this book unveils a riveting tale, distilling key leadership principles such as:

  • “Who Dares, Wins”: The audacity to embrace challenges.
  • “Run to the Sound of the Guns”: The courage to face adversity head-on.
  • “No Plan Survives First Contact with the Enemy”: The agility to adapt and evolve.

Beyond just a chronicle of his milestones, this book is McRaven’s definitive guide to leadership. It uncloaks the attributes that elevate leaders from merely good to profoundly great. For anyone on the quest to unlock their leadership potential and build a strong team, “The Wisdom of the Bullfrog” is a beacon, shedding light on the complexities of leadership, simplified but never trivialized.

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier

“The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier isn’t just another management book. It’s a practical guide in transforming everyday interactions into opportunities for growth. Drawing from real-life examples of training myriad managers worldwide, Bungay Stanier distills the essence of effective coaching into seven potent questions. These are not just questions; they a vauable resource for unlocking potential, optimizing team performance, and fostering deeper connections.

The power of Bungay Stanier’s approach lies in its simplicity. By asking more and saying less, a group leader can shift from being directive to being facilitative, enabling teams to work smarter, not harder. From the Kickstart Question, which paves the way for meaningful conversations, to the Learning Question, ensuring that coaching sessions are mutually beneficial, these queries are designed for maximum impact.

But “The Coaching Habit” goes beyond mere instruction. Merging neuroscience, behavioural economics, and interactive training, the book offers readers a holistic, research-backed understanding of how good habits are formed and how coaching can become an integral part of their leadership style. Its engaging, conversational tone makes the content accessible, and its advice, actionable.

In an age where management is often misunderstood and misapplied, “The Coaching Habit” emerges as a beacon for leaders striving for excellence. It emphasizes not just the importance but the necessity of adopting a coaching mindset in today’s dynamic work environment. It’s a transformative guide, urging leaders to evolve from good to exceptional by making coaching a daily, impactful ritual.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell

Discover the timeless truths that have transformed ordinary individuals into legendary leaders with John Maxwell’s celebrated guide, now revamped and more relevant than ever. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” remains a pinnacle in the leadership canon, having navigated countless individuals through the intricate dance of power and influence.

In this silver jubilee edition, Maxwell delves into each law with renewed vigor, seasoning the tome with his evolving insights. While the world has undergone dramatic shifts in these two and a half decades, Maxwell’s leadership laws stand irrefutable. Yet, Maxwell recognizes the changing tapestry of our world, swapping out tales that may feel antiquated with contemporary examples that resonate with today’s aspiring leaders.

Key highlights include:

  • “Vision”: Seeing beyond the horizon and carving out a path for others to follow.
  • “Influence”: The art of affecting change and inspiring action.
  • “Responsibility”: Owning up to one’s decisions, both good and bad.
  • “Commitment”: The unwavering drive that fuels every successful leader.

Beyond the principles, what’s remarkable about this edition is its adaptability. Whether you’re a self-starter looking for individual growth, a team player seeking collective evolution, or a mentor shaping the leaders of tomorrow, Maxwell’s laws are your compass.

The leadership landscape may be ever-evolving, but with Maxwell’s “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership,” you’ll have the bedrock principles to anchor you amidst any storm. A must-read for anyone on the journey from novice to leadership maestro.

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown

“Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.” by Brené Brown is a must-read for any leader aiming to cultivate a culture of courage and connection. Emphasizing that leadership is beyond mere titles and power, Brown dives deep into what it truly means to lead with heart. It’s not about having all the answers but about asking the right questions, sharing power, and confronting challenges with vulnerability.

In today’s age of technology and AI, there’s a pressing need for qualities that are authentically human – empathy, connection, and courage. Yet, it’s perplexing how many are hesitant to invest in increasing their emotional intelligence and in these crucial traits. Brown’s two-decade-long research uniquely positions her to address this gap. She brings forth a compelling argument: leadership requires skills that are teachable and measurable, and it’s about brave work, genuine conversations, and wholehearted commitment.

The book guides leaders on best practices for fostering bravery and courage within their teams, highlighting that choosing courage over comfort might not be the easiest choice, but it’s always worth it. For those aspiring to leave a mark with their leadership, and to foster cultures that prioritize human connection and courage, this book is an indispensable guide with practical advice. It’s not just a book; it’s a call to brave leadership. Every leader needs this in their arsenal to navigate the complex landscape of contemporary leadership.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: 30th Anniversary Edition by Stephen R. Covey

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: 30th Anniversary Edition” is a monumental work that has resonated with millions over the past three decades. Stephen Covey’s seminal book, which has been a beacon for both budding and seasoned leaders, highlights the transformative power of habits in determining success. Its widespread influence is evident, having helped moulded the perspectives of presidents, CEOs, educators, and more.

These aren’t mere habits; they are timeless principles integrated into the fabric of effective leadership and meaningful living. With the inclusion of modern insights by Sean Covey, this anniversary edition makes these habits even more relevant for today’s generation. The habits aren’t just strategies for success. They form a comprehensive framework for navigating both personal and professional challenges with integrity and wisdom. In short, it’s a great book for becoming a better leader.

The magic of Covey’s approach lies in its principle-centered core, emphasizing fairness, honesty, and human dignity. In an ever-evolving world, these principles stand firm, offering both a foundation and a compass. For leaders striving to thrive amidst change and uncertainty, this book isn’t just recommended; it’s essential. It illuminates the path towards a purposeful life, grounded in enduring principles and effective habits. Every leader, regardless of their stage or stature, stands to benefit immensely from Covey’s wisdom.