By reading about the experiences of others, we can broaden our own understanding of what leadership is and how it functions in the real world.  

The books that follow are not just great, absorbing and entertaining reads, they showcase leaders struggling to lead under a multitude of conditions.  Often, they succeed; sometimes they fail.  Regardless, we always can learn.

These are the books that I recommend to close friends. I hope you find them as helpful as I did.  Click the links for more reviews over on Amazon.

Good Books - Leaders in Action

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South: The ENDURANCE Expedition

Amazing leadership under incredible pressures; Earnest Shackleton and his 28 men are stranded in the Antarctic ice, their ship destroyed and no hope of rescue.  Follow as his team overcomes incredible odds to get back home again.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Discover insights into teamwork and leadership as you follow the unlikely members of the 1936 U.S. Men’s Olympic rowing team in its bid to defeat the best in the world in Hitler’s Germany.

The Right Kind of Crazy: A True Story of Teamwork, Leadership, and High-Stakes Innovation

Team leader Adam Steltzner tells how he struggled to balance brilliant minds, shrinking budgets, and the immutable laws of physics in the effort to land a rover the size of a small car on the surface of Mars.

The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War (Civil War Trilogy)

As armies converge on Gettysburg during the American Civil War, be inspired by demonstrations of leadership large and small; reads like a novel but packed with great examples of leadership in action in trying times.

Bunker Hill: A City, A Siege, A Revolution

A captivating read about a pivotal moment in the American Revolution that brings a sharp focus to the difficulties and decisions of leaders on both sides. Also check my book notes here about a crucial lesson Washington learned about vision and command that nearly lost the war.

A Land As God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America

Divided command, clashing egos, poor vision - the colonists of Jamestown couldn't seem to get out of their own way; it's amazing they succeeded at all.  Some amazing examples of bad leadership, and a good look at the impact greed for power can have.  Also check my book notes here about a really poor way to set up a leadership structure.

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

He came from the wrong state, had the wrong pedigree, lacked polish, and lost far more than he won.  Yet when it mattered, Lincoln always seemed to prevail.  A deeply interesting look at how he used conflict among his rivals to build loyalty, encourage debate, and lead wisely.  He was the ultimate humble leader who worked tirelessly to stay a step ahead, and keep his vision at the forefront.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Signet Classics) 200th Anniversary Edition by Lewis, Meriwether, Clark, William published by Signet Classics (2004)

It was the ultimate adventure - exploring the vast, unknown wilderness of the American west in 1805.  What makes this so interesting is to experience the challenges, dangers, and triumphs of their trek through their own journals and in their own voices.

Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842

It was the greatest voyage of exploration you never heard about.  Despite its many successes, poor leadership, infighting, and clashing egos doomed it almost from the beginning.  If you are looking for an amazing example of how not to lead, start here.  Also check my book notes here about the habits of an insecure leader.

Looking for more?
Be sure to check out these other great reads:

Good Reads - Leading YourselfGood Books - Leading Others