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  • Toby Sinclair

12 Unconventional Leadership Books

Unconventional Leadership Books

Stand Out, Break From The Crowd

A collection of the best unconventional leadership books. Ask leaders to think of a leadership book. Their likely answer? "Start with Why" It's a leadership book bestseller for many years.

The problem.

Conventional books lead to conventional solutions.

Most organisations face highly complex, difficult challenges.

You've tried the conventional solutions. They probably didn't help.

This is a collection of 12 unconventional leadership books.

They do not directly relate to leadership. However, their lessons can help you solve complex problems.

You can find a link to each of the best unconventional leadership books below. You'll also find many of these summarised in this collection of book summaries.

I'd love to hear your suggestions too on LinkedIn.


by Peter Wohlleben

The Hidden Life of Trees Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Community

Peter Wohleben draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers.

There are several lessons about complex, adaptive eco-systems. Who knew trees could inspire organisation change?

by Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Empathy

Research has shown that reading poetry can build empathy.

"Poetry fosters curiosity about the strange/stranger. Poems are curiosities, usually written by strangers. Poetry by its nature is Strange Terrain. To enter a poem is to bring your curiosity to an encounter with strangeness."

by Keith Johnstone

Improv Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Psychological Safety

“Sanity is actually a pretence, a way we learn to behave. We keep this pretence up because we don't want to be rejected by other people - and being classified insane is to be shut out of the group in a very complete way. Most people I meet are secretly convinced that they're a little crazier than the average person. People understand the energy necessary to maintain their own shields, but not the energy expended by other people. They understand that their own sanity is a performance, but when confronted by other people they confuse the person with the role. Sanity has nothing directly to do with the way you think. Its a matter of presenting yourself as safe.”

by Kahlil Gibran

The Prophet Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Love Your Work

“Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy. For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger. And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine. And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.”

by Cain Blythe, Phil Jepson

Rewilding Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Changing Culture

"Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. It's about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife's natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats."

by Catherine Gray

Design Unbound Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Organisation Design

Catherine Gray shines a light on society's drink-pushing and talks to top neuroscientists and psychologists about why we drink, delving into the science behind what it does to our brains and bodies.

by Jenny Bird, Sarah Gornall

Art of Coaching Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Coaching

Combining brand-new, original diagrams with classic models from the learning development and management fields, Jenny Bird and Sarah Gornall have created a valuable resource for quick reference, instant accessibility and fast learning, built on a strong theoretical base. Each model in the book is explained with a clear, accessible diagram and a simple guide to what it is, how it works and how to put it into action.

by Paul John Myburgh

The Bushman Winter has Come Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Listening

This documentary features Paul Myburgh, author of The Bushmen Winter Has Come, who spent seven years living with the !Gwi Kalahari Bushmen, exploring ancient conversation and being.

by Rob Gray

How We Learn To Move Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Skill Development

Being an expert is not defined by what you have in your head but rather how effectively you relate to the world around you. As performers, we want to be adaptive problem solvers and creative decision-makers, not robots just executing stored programs drilled into us in practice.

by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Coaching

Parenting experts Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish provide effective step-by-step techniques to help you improve and enrich your relationships with your children.

Surprisingly effective with adults too.

by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist

💡 Leadership Lesson: Creativity

"Stop worrying about becoming an expert before you start. Teaching that comes from a fellow student is often more impactful than teaching from an expert. C.S.Lewis once said “fellow schoolboys can teach fellow students just as effectively as the teacher”. It's the difference between saying 'I'm an expert and I'm going to teach you something', and saying 'I'm a fellow student and I'm going to share what I've learnt and maybe you can take something from this’."

by Menena Cottin, Rosana Faría

The Black Book of Colours Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Diversity

An award-winning, unforgettable black book about colour, which shows you how to "see" without your eyes. It can be hard for a sighted person to imagine what it is like to be blind. But in this breathtaking, ground-breaking and award-winning colour book, Menena Cottin and Rosana Faria try to convey the experience of a person who can see only through their sense of touch, taste, smell or hearing.

by Unknown

Be Bold with Bananas Book Cover

💡 Leadership Lesson: Strengths

This artist's book is a reprint of the 1970 edition, published for the Banana Control Board in South Africa. It contains many banana recipes and accompanying pictures.

Your strengths can add value in surprising places.

If you have bananas, don't be afraid to use them.


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