Recommended Leadership Reading List for 2021

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At the beginning of every new year, we tend to consider and perhaps even vow to complete new goals and ambitions. Whether you call it a resolution or a promise to yourself, it’s intended to make us better — challenge us — in an effort to create a successful year. Ranging from goals such as “get healthier” to “spend less time on devices”, these personal goals help us to reset and dream about the future we want for ourselves and those around us. And while the team at ADVISA may not be the best source for ideas on new workout programs (although, a few of our folks may have some suggestions), we can offer a recommended leadership reading list for 2021.

Last year made for a lot of extra reading time for many ADVISA team members. Book recommendations were shared monthly via our Teams “Brain Break” channel and many of us rediscovered a love for fiction! So, as a result, this year’s recommended reading is a bit more diverse (and perhaps surprising) in comparison with last year’s. To help keep things organized, we’ve divided this year’s recommendations into “leadership reading” and “reading, period.”

Recommended Leadership Reading

Tiny Habits

We are the sum total of our habits. Written by BJ Fogg, this book offers practical steps to build new habits and stop the habits that hold us back from growing into the people we aspire to be.


Written by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski, this book has inspired the next ADVISA book club meeting. The authors discuss the impact of stress and emotions, as well as how to manage both while focusing on what’s in our control, avoiding a feeling of burnout or complete exhaustion.

An Everyone Culture

Imagine a world where people development was not the responsibility of only Human Resources or “done” at an annual offsite retreat. Authors Lisa Lahey and Robert Kegan share a world where everyone — from the bottom to the top of organization — sees development of people as attainable and essential to their success.

Extreme Ownership

Written by Jacko Willink and Leif Babin, this book speaks directly to that voice in your head that wants to give up or cut corners and tells them to shut up and find a way to do something that changes the situation.

Never Split the Difference

Life is one big negotiation, according to author and former FBI negotiator Chris Voss. This book shines a light on incredible but simple things we can each do everyday to better influence and manage the various types of people we interact with.

The Advantage

And, of course, we have to recommend something by Patrick Lencioni. If you’ve read The Ideal Team Player or The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, you’ll love The Advantage. There is no better and more practical book to understand the people element of strategy and execution.

Recommended reading, period.

Many members of the A-Team spent the year reading non-business books and found it to be refreshing, even reigniting a passion for reading in some.

The “leadership lesson” ADVISA President Heather Haas offers after reading so much fiction is this,

“Life, like books, is filled with characters who carry burdens we often don’t see unless we take the time to get to know their stories. Reading fiction can help us strengthen our empathy and broaden our perspective on the human condition. It can also help with stress management, allowing our cluttered brains and heavy hearts to journey beyond our own selfish pursuits and challenges to exhale, escape and feel. I believe reading fiction helps us build our connection muscles on the Connection x Competence matrix and find unexpected joy and hope.”


This memoir by Tara Westover is about growing up in her survivalist Mormon family. She experiences freedom and gains perspective through going to college but wrestles with the conflict of her new values and life against how she was raised by the people she loves.

Fountains of Silence

Written by Ruta Sepetys, this book is about an 18 year old son of an oil tycoon who travels to Spain in 1957 to experience the country of his mother’s birth and gets tangled in the dark side of Franco’s fascism.

The Worst Journey in the World

This book is a 1922 memoir by Apsley Cherry-Garrard of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole in 1910–1913. Of course, not a book on leadership explicitly but there are many leadership lessons throughout if one is willing to look.

The Lovely Bones

Even if you saw the movie, you need to read the book. Alice Sebold does a remarkable job of narrating the story from Heaven as a teenage girl who, after being raped and murdered, watches her family and friends grieve her death and navigate a complicated web of relationships with one another.

The Reader

This book is by Bernhard Schlink and is about young Michael Berg’s coming of age in post-Holocaust Germany through his unexpected love affair with an older woman who (unbeknownst to Michael) is a former SS officer. It’s an incredible look at the complexity, emotional numbness and moral conflict that befell the German culture after the Holocaust.

Lilac Girls

Martha Hall Helly wrote this historical fiction detailing the Holocaust horrors, survival and redemption through the intersecting lives of an American socialite, a Nazi doctor stationed at Ravensbruck concentration camp and one of the Polish “rabbits” (young women who endured brutal Nazi medical experiments) who survived.

We hope you find something new to dig into this year and we’d love to hear your recommendations, too! Please share your favorite books of 2020 in a comment below.


We believe leadership development is noble work. ADVISA partners with organizations to improve job fit, company culture and business results through leadership development. To learn more about what we do, click here.

Did you miss our recommended books for 2020? Check out the list here.