SimonSinek_ReadingList

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is the mantra of leadership expert Simon Sinek in one of the most popular TED Talks of all time (Watch: Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action). In his talk from TEDxPugetSound, Sinek looks at Apple, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright brothers — and examines why they were so successful at getting people to follow them. Who were the thinkers that inspired Sinek on his own path to leadership? Below, find five books (and two documentaries) that made a difference in his life.

1. Man’s Search for Meaning
Viktor E. Frankl
Beacon Press, 2006

“This is essential reading for anyone interested in the topic of purpose. Because Frankl’s personal experience was so extreme, the lessons are that much more stark. And, most importantly, his lessons are universally applicable to all our lives.”

2. Turn the Ship Around
L. David Marquet
Portfolio Hardcover, 2013

“So many leadership books are either theoretical (written by people who study it but don’t do it) or by people who look back and try to explain how they did it. Though both valuable, most leadership books are also very hard to implement as prescribed. That’s what makes Marquet’s book is so remarkable. A submarine commander, he used to obey traditional models of leadership … until they failed him. Unable to change any variables (people, technology or equipment), the only thing left for him to change in order to achieve success was how he acted as a leader. Based on real life events, Marquet presents his ideas in a superbly practical way — perfect for implementing.”

3. Guns, Germs and Steel
Jared Diamond
W. W. Norton & Company, 2005

“I’m a fan of books that challenge our assumptions, and Diamond offers us a new and remarkably simple way of looking at our world. Learning to challenge existing assumptions is core to effective leadership for it trains us to keep an open mind.”

4. 1421: The Year China Discovered America
Gavin Menzies
William Morrow Paperbacks, 2008

“This is another book that trains us to keep an open mind. It offers a theory of how the Chinese discovered America 70 years before Columbus. The practice of being open to new ways of seeing things makes a leader open to the ideas of others — an essential characteristic of great leadership.”

5. Quiet
Susan Cain
Broadway Books, 2013

“Leaders needn’t be the loudest. Leadership is not about theater. It’s not about dominance. It is about putting the lives of others before any other priority. In Quiet, Cain affirms to a good many of us who are introverts by nature that we needn’t try to be extroverts if we want to lead. Simply being ourselves is more important — and more effective.”

6. Senna
Universal Pictures UK, 2011

“I cry every time I watch this documentary by Asif Kapadia. It is the most remarkable illustration of what it means to do something for the love of it. It draws a stark contrast between someone who does something for the passion versus someone who does something for the numbers.”

7. Kumaré
Lorber Films, 2013

“Though not intended to be a documentary about leadership, Vikram Gandhi’s exploration as to why we look for gurus to follow is a perfect metaphor for true leadership. Namely, when those we choose to follow encourage us to find our own strength.”