The 15 Best Leadership Books for Every HR Professional

The 15 Best Leadership Books for Every HR Professional

Great HR leadership starts with great advice. Here are our top 15 HR and management books to help you lead your team to success!

The 15 Best Leadership Books for Every HR Professional

Reading is a great way to foster a growth mindset. Not only does it help you develop new skills and broaden your vocabulary, but the right book can help you build your confidence as a business leader or HR professional too.

Great HR books can inspire and open our minds to fresh ideas and help us navigate real-world issues down the line.

If you're in search of the best HR books for your next must-read, look no further! We put together a handy list so that you don't have to. Keep scrolling to check out our recommendations for HR and management books!

 three book covers are flat side by side

Best HR Books for Any Level

1. The Essential HR Handbook, 10th Anniversary Edition: A Quick and Handy Resource for Any Manager or HR Professional

A staple for any human resources bookshelf, The Essential HR Handbook by Sharon Armstrong and Barbara Mitchell is the foundational guidebook and a must-read for any team.

The Essential HR Handbook has been in print for over a decade, updated routinely to keep up with evolving workplace trends. It offers tons of info and tools like checklists or sample forms to guide professionals through standard processes from onboarding to more complex issues.

2. Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead

Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by former Google People Operations Senior Manager Laszlo Bock shows how teams can make the most out of balancing creativity and structure.

Bock’s book is perfect for talent management looking to get the most out of their teams and help any HR department build workplace culture.

The book itself goes beyond the stories of Google and Silicon Valley. There are plenty of case studies and examples, but you’ll also find practical guidance and tons of inspiration to think outside the Google search box.

a headshort of author Laszlo Bock side by side with

3. How to Win Friends and Influence People

Published originally in 1936, Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People continues to be a staple for any role across any industry.

A favorite for HR management especially, How to Win Friends and Influence People helps readers master vital interpersonal skills and navigate issues or disagreements in a professional and even personal setting.

4. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't

Jim Collins’ Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t offers an in-depth, researched look into why some organizations are built to last. Collins and his research team analyzed the histories of 28 companies, organized data, and conducted interviews to see exactly what set successful organizations apart from others.

The results? Collins’ Good to Great shares his teams’ findings on leadership, how organizations successfully underwent massive changes, and how they championed company culture. This book will help you and your executives prioritize compassionate leadership and how to support steadfast growth on your team.

Great leadership starts with great advice. Get started with our free leadership handbook!

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Favorite Leadership Books for Top Leaders

5. Reality-Based Leadership

When trying to find the best human resources books, so many people within the HR community strongly recommended bestselling author Cy Wakeman. Many of her books and her work on Fast Company cover leadership and HR practices in a very real, relatable way while also offering practical advice on team management.

While all of her books are perfect for an HR reading list, start with her book Reality-Based Leadership.

Wakeman’s nuanced approach called “reality-based leadership” helps leaders navigate their own hurdles, along with outside circumstances— think budget cuts or even the rise of hybrid or remote management— that causes frustration at work. More importantly, it helps you diffuse the drama and focus on managing people.

6. Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

Brené Brown’s famous Ted Talk inspired many and made her a top thought leader follow, so it’s no surprise that her book Dare to Lead is a New York Times bestseller. The book brings fresh ideas and tactics but goes beyond being a practical guide on leadership.

Cooleaf Customer Success Manager Katherine Clevenger recommended this read to team members: “I read it a couple of years ago and it was an encouragement along the idea of leaning into difficult conversations, being present, and being courageous.”

Dare to Lead tells you how to see the potential in your team to nurture them into great leaders. Workplace and HR leaders will find inspiration on how they can show up for their teams and engage management in a more authentic way.

a quote from brene browns book, Dare to Lead

7. HR Rising!!: From Ownership to Leadership

If you don’t follow Steve Browne on Twitter, you should. Not only will get his entertaining perspective and insights on modern HR trends but you’ll find a thriving community. His book, HR Rising!!: From Ownership to Leadership the meaningful impact HR professionals have on any organization.

Browne shares personal stories that demonstrate a people-centered approach toward leadership. And his relatable, authentic voice resonates with so many in the HR community and makes his books a must-read.

8. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

Is it a list of the best HR books if we don’t include Simon Sinek? The thought leader, optimist, and Ted Talk speaker’s book Start with Why leads with curiosity: why do some organizations garner more popularity and profit? Why are some leaders more inspiring?

Sinek explores the Why and our emotional connection to that product, leader, or brand’s influence. His research into influential voices from Steve Jobs to large organizations helps business leaders and HR professionals understand the importance of purpose behind a business goal. It also shows us the importance of imbuing core values aligned to your Why to help customers and team members feel the same drive about your product or organization.

Best Books for People-First Teams

9. Bring Your Human to Work

Workplace strategist and business coach Erica Keswin’s book Bring Your Human to Work is perfect for modern HR departments looking to foster inclusive company culture and prioritize well-being.

Keswin leads with a more human-first perspective and compassionate leadership. She offers research-backed tactics to better your employee experience and to put the people who work alongside you first.

author erica keswin speaks to an audience at an event
Erica Keswin speaks to an audience at a Female Quotient event

10. Love + Work

New York Times bestseller Love + Work by Marcus Buckingham looks at the most powerful human emotion and how it fuels our own passion, creativity, and excellence in the workplace. Perfect for any role at any level, human resource teams will especially find this book inspiring and useful.

Filled with years of experience, anecdotes, and tangible guidelines to be a people-first leader, Love + Work will encourage any manager to look at human capital with empathy and bring out the best of their direct reports. “Love what you do” is an adage for a reason, and supporting your people and cultivating their potential helps them find their purpose and helps retention.

11. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Google and Apple alum Kim Scott taught management classes in Silicon Valley before creating the management guide to “getting what you want by saying what you mean.” Her book Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity helps managers at all levels master their communication and interpersonal skills.

Build a collaborative culture founded on cohesion and compassion. Get into challenging conversations and find a path forward while still working amicably. Radical Candor and Cooleaf’s own management handbook are great places to start to refresh your approach to leadership and getting the best out of your people.

HR Books for Equity and Inclusion

12. Belonging At Work: Everyday Actions You Can Take to Cultivate an Inclusive Organization

Thriving organizations with intentional DEI goals have stronger employee engagement and retention. That being said Rhodes Perry’s Belonging at Work: Everyday Actions You Can Take to Cultivate an Inclusive Organization is an excellent go-to for HR professionals looking to build their confidence and navigate DEI strategy.

Perry’s book will help everyone understand the need and what it means to belong and help your leadership keep accountable to DEI goals. More importantly, while fostering a strong sense of belonging within your organization has a positive impact on your team and business, it also has a positive impact that goes beyond the office walls.

Download our DEI calendar and help keep your team accountable!

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13. The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth

Harvard Business School professor Amy C. Edmondson covers 30 years of research surrounding psychological safety at work in her book The Fearless Organization to equip leaders in the workplace with new ideas and practical advice on how to make your workplace better.

What is psychological safety? Why is it important in terms of your professional life? This book helps everyone understand the power of creating a space where your people can participate more fully and freely at work. Seeing how individual fear can get in the way of authentic employee engagement will help many HR leaders and talent management support their people and foster stronger company culture.

Favorite Management Books from Our Founders

14. Rework

Cooleaf co-founder Prem Bhatia said Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson as one of his most recommended leadership reads.

Rework is less of an HR book but contains valuable lessons for anyone looking to start something on their own— whether that’s a business or how you approach your organization’s employee engagement.

The book is very straight-to-the-point and challenges our own perceptions of how a business is run and can be a great inspiration for anyone looking to cut their own path.

15. Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind

“I enjoyed reading Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind,” said Cooleaf co-founder Sarwar Bhuiyan. “In this book, Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire explore how to develop creativity as a habit and a style of engaging with the world. Wired to Create is an empowering manifesto for creative people.”

Wired to Create looks into the “messy minds” of creatives the likes of Frida Kahlo and Marcel Proust. The authors’ research reveals their findings on the psychology and the practices of these innovative individuals, showing us how we can engage in similar habits to bring out our own creative superpowers.

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