Greater Good Science Center • Magazine • In Action • In Education

Our Favorite Books for Educators in 2023

For this year’s collection of our favorite education books, we’ve included a little something for everyone—including kids!—and they all center on one theme: hope. Navigating an antiquated educational system in a world that seems to thrive on stress and turmoil can lead to a feeling of helplessness. But we all know that educators are anything but helpless!

Sometimes, though, we need a little shoring up of our sense of agency, and that’s what these books do. If you feel like your imagination has taken a permanent hiatus—you just can’t bring yourself to think of another creative way to teach long division or save the world—look no further. If your students are having a hard time imagining how they can change the world, presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman has written a book just for them. For students and teachers who don’t need help imagining a cleaner, healthier world, but need a little guidance on how to start tackling climate change, social-emotional learning (SEL) expert Tom Roderick offers some ideas. But, if in all this changing and saving the world, you feel like you and your students need to decompress and remember the joy of learning, we’ve got you covered. And, for school leaders who aspire to create the space for all this beautiful transformation to take place (but, really, on certain days, only want to crawl under your desks), there is a book just for you…finally.

We wish you a peaceful end to 2023—and hope you take time to breathe and imagine new possibilities!

The Polyvagal Path to Joyful Learning: Transforming Classrooms One Nervous System at a Time , by Debra Em Wilson

best books for educational leaders 2023

Why is everyone talking about the vagus nerve these days? This wandering bundle of fibers connects the brain and the body, sending safety-and-danger signals to us throughout the day. Because it plays a starring role in our bodies’ involuntary functions (like our heart rate, breath, and digestion), it’s worthy of our curiosity as educators.

Debra Em Wilson’s book, The Polyvagal Path to Joyful Learning , provides a biological framework for understanding, monitoring, and responding to the diverse array of individual nervous systems in your classroom—including your own. Wilson’s practical anecdotes, metaphors, diagrams, and accessible writing make her guide highly readable and relevant. If you strive to be a trauma-sensitive practitioner, and you believe in the power of relationships in the classroom, this book will reaffirm your vision and sense of agency.

Drawing on Stephen Porges’s groundbreaking polyvagal theory and Deb Dana’s theory-practice translation work for clinicians , Wilson represents the primary autonomic nervous system responses as a three-runged ladder: from the immobilizing dorsal vagal response (associated with helpless and hopeless feelings) to the mobilizing sympathetic state (linked to both fear and aggression) to the optimal sense of safety, calm, and eager engagement we experience at the top of the ladder through the ventral vagal response.

Three insights emerged for me while reading about nervous system function and our capacity for learning. First, polyvagal theory emphasizes co-regulation (regulating emotions with others) before self-regulation (or self-management), one of the core social-emotional learning capacities. Wilson highlights healthy, adaptive ways that we can “borrow and lend” our regulated nervous systems through structured academic play, movement, and stillness, for example.

Second, our capacity for resilience isn’t an all-or-nothing game largely dependent on the number of adverse childhood experiences we’ve had. It’s an open-ended, growth process of “befriending and retuning” the nervous system as we recognize our bodily states and draw on our ventral response resources through calming “safety rest stops” and ongoing repair of day-to-day “misses” or “ruptures” with one another.

Finally, this approach expands the notion of the mind-body connection to a dynamic “mind-body-world” exchange where things like tone of voice, a soft gaze, a friendly gesture, and an open posture can make us feel safer, more joyful, more motivated, and engaged in learning and growing together. —Amy L. Eva

Something, Someday , with words by Amanda Gorman and pictures by Christian Robinson

There is much that is hard in this world. An ever-worsening climate crisis , increased poverty and homelessness, violent wars …all problems that feel too big to fix, especially for young children. This beautifully illustrated picture book by presidential inaugural poet Amanda Gorman reminds children (and all of us, really) that we do have the ability to make a difference . It offers up hope that when we come together, and build upon small acts of kindness , we can find beauty and create change in the world.

This book touches on themes that Greater Good has focused on this year: having the courage to take action when things feel hard or scary; the experience of awe that comes from collective effervescence (the feeling that arises when we work with others toward a common goal); approaching the world with openness, wonder , and curiosity ; and, lastly, the importance of community, connection, and compassion for those around us. —Mariah Flynn

Teach for Climate Justice: A Vision for Transforming Education , by Tom Roderick

After leading the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility for 36 years with a commitment to furthering research-based programs in SEL, restorative practices, and racial equity, progressive educator and trailblazer Tom Roderick turns his focus to the struggle for climate justice. He argues that the “primary purpose of education at this turning point in history must be to nurture a generation of courageous, intelligent, and wise non-violent fighters for climate justice.”

His vision incorporates the work of outstanding educators who are attuned to their students’ needs and the needs of humanity during this time of environmental crisis, with the wisdom of luminaries such as Martin Luther King Jr., Joanna Macy, Parker J. Palmer, and many others who have led the way toward peace and justice for all.

A central theme of his book is that we must take the cares and concerns of our young people seriously. As climate activist Greta Thunberg has said, her generation is grieving over the threat to their future and is enraged at adults for “standing by while the house burns.” Teach for Climate Justice is a call to action—“an urgent plea for educators everywhere to rise up and demand the time and resources needed to express our caring by addressing our students’ true needs…[and] transform the dominant mind-set that sees our fragile environment as a field for unlimited exploitation into one based on humility and respectful reciprocity.”

What Roderick has learned in his long career advocating for racial equity and social responsibility provides a framework for this transformation. Each chapter describes one of eight dimensions for creating and sustaining environments where students understand the power of civil resistance, the ability to think intelligently about solutions to pressing needs, and the importance of caring for one another along the way. It is both an inspirational manifesto and a clear set of developmentally appropriate teaching strategies, examples of best practices, and links to resources for the classroom and school.

Although concern for the climate crisis may lead to anxiety, fear, and anger, Teach for Climate Justice describes a way forward where love, joy, and hope animate the work and provide inspiration and motivation to manifest a just and sustainable future for all. —Margaret Golden

Learning to Imagine: The Science of Discovering New Possibilities , by Andrew Shtulman

There is a misconception in popular culture that we become less imaginative as we get older, and that our capacity for imagination declines over our lifespan. In Learning to Imagine , cognitive scientist Andrew Shtulman argues the opposite: All that we learn through our lives serves to enhance our capacity to be imaginative. Knowledge actually powers imagination, and, as we live, learn, and reflect, we continue to grow our capacities to imagine throughout our lives.

Shtulman explores how, contrary to popular belief, children are not the most imaginative among us. Through a deep dive of research, the book illustrates how children’s capacities for imagination are actually fostered through education, not in spite of it; in fact, it takes care, learning, and support to nurture children’s imagination.

Replete with research across cognitive development, psychology, and education, the book is an inspiring and empowering nudge to nurture our knowledge banks to open up more possibilities, and affirms the importance of education in all its forms, from traditional pre-K–12 to Montessori, from unschooling to self-directed learning and higher education.

“Let’s stop thinking of imagination as a limited resource, found only in the minds of young children, and start thinking of it as it really is: a nascent capacity shared by all and expandable by all through learning and reflection.” —Lauren Lee

Emotional Intelligence for School Leaders , by Janet Patti and Robin Stern

When I left my position as a burned-out school leader, I embarked on a healing journey, determined to figure out what had happened. So much of what I’ve learned along the way—from my doctoral studies to my work at Greater Good—is encapsulated in Janet Patti and Robin Stern’s Emotional Intelligence for School Leaders . As school leaders, we can have the best of intentions to do right by our students and staff, but navigating the challenges of a flailing educational system and the unmet needs of so many people— without taking any of it personally —requires a skill set not taught in most principal training programs. Patti and Stern have done a great service to the field with this book. Not only do they acknowledge and empathize with the almost impossible job of a school leader (Patti herself tells some harrowing stories from her time as a leader), they also offer solace and hope and actual tools that leaders can start using today. Half the battle, they argue, is convincing policymakers and others that these skills are a vital necessity if schools are to succeed.

“Many believe that the purpose of school is to solely support and develop academic achievement,” they write, “Further, it’s not widely understood that an emotionally intelligent focus in a supportive environment begets high achievement. And the lack of time is always a culprit, especially in view of the ongoing pressure to achieve.” For school leaders who want to improve their emotional intelligence, growing one’s self-awareness is the first step. Patti and Stern urge leaders to do the inner work: School leaders need to develop the “capacity to tune into your feelings, sense inner signals, understand what you are feeling, and recognize how your emotions impact your ability to focus, make decisions, and maintain relationships.” From there, they offer concrete self-management and relationship skills, along with stories from the field and reflection questions for those who aren’t sure where to begin. Overall, this book should be required reading (and using!) for all pre- and in-service school leaders because “the practice of creating joy for yourself and others is uplifting for a school climate and serves as a protective factor for both self and others.” —Vicki Zakrzewski

best books for educational leaders 2023

New Course for Educators

Courage in Education: Facing Challenges with Strength, Determination, and Hope

About the Authors

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Amy L. Eva, Ph.D. , is the associate education director at the Greater Good Science Center. As an educational psychologist and teacher educator with over 25 years in classrooms, she currently writes, presents, and leads online courses focused on student and educator well-being, mindfulness, and courage. Her new book, Surviving Teacher Burnout: A Weekly Guide To Build Resilience, Deal with Emotional Exhaustion, and Stay Inspired in the Classroom, features 52 simple, low-lift strategies for enhancing educators’ social and emotional well-being.

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Mariah Flynn

Mariah Flynn is the Education Program Coordinator for the Greater Good Science Center.

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Margaret Golden

Margaret Golden, Ed.D. , is the education community manager at the Greater Good Science Center. She is the coauthor of Teach Our Children Well: Essential Strategies for the Urban Classroom and editor of Teaching and Learning from the Inside Out: Revitalizing Ourselves and Our Institutions .

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Lauren Lee is the education marketing and partnerships manager at the Greater Good Science Center. Passionate about character education and social-emotional learning, she supports the education team in promoting kinder, happier places to live and learn.

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Vicki Zakrzewski

Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D. , is the education director of the Greater Good Science Center.

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2023’s Best Educational Leadership Books: Empower Your Career

Are you looking to take your career in education to the next level? Look no further! In this article, we will explore the best educational leadership books of 2023 that will empower you and help …

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Written by: Zia Ul Basir Khan

Published on: September 27, 2023

Educational Leadership Books

Are you looking to take your career in education to the next level? Look no further! In this article, we will explore the best educational leadership books of 2023 that will empower you and help you make a positive impact in educational settings. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, or aspiring leader, these Educational Leadership Books will provide you with valuable insights, strategies, and techniques to enhance your leadership skills.

In today’s rapidly changing educational landscape, it is crucial for educators to stay updated with the latest theories and practices in educational leadership. These books offer a wealth of knowledge and practical advice that can be applied in various educational contexts. From fostering a positive school culture to implementing effective instructional strategies, these Educational Leadership Books cover a wide range of topics that are essential for educational leaders.

By diving into these Educational Leadership Books, you will gain a deeper understanding of educational leadership and develop the skills necessary to lead with confidence and make a lasting impact on students, teachers, and the entire school community. So, if you are ready to empower your career and take your leadership skills to new heights, join us as we explore the best educational leadership books of 2023.

Educational Leadership Books

Unlocking Success: 2 Keys to Educational Leadership Excellence

Unlocking Success: 5 Keys to Educational Leadership Excellence is a comprehensive guide that provides educators with the essential tools and strategies to excel in their leadership roles. This groundbreaking book explores five key principles that are crucial for effective educational leadership.

Key Principle 1: Visionary Leadership

In this section, readers will learn how to develop a clear and compelling vision for their educational setting. They will discover practical methods for inspiring and motivating their team to work towards a common goal.

Key Principle 2: Effective Communication

Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful leadership. This chapter delves into the importance of clear and concise communication, providing readers with practical tips and techniques for enhancing their communication skills.

With its practical advice and actionable strategies, “Unlocking Success: 5 Keys to Educational Leadership Excellence” is a must-read for educators who aspire to become exceptional leaders in their field.

Mastering the Art of Educational Leadership: 4 Simple Methods for Success

Leading a successful educational institution requires a unique set of skills and strategies . In this chapter, we will explore ten simple yet powerful methods that can help educational leaders master the art of leadership and achieve success.

1. Building a Strong Foundation

Establishing a solid foundation is crucial for effective leadership. This section will delve into the importance of creating a clear vision, setting goals, and fostering a positive culture within the educational setting.

2. Effective Communication

Communication is the key to successful leadership. Discover how to effectively communicate with staff, students, and parents to ensure a cohesive and supportive educational environment.

3. Empowering and Motivating Staff

Learn how to empower and motivate your team to reach their full potential. This section will explore strategies for delegation, recognition, and professional development.

4. Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is essential for educational success. Explore methods for fostering a culture of growth, innovation, and reflection within your institution.

Leading with Impact: 5 Steps to Transform Educational Settings

Leading with impact is crucial in transforming educational settings. By implementing these five steps, educational leaders can create a positive and lasting change in their institutions.

Step 1: Setting a Clear Vision

A clear vision provides a roadmap for success. Educational leaders must articulate their goals and communicate them effectively to their team. This ensures that everyone is aligned and working towards a common purpose.

Step 2: Building a Strong Team

A strong team is the backbone of any successful educational institution. Leaders must focus on recruiting and retaining talented individuals who share their vision. By fostering a collaborative and supportive environment, leaders can empower their team members to excel.

Step 3: Promoting Continuous Learning

Education is a lifelong journey, and leaders must encourage a culture of continuous learning. By providing professional development opportunities and fostering a growth mindset, leaders can inspire their team members to constantly improve and innovate.

Step 4: Embracing Change

Change is inevitable in the field of education. Leaders must embrace change and adapt to new technologies, pedagogies, and methodologies. By being open-minded and flexible, leaders can navigate through challenges and lead their institutions towards success.

Step 5: Celebrating Success

Recognizing and celebrating achievements is essential in maintaining motivation and morale. Leaders should acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments of their team members, fostering a positive and supportive culture that encourages further success.

By following these five steps, educational leaders can lead with impact and transform their educational settings into thriving and innovative institutions.

Empowering Educators: Essential Strategies for Effective Leadership

Empowering educators is a crucial aspect of effective educational leadership. By providing the necessary tools and support, leaders can inspire and motivate their teachers to excel in their roles.

Creating a Collaborative Environment

One essential strategy for empowering educators is to foster a collaborative environment. By encouraging open communication and teamwork, leaders can create a space where teachers feel valued and supported. This collaborative approach allows for the sharing of ideas and best practices, leading to improved teaching methods and student outcomes.

Providing Professional Development Opportunities

Another key strategy is to provide ongoing professional development opportunities for educators. By investing in their growth and learning, leaders empower teachers to continuously improve their skills and stay up-to-date with the latest educational trends. This not only benefits the individual teachers but also enhances the overall quality of education provided to students.

By implementing these and other essential strategies, educational leaders can empower their educators and create a positive and thriving learning environment.

The Leadership Edge: 5 Key Principles for Educational Success

This section highlights the importance of visionary leadership and effective communication in educational settings. By adopting a visionary leadership approach, educational leaders can inspire and motivate their teams to achieve excellence. This involves setting clear goals and creating a compelling vision for the future. Additionally, effective communication plays a crucial role in educational leadership. Leaders must be able to articulate their vision, listen actively to their team members, and provide constructive feedback. By mastering these principles, educational leaders can create a positive and productive environment that fosters success and growth.

Navigating Change: 10 Simple Methods for Adaptive Educational Leadership

In the ever-evolving landscape of education, leaders must possess the skills to navigate change effectively. This section explores ten simple methods that educational leaders can employ to adapt to the shifting tides of the industry.

1. Embrace a Growth Mindset

By adopting a growth mindset, leaders can cultivate a culture of continuous learning and improvement within their educational settings.

2. Foster Collaboration and Communication

Encouraging open lines of communication and collaboration among staff members promotes a sense of unity and shared purpose.

3. Develop a Strategic Vision

Educational leaders must have a clear vision for the future and communicate it effectively to inspire and motivate their teams.

4. Emphasize Flexibility and Adaptability

Being flexible and adaptable allows leaders to respond to unexpected challenges and seize new opportunities.

5. Cultivate a Culture of Innovation

Promoting a culture of innovation encourages creativity and forward-thinking among educators and students alike.

6. Prioritize Professional Development

Investing in the professional development of staff members ensures they have the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate change successfully.

7. Seek Feedback and Input

Leaders should actively seek feedback and input from stakeholders to make informed decisions and foster a sense of ownership.

8. Build Resilience and Emotional Intelligence

Developing resilience and emotional intelligence equips leaders to handle challenges and support the well-being of their teams.

9. Stay Informed and Engaged

Educational leaders must stay informed about industry trends and engage in ongoing professional learning to stay ahead of the curve.

10. Lead by Example

Leading by example sets the tone for the entire educational community and inspires others to embrace change and growth.

Inspiring Innovation: 5 Steps to Foster Creativity in Educational Leadership

Leading with impact requires fostering creativity in educational leadership. To inspire innovation, leaders must follow five key steps. First, encourage a culture of curiosity and exploration, where educators are encouraged to think outside the box. Second, provide opportunities for collaboration and brainstorming, allowing ideas to flow freely. Third, support risk-taking and experimentation, creating an environment where failure is seen as a learning opportunity.

Next, leaders should prioritize professional development, ensuring educators have the tools and knowledge to implement innovative practices. Finally, leaders must lead by example, modeling creativity and embracing new ideas themselves. By following these steps, educational leaders can inspire innovation and create a dynamic learning environment that prepares students for the challenges of the future.

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About Zia Ul Basir Khan

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11 Books To Refresh Your Leadership Library

We asked educators in our community to share the books that most profoundly influenced their leadership approach in recent years. Here are their top picks.

From Warren Buffet to Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, many of the most successful leaders are voracious readers . And yet, among school leaders, reading can get short shrift. “Of all the professional development lessons I’ve learned in the principalship, reading strikes me as one we don’t talk enough about,” writes Kathryn Fishman-Weaver , an author and the executive director of Mizzou Academy. “Are the texts we choose ones that shed light on a wide range of lived experiences, including the cultures and experiences included in our student body?”

We asked our community to weigh in and share which leadership books—recently published titles as well as classics—profoundly influenced their leadership approach in recent years. A few clear crowd favorites emerged, among them Harry and Rosemary Wong’s bestseller, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher . Several authors—Anthony Muhammad, Brené Brown, Simon Sinek, and Shane Safir—had multiple titles nominated, though we selected just one from each in order to keep the list lean. Finally, several unexpected suggestions showed up in the threads, including The Tao of Pooh , The Wonderful Wizard of Oz , and Treasure Island . 

The following books offer a cornucopia of perspectives and cover topics ranging from grading practice to staff dynamics, school culture and climate, to classroom instruction. Here are eleven books that school administrators say will challenge and strengthen your leadership practice.  

The First Days of School: How to Be An Effective Teacher Harry and Rosemary Wong A teacher-focused how-to manual originally published in the nineties (now in its fifth edition) may seem like an unusual pick for the top of a leadership books list—but it garnered the most votes by far on our social channels. While it’s considered a “must read” for teachers, it’s also a valuable resource for administrators, educators told us. Chapters examine the evidence-based practices of high-functioning classrooms and offer teacher-tested advice for structuring and organizing classrooms, and holding high expectations for all kids. Though some critics argue that the authors’ approach to classroom management may “stifle spontaneity in classrooms and lead teachers to become overly controlling,” many consider The First Days of School an authoritative resource for all educators—especially leaders who regularly observe and evaluate teachers in action. 

Dare to Lead Brené Brown Brown believes leaders face pervasive cultural challenges to organizational success, including a desire to avoid hard conversations, a lack of honest but productive feedback, a fear of taking smart risks or sharing bold ideas, and perfectionism. Her exploration of vulnerability, shame, relationships, and communication echoes some of her other work, and the book’s inspirational and self-improvement focused tone may not be for everyone. Yet leaders looking to create a culture of empowerment may benefit from what Brown offers. Courage and trust are important components of any workplace, and this book offers a lens through which to look at both. 

The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity George Couros When a student walks into a classroom, full of questions and curiosity, what happens next? Couros—whose career credentials include classroom teacher, technology facilitator, and school and district administrator—explores what it looks like to create a learning environment where students are encouraged to think differently, innovate, and do more than just perform well when tested. With accessible insights on leadership and learning interspersed with discussion questions, we heard from many educators and school leaders who tackled this text together in their PLCs or as part of their personal professional development. One caveat from a reviewer: “If you are looking for a book that provides all of the answers, this is not the one.” But it may be the book that inspires you to start looking in the right direction. 

Connecting Through Conversation: A Playbook for Talking with Students Erika Bare and Tiffany Burns After cataloging conversations that moved the needle with students, authors Bare and Burns—currently serving as an assistant superintendent and principal, respectively—felt they had hard-won insight to contribute on the topic of how to talk to kids in school. The pair channeled their collective 40 years of education experience to develop a student-centered, trauma informed, and culturally responsive framework for communicating with and building durable relationships with students. This book includes a conversation planning guide, sentence stems, and an array of other resources. Connecting Through Conversation, the authors explained in a Q&A , offers insights on how to “use body language, tone, and volume to communicate safety and invite connection,” navigating challenging behaviors, while also ensuring educators prioritize their own physical, emotional, and mental health.

Leaders Eat Last Simon Sinek In the U.S. Marines during mealtime, Sinek explains, it’s common for the highest ranking officers to fix their plates last. This not only ensures everyone on the team is fed, but sends an important message: Leaders look after their people first. But Sinek’s people-first approach is only one component of a larger narrative that includes segments on creating a safe environment within your organization—he refers to this as the “Circle of Safety”—and the surprising impacts of what he calls “selfless chemicals” like serotonin and oxytocin on leadership style. 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed Paulo Freire A lot has changed since 1968 when this book was first published in Portuguese, but it’s still widely considered a seminal text on education. Freire’s own experiences with poverty in Brazil, as well as his work with marginalized communities—many of which could not read—helped forge his views on knowledge, access, education reform, and class. Heavily academic and at times jargon-filled, this can be a dense philosophical read though its central message is simple: Education at its core, Freire writes, is a symbiotic relationship in which neither the role of the student or the teacher is fixed. Teachers themselves have many things to learn alongside their students; students have lots of things that they can teach. Freire’s pioneering analysis of the “banking” system of education urges educators to examine their pedagogy and practices. 

Street Data Shane Safir and Jamila Dugan When checking on the health of a school, administrators often turn to what the authors refer to as satellite data like attendance, graduation rates, and test scores. While this information is important, it doesn’t provide a nuanced enough picture, they argue. For a more equitable and comprehensive approach, the authors examine what they call map data , a sort of “GPS of learning trends and gaps in a school community,” Safir writes in EdWeek . They also look at street data , which provides “real-time, leading indicators on the messy work of school and instructional improvement.” For some schools already deep into their equity journey, this book may not feel particularly new, some reviewers say. What it may introduce, however, are resources and tools to help leaders and school communities understand why data should be utilized differently and how to begin that process. 

Grading for Equity: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How It Can Transform Schools and Classrooms Joe Feldman Ensuring accuracy, preventing bias and subjectivity, and presenting a dynamic picture of academic performance can all be factors that make grading a particularly challenging task. What’s more, how can educators help students focus on the learning and not the grade? Feldman examines these points as well as how grading relates to identity, the history of grading, unreliable practices, why traditional grading can demotivate and disempower students, and how to chart a path forward. In spite of the nuance involved in determining what works best for each school community, Feldman’s insights provide a starting point for an examination of school-wide grading practices. 

The Assistant Principal 50: Critical Questions for Meaningful Leadership and Professional Growth Baruti K. Kafele Whether you’re pursuing a career as an assistant principal or aspiring to become a principal, Kafele argues the role of an AP is “one of the most misunderstood and underutilized positions in education.” Kafele aims to help prospective and current APs navigate the ambiguity of each step of their journey, offering reflective questions, insights, and guidance with some personal anecdotes mixed in. Although some readers note the book's emphasis on the role of the administrator as disciplinarian, which may not apply depending on your school's culture and climate, Kafele offers a wealth of ideas that can be adapted to a variety of school ecosystems. 

Transforming School Culture: How to Overcome Staff Division Anthony Muhammad Every school building has its own unique cast of characters. The tensions that may arise between them—potentially becoming a roadblock to progress and change, Muhammad explains—stem from shifting dynamics, relationships, and the beliefs or assumptions of four groups: the Believers, the Fundamentalists, the Tweeners, and the Survivors. Based on a study of 11 elementary, 14 middle, and 9 high schools, Transforming School Culture offers solutions for transforming an ailing school climate into a healthy high-functioning environment for learning. 

Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students Zaretta Lynn Hammond What does it mean to be a culturally responsive educator? Hammond’s take is informed by recent neuroscience research and aims to help schools with diverse classrooms bolster engagement and foster deeper learning in a way that honors students. Designed to prompt self-reflection and action, Hammond’s book aims to leave educators and instructional leaders with a more fleshed out understanding of how to effectively implement brain-based culturally responsive instruction and create a culture of independent learners.   

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New in 2023: 15 Equity-Centered Professional Learning Leadership Books for Back to School

  • August 21, 2023 |
  • By The Leadership Academy

Through research and 20 years of experience working with nearly 14,000 education leaders across the country, we know that effective professional learning is critically important to keeping leaders in their jobs longer and creating better outcomes for students. To help celebrate the start of a new school year and kick off your own professional learning goals, we offer you this hot-off-the-presses book list comprised of resources –all of which are brand-new or coming soon in 2023 – to help support the creation of culturally responsive learning environments where every student can thrive.

Featuring several exciting new titles from our team here at The Leadership Academy as well as our partners in the work, this diverse list represents a range of perspectives and insights to help you to enhance your instructional leadership, deepen your equity work, drive change, and foster a thriving school or systems culture.  Click here for a printable version of the list .

  • Blended Coaching: Supporting the Development and Supervision of School Leaders (2nd Edition) by Gary S. Bloom and Jackie Owens Wilson builds on the groundbreaking model outlined in the bestselling first edition of Blended Coaching, offering a powerful set of strategies for effective supervision with a significant new focus on coaching leaders through issues of equity.
  • From Tinkering to Transformation: How School District Central Offices Drive Equitable Teaching and Learning by Meredith I. Honig and Lydia R. Rainey (available for preorder) is a guide to helping education leaders reimagine the central office through an equity-aligned, research-based approach. Using lively case studies, detailed examples, and performance data from ten US school districts, Honig and Rainey highlight how central offices must transform to support equitable teaching and learning in schools.
  • Improving America’s Schools Together: How District-University Partnerships and Continuous Improvement Can Transform Education , edited by Louis M. Gomez, Manuelito Biag, David G. Imig, Randy Hitz, and Steve Tozer, focuses on continuous improvement in school district-university partnerships, highlighting in-depth stories, improvement methods, theory, research, and practical tools that can be adapted to any setting.
  • Justice Seekers: Pursuing Equity in the Details of Teaching and Learning by Lacey Robinson discovers the many ways that justice is in the details of race, pedagogy, and standards-driven education. The book offers strategies to help educators see the ways in which they can contribute to eradicating racial inequity and methods for improving the quality of your own teaching here and now.
  • Leading Your School Toward Equity: A Practical Framework for Walking the Talk by Dwayne Chism presents a four-step Equity Leadership Framework that is filled with practical guidance, exercises, and activities that you can apply to your school environment.
  • Leading Within Systems of Inequity in Education: A Liberation Guide for Leaders of Color by The Leadership Academy’s own Executive Director of Curriculum Development & Equity Mary Rice-Boothe explores what leaders of color need to succeed in the systems that have often marginalized the populations they represent. With first-hand insights from equity officers and principals, this timely book will help leaders of color to succeed within white spaces while working to dismantle those spaces for a new system where they – and students – thrive.
  • Leverage the People Who Love and Care About You Personally and Professionally by Ron Rapatalo is an amalgamation of the stories, values, and lessons of Rapatalo’s own personal “circle of champions,” which he offers alongside advice on seeking out your own circle of champions and how to learn from them.
  • The Open System: Redesigning Education and Reigniting Democracy by Landon Mascareñaz and Doannie Tran is a call to action for school and community leaders to reframe educational institutions as open systems that are adaptable and responsive to the needs of students, families, and communities.
  • Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal by Bettina L. Love lays bare the devastating effect on 25 Black Americans caught in the intersection of economic gain and racist ideology. With input from leading U.S. economists, Dr. Love then offers a road map for repair, arguing for reparations with transformation for all children at its core.
  • Stay and Prevail: Students of Color Don’t Need to Leave Their Communities to Succeed by The Leadership Academy’s Lead Executive Officer & President Nancy Gutierrez & Roberto Padilla calls out deficit-based thinking that reinforces the idea that students of color living in low-income communities must leave their communities to succeed. With real-world examples of leaders who gave back to their communities as well as reflection questions and clear and simple tips, this book helps educators honor the backgrounds, cultures, and strengths of Black and Brown communities.
  • Shifting Self and System: How Educational Leaders Propel Excellence for Achieving Equity by Ruby Ababio-Fernandez and Courtney Winkfield (available for preorder) presents an original framework built on the interdependent pillars of self-mastery, adaptive leadership, racial literacy, emergence, and whole-body healing.
  • There Are No Deficits Here: Disrupting Anti-Blackness in Education by Lauren M. Wells disrupts the deficit beliefs that steal belonging, purpose, pride, and joy from Black students, examining school reform models and offering a counternarrative of how interrelationships and interdependence govern healthy systems.
  • Understanding Your Instructional Power: Curriculum and Language Decisions to Support Each Student by Tanji Reed Marshall challenges us to question our assumed impact in the classroom and to reflect on whether we use our power for the betterment of students. The Power Principle Matrix is central to the book, pushing readers toward deep, critical self-examination through its two focus areas, teacher autonomy and instructional power.
  • Unearthing Joy: A Guide to Culturally and Historically Responsive Curriculum and Instruction  by Gholdy Muhammad is a follow-up to Cultivating Genius, introducing the fifth pursuit of joy to her groundbreaking HILL (Histories, Identities, Literacies, and Liberation) model. Filled with quotes, poems, artwork, and playlists, this book awakens all of the senses for a truly joyful reading experience.
  • Unwrapped: The Pursuit of Justice for Women Educators  by The Leadership Academy’s own Kendra Washington-Bass and Kelly Peaks Horner aims to create an inclusive space for women educational leaders to cultivate positive and enriching educational experiences that ensure equitable access for all students, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds.
  • Coming soon : Finding Your Leadership Soul by Carlos Moreno, releasing December 2023— while it’s not yet available for preorder, we encourage you to keep an eye out for this exciting new title.

If you’ve read or discovered a new equity-focused leadership book or resource that you don’t see on this list, we’d love to hear about it!  Feel free to tell us about it here .

Happy reading, and wishing you a phenomenal start to your new school year and professional learning journey!

The Leadership Academy

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Best Back to School Ideas 🍏

best books for educational leaders 2023

Must Read Books for Teachers in 2023

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There are some books that every teacher should read, either to fill their teacher’s soul or perfect their craft! Today, I’m sharing nine books ones that all teachers should read in 2023.

Well, teacher friends, the end of 2022 is near! Unlike 2020 and 2021, I feel like I’m going to *kinda* miss 2022. Surprisingly, 2022 wasn’t so terrible. Sure, it had its dark spots, but I feel like 2022 went WAY better than previous years. I’m hoping 2023 is even better! With that being said, winter break is upon us, and that means there’s going to be a *wee bit* of time to rest and relax. At this point in the year, I’d give my left foot for a nap, but there’s no rest for this Applicious Teacher. So instead, I’m settling for a bit of relaxation. For me, relaxation equates to reading. So, let’s talk about some of the must-read books for teachers in 2023!

best books for educational leaders 2023

Some of the books I’m sharing today are fun reads, while others are meant to better you as a person, open your eyes to situations you didn’t realize were happening, or help you hone your teaching craft. But all of them are perfect for helping you reshape how 2023 will look in your personal and professional life.

Please note this post contains affiliate links.  If you do follow my links, please know that I do make a tiny commission from your purchase. There is no cost to you, but this extra coinage allows me to continue creating free resources and writing excellent content for you!

Must Read Books for Teachers Quick Links

If you’re short on time, click the links below to check out these must-reads for this year!

Must read books for teachers

1. You’re Always Enough

Must Read Books for Teachers

Emily Ley always seems to make her way onto my list… and this year is no different. You’re Always Enough is a powerful book of self-acceptance written by Emily to her daughter. Why is it on this list? The illustrations and message BEG to be shared with littles across the globe! I think this will make a perfect addition to any classroom SEL lessons.

See the book here !

In addition, Emily released a daily devotional that seems to be the perfect way to start your day! Check that out here !

2. Awakened 2nd Edition

Must Read Books for Teachers

Angela is no stranger to our must-reads list. She made splashes in 2018 and 2020. This time she’s back with a completely revamped version of her best-selling book, Awakened.

Armed with over a decade of self-reflection and research, Angela reformed her words as she guides teachers through transforming their teaching by changing their mindset. If you already have her first version, grab the 2nd to see the updates that reflect the current challenges educators face teaching post-pandemic.

Check out Awakened 2nd Edition here!

3. Reading Strategies Book 2.0

best books for educational leaders 2023

Another repeater is Jennifer Serravallo. Her books have been cornerstones to thousands of teachers over the years. Now she’s back, and this time, she’s revamped her previous best seller with actual research-based strategies. It’s so lovely to see leaders in the educational field working to infuse SOR practices into their practices.

If you were a Jennifer Serravallo fan before, you’ll love her with this one!

Check out The Reading Strategies Book 2.0 here !

4. Reading Above the Fray

best books for educational leaders 2023

While we’re on the subject of the Science of Reading… if you’re looking for a way to bring some research-based foundational skills to your early literacy classroom, this one might be exactly what you need! Julia Lindsey brings you evidence-backed routines that will help young readers decode words efficiently so they can spend more energy on comprehending–and enjoying–what they read!

Check it out here!

5. Visible Learning in Mathematics

best books for educational leaders 2023

So this list is *pretty* heavy on the reading side of teaching, so let’s round it out a bit with some math best practices. In Visible Learning for Mathematics, you’ll learn the framework to optimize your students’ learning in mathematics this school year!

6. UFLI Foundations

best books for educational leaders 2023

Team SOR friends, this one is for you! This highly anticipated research-based curriculum is perfect for guiding your path to building strong foundational skills in the early literacy classroom. Created following science-based skills and piloted for two years, this curriculum guide is perfect if you’re unsure of how to make the switch to science-based reading instruction. It is a tad pricey, so you may want to explore options of your school purchasing for you and your team! I personally have this (I actually preordered it, I was so excited!), and I use it every day!

7. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

best books for educational leaders 2023

Part fictional biography/part behind-the-scenes look at the glamour of Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s… this book is sure to keep you reading. This is a fun read, perfect for nestling on the couch with your jaw open as you follow the twists and turns of fictional Hollywood icon Evelyn Hugo. Let’s just say… there are def a few things you don’t see coming!

8. 180 Days of Self-Care for Teachers

best books for educational leaders 2023

Self-care was the buzzword of 2022 with everyone calling for self-care days filled with bubble baths and saying no… but what does self-care look like when you work in a field wholly dedicated to taking care of someone else, like education?

This book was introduced to me through a required book study my school is hosting this year. ( I know…I know… a bit oxymoron.) But, honestly, it is very interesting and well-written. Tina provides stories, antidotes, and use-right-now suggestions for implementation! Def worth a read if you are even a little bit concerned about educator burnout. Check it out here!

9. It Ends with Us

best books for educational leaders 2023

Colleen Hoover is a favorite author for a reason. She has such a talent for writing captivating tales with tons of heart that aren’t really classified as “Rom-Com” or as drama, and It Ends with Us is no different.

Trigger warning, this does give an intimate look at domestic abuse. If you’re looking for a gripping book about love, motherhood, and breaking the cycle… this is a perfect recommendation.

10. Finacial Feminist

best books for educational leaders 2023

One thing I know we need to leave in 2022? Money woes… Pinching pennies is so 2022… and in 2023, it’s time to take hold of our finances and build a life we love!

10 Books for Teachers in 2023

So, there are my ten must-read books for teachers in 2023. Is there one you would add? Have you read any of these? Be sure to comment below to share your thoughts! 2023 is looking up, friends! Let’s be ready, together!

More Posts Like This…

Check out all the previous years’ lists by clicking the links below!

  • Must Read Books for Teachers in 2022
  • Must Reads for Teacher 2021
  • Must Read Books for Teachers in 2020
  • Must Reads for Teachers in 2019
  • Best Books for Teachers (2018)

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best books for educational leaders 2023

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The Applicious Teacher is all about creating hands-on and engaging lessons that align with the standards while still having time for your life. This is your place for ideas, tips, and resources for the REAL teacher!

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The Top 50 Best Books for Teachers – Professional Development Education Books You’ll Love

The Top 50 Best Books for Teachers

Table of Contents

1. the innovator’s mindset: empower learning, unleash talent, and learn a culture of creativity – george couros.

  • 2. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way To Build Good Habits And Break Bad Ones – James Clear

3. So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence Of Failure In Urban Schools – Charles M Payne 

4. vintage innovation: leveraging retro tools and classic ideas to design deeper learning experiences – john spencer.

  • 5. An Educator’s Guide To STEAM: Engaging Students Using Real-World Problems – Cassie F Quigley, Danielle Herro, Deborah Hanuscin
  • 6. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brene Brown
  • 7. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything – Ken Robinson, Lou Aronica
  • 8. The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change – Adam Braun
  • 9. Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight to Inspire, Encourage and Transform, – Elise Ballard

Related articles:

10. the coddling of the amerian mind: how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure – greg lukianoff, jonathan haidt, 11. the whole-brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind – daniel j. siegel, tina payne bryson, 12. the power of place: authentic learning through place-based education – tom vander ark, emily leibtag, nate mcclennen.

  • 13. The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life – Chris Guillebeau
  • 14. Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative – Ken Robinson
  • 15. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Brene Brown
  • 16. Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution – Derrick Jensen
  • 17. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink
  • 18. The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact – Michael Fullan

19. Flipping Leadership Doesn’t Mean Reinventing the Wheel – Peter M DeWitt

  • 20. Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator – Dave Burgess
  • 21. Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools – Paul Bambrick-Santoyo
  • 22. Shifting the Monkey: The Art of Protecting Good People From Liars, Criers, and Other Slackers – Todd Whitaker
  • 23. The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools – Multiple Authors
  • 24. What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most – Todd Whitaker
  • 25. The Tech-Savvy Administrator: How do I use technology to be a better school leader? – Steven W. Anderson
  • 26. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character – Paul Tough
  • 27. Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools – Mary Cay Ricci
  • 28. The Way of Mindful Education: Cultivating Well-Being in Teachers and Students – Daniel Rechtschaffen
  • 29. The Way They Learn – Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
  • 30. Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom – Daniel T Willingham
  • 31. The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child – Richard Lavoie
  • 32. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning – Peter C Brown
  • 33. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching – Multiple Authors
  • 34. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning – John Hattie
  • 35. Design For How People Learn (Voices That Matter) – Julie Dirksen
  • 36. Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools – Michael B Horn, Heather Staker
  • 37. The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning – Tom D Whitby, Steven W. Anderson
  • 38. Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success – Carol Dweck
  • 39. School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It – Steve Gruenert, Todd Whitaker
  • 40. Shaping School Culture: Pitfalls, Paradoxes, and Promises – Terrence E Deal, Kent D Peterson
  • 41. Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School – Andy Hargreaves, Michael Fullan
  • 42. Cultures Built to Last – DuFour Richard, Fullan Michael
  • 43. The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive And Thrive – Michael Fullan
  • 44. Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World – Tony Wagner
  • 45. Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day – Jonathan Bergmann, Aaron Sams
  • 46. Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School – Laura Fleming
  • 47. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners – Multiple Authors
  • 48. Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner – Persida & William Himmele
  • 49. Disrupting Class, Expanded Edition: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns – Multiple Authors
  • 50. Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding – Jay McTighe, Grant Wiggins
  • 51. The Understanding by Design Guide Set (2 Books)– Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe
  • 52. Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty – Elizabeth F Barkley
  • 53. Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever – Vicki Davis
  • 54. Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom – Sylvia Libow Martinez, Gary S Stager

More Professional Development Books and Educator Books For Teachers Reading List

There are a LOT of great books for teachers out there. Picking just fifty is no easy feat, but we’ve done our best to cover the best books for teachers from five different angles .

All of these are exceptional reads for teachers. They are in no particular order ; number one’s content is just as significant a teacher resource as number fifty. So, take a browse through the list or jump directly to your area of interest as a teacher, whether it’s inspiration, mindfulness, leadership ways, classroom management, improved student outcomes, teaching, learning culture, or educational psychology.

Top Professional Development Books For Teachers Compared

best books for educational leaders 2023

One of our favorite professional development books for teachers, The Innovator’s Mindset, contains numerous practical examples of innovative leadership. George Couros encourages any school teacher and administrator to shape students’ natural curiosity by empowering them to question and explore. Innovation starts at the top; this book shows educators how to become innovative thinkers. 

2. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way To Build Good Habits And Break Bad Ones –  James Clear

best books for educational leaders 2023

While not strictly a professional development book, it is one of my favorite books for teachers. In Atomic Habits, world-renowned habits expert James Clear explains how small changes can transform a teacher’s life and impact student learning and student behavior. This practical book reveals simple life hacks and explains why they form good habits and break bad ones.  

best books for educational leaders 2023

In this book, Charles M Payne vividly portrays the weakness of the social infrastructure and daily realities in today’s urban schools. However, the last decade has brought hope with insights into the causes of school failure and how some schools succeeded in improving.

best books for educational leaders 2023

John Spencer’s professional development books answer questions real teachers have about being innovative in the classroom without the best technology, spark creativity within constraints, and how to use vintage tools and approaches in new ways. Vintage Innovation shows the relevance for teachers to look back and forward, using timeless skills and strategies in new ways. 

5. An Educator’s Guide To STEAM: Engaging Students Using Real-World Problems –  Cassie F Quigley, Danielle Herro, Deborah Hanuscin

best books for educational leaders 2023

An Educator’s Guide to STEAM is a practical book to help K-8 grade teachers understand STEAM. The conceptual model illustrates key STEAM teaching aspects like integrating STEAM content and the correct teaching environment. One of the best STEAM-related professional development books for teachers, this book also offers strategies and elements of connected learning to help learners connect STEAM to real-world issues. 

6. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brene Brown

best books for educational leaders 2023

In Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. Based on twelve years of research, she argues that vulnerability is not weakness but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection. Understanding these concepts can help a teacher in teaching learners and classroom management.

7. The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything – Ken Robinson, Lou Aronica

best books for educational leaders 2023

The Element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the Element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve their highest levels. With a wry sense of humor, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the Element and those that stifle that possibility.

8. The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change – Adam Braun

best books for educational leaders 2023

The riveting New York Times bestseller is about a young man who built more than 250 schools worldwide—and the steps anyone can take to lead a successful and significant life. The Promise of a Pencil chronicles Braun’s journey to find his calling, as each chapter explains one clear step that every person can take to turn their most significant ambitions into reality. An inspiring book to add to the reading list of professional development books for teachers.

9. Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight to Inspire, Encourage and Transform, – Elise Ballard

best books for educational leaders 2023

Have you ever experienced an epiphany, a life-changing moment, or a realization? Elise Ballard has, and she was so stunned by its effect on her life that she started asking others if they had ever experienced these kinds of breakthroughs.

  • 8 Education Technology Books Every Leader Should Read
  • 13 of the Best Minecraft Books for Kids Who Are Reluctant to Read
  • Books to Inspire Coding & Robotics

best books for educational leaders 2023

First Amendment expert Greg Lukianhoff and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt make a case for how three terrible ideas in childhood education are the origins of new problem trends on college campuses. The three untruths are: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker, Always trust your feelings, and Life is a battle between good people and evil people. Embracing these untruths has a negative influence on the social, emotional, and intellectual development of children, hence poor school discipline and relationships. According to them, cognitive behavioral psychology (CBT) has tools to evaluate and rectify these situations. Excellent reading material for teachers, parents, and mainstream society concerned about a generation setup for trauma and failure. 

best books for educational leaders 2023

Teachers are lifelong learners, and this book is a great practical book on how to develop healthy brain development in children. New York Times bestsellers, the authors, offer a revolutionary approach to rearing children. Based on the latest neuroscience research on how young children’s right brain emotions rule over their logical left brain, they offer 12 key age-appropriate strategies to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development. According to the authors, the brain is “under construction” until a child is in their mid-twenties. This is a recommended reading not just for parents and new teachers in elementary education but for all teachers with a passion for teaching; an excellent.

best books for educational leaders 2023

Placed-based education (PBE) is adaptable learning anytime and anywhere where learning leverages the power of place for personalized learning. Since birth, children learn from their surroundings, and history shows that before industrialized education, the community was the classroom. Instead of the American classroom becoming an aspect of learning, it became the place where parents send their children to learn. This book provides teacher educators with ideas on how to enhance the benefits of place-based learning in the teaching profession. Another good read to add to parents’ and teachers’ bookshelves.

13. The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life – Chris Guillebeau

best books for educational leaders 2023

A remarkable book, the content, like his other books, will guide and inspire the teacher and students in the classroom. The Happiness of Pursuit reveals how anyone can bring meaning into their life by undertaking a quest. When he set out to visit all of the planet’s countries by age thirty-five, compulsive goal seeker, Chris Guillebeau never imagined that his journey’s biggest revelation would be how many people like himself exist – each pursuing a challenging quest.

14. Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative – Ken Robinson

best books for educational leaders 2023

“It is often said that education and training are the keys to the future. They are, but a key can turn in two directions. Turn it one way, and you lock resources away, even from those they belong to. Turn it the other way, and you release resources and give people back to themselves.” Learning to be Creative is one of the best books for teachers to inspire learners and educators to think and act differently toward each other.

15. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Brene Brown

best books for educational leaders 2023

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, a leading expert on shame, authenticity, and belonging, shares ten guideposts on the power of Wholehearted living—a way of engaging with the world from a place of worthiness.

16. Walking on Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution – Derrick Jensen

best books for educational leaders 2023

Remember the days of longing for the hands-on classroom clock to move faster? Most of us would say we love to learn, but we hate school. Why is that? This book addresses what happens to creativity and individuality as we pass through the educational system. How can we change our lesson planning to help students retain their love for learning?

17. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink

best books for educational leaders 2023

Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink. In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction at work, at school, and home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

18. The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact  –  Michael Fullan

best books for educational leaders 2023

One of the best-known leadership authors in education, Fullan, explains why the answer isn’t in micro-managing instruction nor autonomous entrepreneurialism. He systematically shows how the principal’s role should change, demonstrating how it can be done in short order, at scale.

best books for educational leaders 2023

Part of The Corwin Connected Educator series, in this volume, you’ll use the principles of connectedness and flipped learning to engage stakeholders—teachers, administrators, and parents—digitally, so they’re ready for productive discussion when you meet in person.

20. Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator  –  Dave Burgess

best books for educational leaders 2023

Based on Dave Burgess’s popular “Outrageous Teaching” and “Teach Like a PIRATE” seminars, this development book offers inspiration, practical techniques, and innovative ideas that will help the teacher increase student engagement, boost your creativity and transform your life as an educator.

Also, see Fractus reviews of  Play Like a Pirate  and  Explore Like a Pirate .

21. Leverage Leadership: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools  –  Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

best books for educational leaders 2023

One of the best professional development books for teachers on leadership, Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (Managing Director of Uncommon Schools), shows leaders how to raise their schools to greatness by following a core set of principles. These seven principles, or “levers,” allow for consistent, transformational, and replicable growth. With an intentional focus on these areas, leaders will leverage much more learning from the same amount of time investment.

22. Shifting the Monkey: The Art of Protecting Good People From Liars, Criers, and Other Slackers  –  Todd Whitaker

best books for educational leaders 2023

Poor employees get a disproportionate amount of attention. Why? Because they complain the loudest, create the greatest disruptions, and rely on others to assume the responsibilities they shirk. Learn how to focus on your good employees first and help them shift these monkeys back to the under-performers.

23. The Multiplier Effect: Tapping the Genius Inside Our Schools  –  Multiple Authors

best books for educational leaders 2023

Why do some leaders double their team’s effectiveness while others seem to drain the energy right out of the room? Using insights from more than 100 interviews with school leaders, this development book pinpoints the five disciplines that define how Multipliers bring out the best across their schools and classroom.

24. What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 Things That Matter Most  –  Todd Whitaker

best books for educational leaders 2023

In the third edition of this renowned book, you will find pearls of wisdom, heartfelt advice, and inspiration from one of the nation’s leading authorities on staff motivation, teacher leadership, and principal effectiveness. With wit and understanding, Todd Whitaker describes the beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, and interactions of great teachers and explains what they do differently.

25. The Tech-Savvy Administrator: How do I use technology to be a better school leader?  –  Steven W. Anderson

best books for educational leaders 2023

How can school leaders use technology to be more effective? In this professional development book, award-winning blogger and educational technology expert Steven W. Anderson explain how and why leaders should use technology and outlines what should be in every leader’s digital toolkit.

26. How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character  –  Paul Tough

best books for educational leaders 2023

How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough reveals how this new knowledge can transform young people’s lives inside and outside the classroom.

27. Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools  –  Mary Cay Ricci

best books for educational leaders 2023

When students believe that dedication and hard work can change their performance in school, they grow to become resilient, successful students. Inspired by the popular mindset idea that hard work and effort can lead to student success, Mindsets in the Classroom provides educators with ideas for building a growth mindset school culture. Learners are challenged to change their thinking about their abilities and potential.

28. The Way of Mindful Education: Cultivating Well-Being in Teachers and Students  –  Daniel Rechtschaffen

best books for educational leaders 2023

With attention spans waning and stress on the rise, many teachers are looking for new ways to help students concentrate, learn, and thrive. The Way of Mindful Education is a practical guide for cultivating attention, compassion, and well-being in these students and mindfulness in teachers themselves.

29. The Way They Learn  –  Cynthia Ulrich Tobias

best books for educational leaders 2023

Draw out the best in your children—by understanding the way they learn. If you’re frustrated that your child isn’t learning the way you did, chances are they are too! In this practical resource, Cynthia Ulrich Tobias explains that understanding how you learn can make all the difference.

30. Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom  –  Daniel T Willingham

best books for educational leaders 2023

Easy-to-apply, scientifically-based approaches for engaging students in the classroom. Cognitive scientist Dan Willingham focuses his acclaimed research on the biological and cognitive basis of learning. His professional development books will help teachers improve their practice by explaining how they and their students think and learn.

31. The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child  –  Richard Lavoie

best books for educational leaders 2023

The Motivation Breakthrough explores proven techniques and strategies—based on six possible motivational styles—that will revolutionize the way teachers and parents inspire kids with learning disabilities to succeed and achieve. Backed by decades of experience in the classroom, educator and acclaimed author Rick Lavoie explodes common myths and gives specific advice for motivating children with learning disabilities.

32. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning  –  Peter C Brown

best books for educational leaders 2023

Drawing on cognitive psychology and other fields, Make It Stick offers techniques for becoming more productive learners and cautions against study habits and practice routines that turn out to be counterproductive. It’s one of those professional development books that speak to students, teachers, trainers, athletes, and all those interested in lifelong learning and self-improvement.

33. How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching  –  Multiple Authors

best books for educational leaders 2023

Distilling the research literature and translating the scientific approach into language relevant to college or university, this book for teachers introduces seven general principles of how students learn. The authors have drawn on research from a breadth of perspectives to identify a set of fundamental principles underlying learning, from how effective organization enhances retrieval and use of information to what impacts motivation.

34. Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning  –  John Hattie

best books for educational leaders 2023

Visible Learning for Teachers brings the results of more than fifteen years of research to an entirely new audience. Written for students, pre-service, and in-service teachers, it explains how to apply the principles of Visible Learning to any classroom anywhere in the world.

35. Design For How People Learn (Voices That Matter)  –  Julie Dirksen

best books for educational leaders 2023

Products, technologies, and workplaces change so quickly today that everyone is continually learning. Many of us are also teaching, even when it’s not in our job descriptions. Whether it’s giving a presentation, writing documentation, or creating a website or blog, we need and want to share our knowledge with other people.

36. Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools  –  Michael B Horn, Heather Staker

best books for educational leaders 2023

Blended is the practical field guide for implementing blended learning techniques in K-12 classrooms. Readers will find a step-by-step framework to build a more student-centered system, along with essential advice that provides the expertise necessary to make the next generation of K-12 learning environments.

37. The Relevant Educator: How Connectedness Empowers Learning  –  Tom D Whitby, Steven W. Anderson

best books for educational leaders 2023

This information-packed resource from digital experts Anderson and Whitby makes it easy to build a thriving professional network using social media. Easy-to-implement ideas, essential tools, and real-life vignettes help a teacher learn to: Find and choose the best social media tools, products, and communities. Start and grow a collaborative, high-quality PLN using Twitter, blogging, LinkedIn, and more.

38. Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success  –  Carol Dweck

best books for educational leaders 2023

In decades of research on achievement and success, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea of the power of our mindset. Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success – but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset.

39. School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It  –  Steve Gruenert, Todd Whitaker

best books for educational leaders 2023

Your school is a lot more than a center of student learning–it also represents a self-contained culture with traditions and expectations that reflect its unique mission and demographics. In this groundbreaking book for teachers, education experts Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker offer tools, strategies, and advice for defining, assessing, and ultimately transforming your school’s culture into one that is positive, forward-looking, and actively working to enrich students’ lives.

40. Shaping School Culture: Pitfalls, Paradoxes, and Promises  –  Terrence E Deal, Kent D Peterson

best books for educational leaders 2023

In this thoroughly revised and updated edition of their classic book, Shaping School Culture, Terrence Deal and Kent Peterson address the latest thinking on organizational culture and change. They offer new ideas and strategies on how stories, rituals, traditions, and cultural practices create positive, caring, and purposeful schools.

41. Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School  –  Andy Hargreaves, Michael Fullan

best books for educational leaders 2023

Winner of the 2015 Grawemeyer Award in Education! In this latest and most important collaboration, renowned educators Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan set out a groundbreaking new agenda to transform the future of teaching and public education.

42. Cultures Built to Last  –  DuFour Richard, Fullan Michael

best books for educational leaders 2023

Take your professional learning community to the next level! Discover a systemwide approach for re-envisioning your PLC while sustaining growth and continuing momentum on your journey. You’ll move beyond isolated pockets of excellence while allowing every person in your school system—from teachers and administrators to students—the opportunity to be an instrument of lasting cultural change.

43. The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive And Thrive  –  Michael Fullan

best books for educational leaders 2023

Successful organizations adjust quickly and intelligently to shifts in consumer tastes, political climate, and economic opportunity. How do they do it? The Six Secrets of Change explores essential lessons for business and public sector leaders to thrive in today’s complex environment.

44. Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World  –  Tony Wagner

best books for educational leaders 2023

In this groundbreaking book, education expert Tony Wagner provides a powerful rationale for developing an innovation-driven economy. He explores what parents, teachers, and employers must do to develop the capacities of young people to become innovators.

45. Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day  –  Jonathan Bergmann, Aaron Sams

best books for educational leaders 2023

It started with a simple observation: students need their teachers present to answer questions or provide help if they get stuck on an assignment; they don’t need their teachers to listen to a lecture or review content. From there, authors Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams began the flipped classroom – one of the best professional development books for a modern classroom.

46. Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School  –  Laura Fleming

best books for educational leaders 2023

Get the nuts and bolts on imagining, planning, creating, and managing a cutting-edge Makerspace for your school community. Nationally recognized expert Laura Fleming provides all the answers. From inception through implementation, you’ll find invaluable guidance for creating a vibrant Makerspace on any budget.

47. Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners  –  Multiple Authors

best books for educational leaders 2023

Visible Thinking is a research-based approach to teaching thinking, a proven program for enhancing students’ thinking and comprehension abilities. Begun at Harvard’s Project Zero, the teaching way develops students’ thinking dispositions while at the same time deepening their understanding of the topics they study.

48. Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner  –  Persida & William Himmele

best books for educational leaders 2023

Total Participation Techniques presents dozens of ways to engage K 12 students in active learning and allow them to demonstrate the depth of their knowledge and understanding. The book provides easy-to-use alternatives to the stand-and-deliver approach to teaching that causes many students to tune out–or even drop out.

49. Disrupting Class, Expanded Edition: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns  –  Multiple Authors

best books for educational leaders 2023

Filled with fascinating case studies, scientific findings, and unprecedented insights on how innovation must be managed, Disrupting Class will open your eyes to new possibilities, unlock hidden potential, and get you to think differently. Professor Christensen and his coauthors provide a bold new lesson in innovation that will help you make the grade for years to come.

50. Essential Questions: Opening Doors to Student Understanding  –  Jay McTighe, Grant Wiggins

best books for educational leaders 2023

What are essential questions, and how do they differ from other kinds of questions? What’s so great about them? Why should a teacher design and use essential questions in your classroom? Essential questions help target standards as you organize curriculum content into coherent units that yield focused and thoughtful learning.

51. The Understanding by Design Guide Set (2 Books) –  Grant Wiggins, Jay McTighe

best books for educational leaders 2023

Unit creation and planning made easy for Understanding by Design novices and veterans alike! Introduction to version 2.0 of the UbD Template is one of the most practical professional development books for teachers. It allows you to download fillable electronic forms to help you more easily incorporate standards, advance your understanding of backward design, and improve student learning.

52. Student Engagement Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty  –  Elizabeth F Barkley

best books for educational leaders 2023

Student Engagement Techniques is a comprehensive resource that offers college teachers a dynamic model for engaging students. It includes over one hundred tips, strategies, and techniques proven to help teachers from various disciplines and institutions motivate and connects with their students.

53. Reinventing Writing: The 9 Tools That Are Changing Writing, Teaching, and Learning Forever  –  Vicki Davis

best books for educational leaders 2023

In this much-anticipated book from acclaimed blogger Vicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher), you’ll learn the key shifts in writing instruction necessary to move students forward in today’s world. Vicki’s book describes how the elements of traditional writing are being reinvented with cloud-based tools.

54. Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom  –  Sylvia Libow Martinez, Gary S Stager

best books for educational leaders 2023

There’s a technological and creative revolution underway. Excellent new tools, materials, and skills turn us all into makers. Using technology to make, repair or customize the things we need brings engineering, design, and computer science to the masses. Fortunately for educators, this maker movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing.

  • The Teacher’s Guide To Self-Care: Build Resilience, Avoid Burnout, And Being A Happier And Healthier You To The Classroom – Sarah Frost
  • I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything For Our Kids –  Kyle Schwartz
  • Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Succes – John C Maxwell and other Professional Development and Leadership Books by John C Maxwell
  • Teach Like A Champion 3.0: Techniques That Put Students On The Path To College – Doug Lemov
  • Educated: A Memoir –  Tara Westover
  • Whole Brain Teaching: 122 Amazing Games!: Challenging Kids, Classroom Management, Writing, Reading, Math, Common Core/State Test s – Chris Biffle
  • What School Could Be: Insights And Inspiration From Teachers Across America – Ted Dintersmith
  • The First Days Of School: How To Be An Effective Teacher – Harry Wong
  • Disruptive Thinking: Why How We Read Matters – Kylene Beers, Robert E. Probst

What are your best books for teachers? Leave your favorites in the comments below.

The founder of Fractus Learning, Nick is a pizza-loving Aussie living and working in Dublin, Ireland. With a background in education, engineering and digital product development, Nick launched Fractus to connect people with a shared passion for technology and how it can bring education to life.


This is a great list, and very current. I would add Debbie Silver’s Fall Down 7 Times, Get up 8: Teaching Kids to Succeed. It’s a wonderful blend of theory, practice and narrative.

Thanks Susie! Appreciate the recommendation and it’s now on the Amazon Wish List ;)

Excellent List! Thanks very much for creating and sharing it!

Another great book that was recently published and is a real self-training manual for language teachers is the book ‘Optimise your Teaching Competences: New Teaching Methodologies and CLIL Applications in Foreign Languages’. It contains innovative teaching methodologies and approaches as well as a wealth of teaching ideas for pair-work and group-work activities.

Thanks Eugenia, sounds great! Who is the author?

Great list, but I would have liked to see some more critical works that can incite discussion about the systems and conditions of learning. For example, Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Pedagogy of Freedom, McLaren’s Life in Schools, hooks Teaching to Transgress, Kumashiro’s Bad Teacher and Against Common Sense. As teachers we need to engage in theory and practice to make our reflections more than just a practitioner’s work.

Thanks for the comment and recommendations Chris!

Now many self help books are in the markets. But I couldnot understand why the readers are decrasing . I can’t say why the majority peoples hate books.

Great list. Some of your books are now on my order list. Thank you.

I suggest to add “Clean Language in the Classroom” by Julie McCracken. It has been published a few days ago. I do like it very much and I think it has the power to change the methods of teaching in grammar schools. It is a book not only for teachers, but also a great source for inspiration to all kind of educators and to parents. I got a lot of ideas from it as a coach and trainer.

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best books for educational leaders 2023

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The 10 Books Every School Leader Should Read

Blog » Authentic and Ethical Leadership » The 10 Books Every School Leader Should Read

best books for educational leaders 2023

  Recently, I’ve been finding that I’m increasingly asked by the School Leaders I work with and by others who’ve read my book “Staying A Head: Stress Management Secrets for School Leaders” for recommendations as to what books can help them to further their learning and in turn, better support their leadership practice.   I’ve noticed more and more that I frequently refer leaders to the same books time and again, not for lack of ideas but rather because they are quite simply the best I’ve come ever come across in the field, in terms of both inspiration and expertise.   In fact, I recommend these books so frequently that I thought I’d create a list of these 1o books for you in case you ever need a great book to help alleviate the stress of the day-to-day and bring a sense of perspective back into their lives. I hope amongst the recommended titles, that you might find a book or two that you’d like to add to your reading list…  

1. “ The Element”  – 

Ken robinson.

  We all love Sir Ken Robinson and eagerly await the day when he is appointed Minister of Education! Until that day, we’ll all have to take comfort from his inspirational TED talks and this wonderful book. If you are ever in need of inspiration and a reminder of why you are a teacher or Headteacher then read this book.   It will make you laugh, it will make you smile, and it will remind you of what passion is all about and why each and every day you need to remain connected to what matters to you most.  

2. “Resonant Leadership” –  

Richard boyatziz and annie mckee.

  This book is a must for all stressed head teachers and School Leaders! It gets to the very core of what happens to leaders who are in ‘high power, high stress’ roles. It also talks with real compassion about what successful leaders need to do, to stop themselves become victims of the Sacrifice Syndrome.   A syndrome that is common to so many head teachers … that of sacrificing your own needs in order to meet the needs of others. If you want to know how to lead a far healthier and happier life as a School Leader, then this book should definitely be on your reading list.  

3. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” –

  daniel kahneman.

  If you want to understand yourself better as a School Leader and exhibit greater control over your thoughts and actions, then this is the book for you! It may take you some time to plough through it, but what you will gain in the end, will be well worth the effort!  

4.  “ Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential – 

Dr carol s.dweck.

  I love this book!  If you have ever wondered why some teachers cause you more stress than others, then this book will definitely give you a few key insights. Dweck explains that  “It’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success, but whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset.”    When you understand the traits of each mindset, you will get a far better understanding of your staff team and how their behaviours impact on your efforts to drive forward school improvement.  

5. “Well Being: The Five Essential Ele ments” –

  tom rath and jim harther.

  Co-written by #1 New York Times bestselling author Tom Rath, this book takes ‘five  universal, interconnected elements that shape our lives:  Career Wellbeing, Social Wellbeing, Financial Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing, and Community Wellbeing.”  If you want to give yourself a personal MOT over a weekend or holiday period,  then this is another book to add to your list.  

6. “Daring Greatly” – 

Brene brown.

  For any School Leader this is a must read. It is a book that I recommend to all head teachers and senior leaders that I work with.  Brene Brown reminds us that contrary to commonly perceived wisdom on the subject, vulnerability is more a sign of courage and strength, than it is a sign of weakness.   Her writings and insight on the subject are like a breath of fresh air. In an educational climate in which so many false and conflicting messages about strength in leadership abound, Brene Brown shows us how the ability to be vulnerable reconnects us with our humanity and it is here, where we find our strength.  

7 . “Leading out of Who You Are” –

   simon p walker.

  How many of us, would like to be able to lead from a place where we truly trust ourselves? Where we were not knocked from pillar to post by the opinions and advice of others, but were able to lead from a place of deep inner trust and self belief?   From my own experience as a Headteacher and from the work that I now do as an Executive Coach for School Leaders, I know  it is a place that we all long to be able to lead from. In his sensitively written book on the subject of leadership, Simon P Walker provides an excellent overview of the inner journey every leader needs to go on, if they are ever to experience true inner trust and self belief.  

8 . “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” – 

 stephen r covey.

  An all time favourite. If you haven’t read this book, then it really is one that you should go out and buy now. Not only will his seven habits help you to develop the tools to lead yourself better, but hey will also help you to understand how you can get the best out of those that you lead and manage.   When you read his book you will have no doubt about how you can excel as a School Leader and equally what others will need from you so that they can also excel.  

9. “Every  Teacher Matters” –

  kathryn lovewell.

  As a School Leader you know that your teachers are your most valuable resource. You will also know from your own experience as a classroom teacher the types of stress that many of your teachers face and the impact that it has on their ability to perform well.   If you want to give your teachers really practical advice on managing stress then buy this book for each and every one of them.  Kathryn’s book will show them how mindfulness not only reduces stress , but also helps to re-ignite a sometimes forgotten passion for teaching.  

10. “Supporting the Emotional Work of School Leaders” –

 belinda harris.

  In those dark times, when the pressures of the role seem insurmountable, this book will remind you that you are not alone! Harris’ book is an honest account of what it really means to be a School Leader today, ‘ exploring the personal, social and emotional challenges of School Leadership.’   If you are seeking to develop your own emotional resilience this book will provide you with a few tools to help you bounce back that much higher when the inevitable challenges of School Leadership come your way.

“Staying A Head – Stress Management Secrets of Successful School Leaders” by Viv Grant

best books for educational leaders 2023

Every School Leader should read this book because it opens the closed world that many School Leaders inhabit. But rather than leave the world ‘exposed’, it offers new and experienced School Leaders practical and effective methods that nurture inner understanding to bring out the best in others and foster organisational transformation. Mike Jones Head teacher, South Failsworth Primary School, Oldham

If you’d like to get a flavour of the book. then you can now download a completely free Chapter of my book! In this chapter, you’ll discover why the meeting of your emotional needs are central to your success as a School Leader and  find answers to the questions:

  – What are our basic emotional needs? – Why do School Leaders need to have their emotional needs met? – What are the consequences of unmet emotional needs? – What role does empathic listening play in meeting emotional needs?  

To download your copy of this chapter, simply follow the link below…

Download a Free Chapter of “Staying A Head”

One Response

I’ve read someof those but if I had to pick one it would be Belinda Harris.

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Best Education Leadership Books to Inspire School Leaders

The best education leadership books include “Good to Great” by Jim Collins and “The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact” by Michael Fullan. These texts offer valuable insights into effective school leadership and educational improvement strategies.

Aspiring and seasoned education leaders often seek out literature to enhance their skills and strategies for fostering effective learning environments. Contemporary educational landscapes require leaders who are innovative, adaptable, and committed to student success. The right books can provide the knowledge and inspiration needed to navigate these challenges.

Top education leadership books cover a range of topics, from organizational dynamics to transformative teaching practices. They serve as indispensable resources for anyone looking to make a significant impact in the field of education. By reading these influential works, education professionals gain access to a wealth of best practices and visionary ideas that can shape the future of learning.

Table of Contents

Introduction To Educational Leadership

Introduction to Educational Leadership sets the foundation for understanding how leaders foster an environment conducive to learning and growth. Through effective leadership, educational institutions can navigate the complexities of modern education, implement innovative strategies, and inspire both educators and students to reach their full potential. As we delve into the realm of educational leadership, we discover the pivotal role it plays in shaping the future of learning.

The Importance Of Inspirational Leadership In Education

In a field where the stakes are so high, inspirational leadership is not just beneficial, but essential. Leaders in education have the unique opportunity to ignite a passion for learning, encourage continuous improvement, and build a culture of success. Inspirational leaders do not only set high standards, but they also empower teachers and students to think critically, act independently, and pursue innovation.

  • Development of Vision: Creating and communicating a clear, compelling vision for the educational institution.
  • Motivation: Inspiring educators and students to strive for excellence in their daily endeavors.
  • Innovation: Fostering a culture that welcomes new ideas and embraces change for the betterment of the educational environment.
  • Empathy and Support: Understanding and addressing the diverse needs of staff and students to create an inclusive atmosphere.

Criteria For Selecting The Best Education Leadership Books

Selecting the top education leadership books requires a careful evaluation based on certain key criteria. The most effective literature in this field not only provides theoretical insights but also practical approaches to real-world educational challenges. A valuable educational leadership book typically comprises:

The best books stand out by offering enriching content that both enlightens and equips leaders to make a difference in education. Such works become indispensable tools for new and seasoned leaders alike, guiding them through the intricacies of educational leadership.

Influential Classics In Educational Leadership

Leaders in education consistently seek inspiration and guidance from the works that have stood the test of time. Among the multitude of books that provide insights into educational leadership, a few stand out as timeless classics. These texts offer deep reflections, strategic frameworks , and practical advice that continue to resonate with today’s educators and administrators. Delving into these influential works, we explore the contributions of John Dewey and the enduring insights of Jim Collins’s ‘Good to Great’ as they apply to the realm of education.

Revisiting John Dewey’s Contributions To Modern Educational Leadership

John Dewey, lauded as a pioneer in educational reform , transformed the landscape of learning with innovative concepts that remain pivotal in instructional strategies and school administration . His vision of education as an interactive and engaging process that prepares individuals for life in a democratic society is a cornerstone of modern educational leadership . Dewey’s advocacy for experiential learning and critical thinking has empowered educators to:

  • Embrace student-centered approaches
  • Encourage active participation and collaboration
  • Develop problem-solving and decision-making skills in learners

Dewey’s work challenges leaders to create environments that foster growth and innovation , principles as relevant now as they were during his time.

The Enduring Insights Of ‘good To Great’ By Jim Collins In School Settings

Though not exclusively an education leadership book, ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins forms a strategic blueprint for transformation that school leaders can apply. Collins’s concept of getting the right people in the right seats and the focus on disciplined thought and action translate seamlessly into educational leadership. His insights direct school administrators to prioritize:

  • Building a dedicated and passionate team
  • Foster a climate of rigorous thinking
  • Adopt a culture of continuous improvement

Collins’s framework pushes educational institutions to transition from merely good schools to truly great centers of learning and excellence.

Contemporary Guides For School Leaders

School leadership in modern times demands a blend of traditional wisdom and innovative thought. Leaders in the education sector must equip themselves with resources that inspire and guide them through the ever-evolving landscape of teaching and learning. Contemporary guides for school leaders not only provide a blueprint for navigating the complexities of educational reform but also invigorate practitioners with fresh perspectives and transformative strategies. Below, we spotlight two pivotal books that have become essential reading for those at the helm of education institutions.

Transformative Approaches In ‘leading Change’ By John P. Kotter

‘Leading Change’ by John P. Kotter serves as a seminal work for school administrators striving to implement and manage change within their organizations. Kotter’s eight-step process for change has been widely recognized:

  • Establishing a sense of urgency
  • Forming a powerful coalition
  • Creating a vision for change
  • Communicating the vision
  • Empowering broad-based action
  • Generating short-term wins
  • Consolidating gains and producing more change
  • Anchoring new approaches in the culture

Each step provides actionable advice that school leaders can tailor to their unique educational settings. Emphasizing the importance of vision and courage , Kotter’s framework empowers leaders to guide their institutions toward sustained improvement and innovation.

Innovative Educational Strategies In ‘creative Schools’ By Ken Robinson

Ken Robinson’s ‘Creative Schools’ is a testament to innovation and creativity in education. Robinson challenges conventional schooling methods and advocates for an individualized learning approach that fosters creativity and personal development. The book outlines:

  • The need for personalizing education
  • Transforming the traditional curriculum
  • Redefining the role of teachers
  • Creating a culture of creativity in schools

By showcasing real-life examples and case studies, Robinson illuminates how educators can cultivate environments that nurture students’ innate creative talents. The book serves as an inspiration and a manual for school leaders eager to build educational institutions where students are not just taught but inspired to learn .

Books On Cultivating A Positive School Culture

Creating a nurturing and productive school environment is a complex task that demands commitment from every member of the educational community. Educators striving for excellence understand that establishing a constructive school culture is paramount. Our selection of profound books provides actionable insights for those eager to foster collaboration, motivation, and a sense of belonging within the school ecosystem. Let’s explore these transformative resources that will empower educational leaders to craft a positive and lasting school culture.

Building Collaborative Environments: ‘the Culture Code’ By Daniel Coyle

Daniel Coyle’s The Culture Code dives into the heart of group dynamics by unraveling the secrets of highly successful organizations. Educational leaders will discover the essential ingredients for an effective collaborative culture within their schools. Coyle presents compelling anecdotes backed with scientific research, illustrating three fundamental skills that can turn a group of individuals into a unified team:

  • Building Safety – Encouraging connections that foster a secure space for learning and growth.
  • Sharing Vulnerability – Methods that leverage mutual risk to enhance bonding and trust.
  • Establishing Purpose – Crafting a shared narrative that guides the collective mission and vision.

By implementing these strategies, educators can nurture an environment where openness, trust, and cooperation are the norm, laying a strong foundation for a thriving educational setting.

Insights From ‘drive’ By Daniel H. Pink On Motivating Educators And Students

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us , Daniel H. Pink shatters old misconceptions about motivation. Pink posits that the key drivers of human behavior are autonomy, mastery, and purpose . This perspective revolutionizes how educational leaders can cultivate motivation within the classroom and among faculty. Key takeaways include:

Pink’s insights encourage educational leaders to move beyond conventional reward systems and to harness the power of intrinsic motivation. By fostering an environment where educators and students are inspired by internal satisfaction rather than external rewards, a positive school culture can thrive.

Leadership Development And Self-improvement

At the core of every great leader is the relentless pursuit of self-improvement. For those driven to excel in educational leadership, the journey is as much about personal growth as it is about professional skill. Nurturing your intellect and character shapes not only the leader you become but also the educators and learners you inspire. This transformative process is captured in a range of enlightening books designed to unlock your leadership potential. In this segment, we delve into two essential reads that provide deep insights into the psychology of leadership and decision-making.

At the heart of personal development lies the understanding that mindset is everything. Carol S. Dweck’s ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’ illuminates the fundamental difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Leaders harnessing a growth mindset are resilient, adaptable, and embrace challenges—indispensable qualities in education.

  • Fixed Mindset : Belief that abilities are static, leading to a desire to appear smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges.
  • Growth Mindset : Belief that abilities can be developed, fostering a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for accomplishment.

The ideas within Dweck’s work challenge leaders to develop their capacities for learning and teach them to encourage growth in others, thus setting the foundation for a thriving academic environment.

Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ is a groundbreaking exploration of the mind. It delves into the two systems that drive the way we think and make choices. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman engages leaders with tools to understand these systems and make better decisions.

For educational leaders, applying Kahneman’s insights can translate into more reflective decision-making processes, enabling institutions to navigate the complex challenges of the educational landscape effectively.

Navigating Challenges: Crisis And Reform

The landscape of education consistently presents a variety of challenges that require effective leadership to navigate. Whether it’s crafting a response to an unforeseen crisis or driving the reforms necessary to bring education into the future, leaders in academia must be equipped with insights and strategies to steer their institutions through tumultuous times. Books on educational leadership serve as invaluable resources for those looking to understand the complexities of managing crisis and spearheading innovation. Two standout titles, ‘Leaders Eat Last’ by Simon Sinek and ‘Switch’ by Chip and Dan Heath, offer profound lessons on these fronts.

Managing Educational Crisis: Lessons From ‘leaders Eat Last’ By Simon Sinek

Simon Sinek’s ‘Leaders Eat Last’ provides a compelling framework for understanding how leaders can foster trust and cooperation during times of crisis. Within its pages, leaders in education will find strategies that are paramount to maintaining cohesion and morale among faculty and students alike. ‘Leaders Eat Last’ emphasizes the importance of:

  • Building Trust: The book illustrates how trust is the cornerstone of any effective educational institution, particularly in hardship.
  • Empathy: Sinek discusses the critical role of empathy, a trait that’s essential for leaders when guiding their teams through difficult situations.
  • Long-term Thinking: Leaders are encouraged to focus on long-term outcomes rather than short-term fixes during a crisis.

Through real-world examples, educational leaders can glean insights on managing crises with a focus on strong leadership principles and the collective well-being of their communities.

Driving Reform And Innovation: ‘switch’ By Chip And Dan Heath

In ‘Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard’ , Chip and Dan Heath tackle the intricate dynamics of implementing significant changes within institutions. This book is a beacon for leaders in education who are striving to drive reform and innovation. ‘Switch’ offers valuable guidance on:

  • Overcoming Resistance: Strategies to help educators overcome the inevitable resistance that accompanies change.
  • Shaping the Path: It provides tools to shape the environment to make change more accessible and appealing.
  • Directing the Rider, Motivating the Elephant: The authors present a compelling metaphor for handling the rational and emotional sides of people’s minds during the process of change.

Educational leaders will learn how to inspire and enable their faculty and students to move confidently in new directions, fostering an environment conducive to innovation and growth.

Diverse Perspectives On Educational Leadership

Exploring Diverse Perspectives on Educational Leadership offers a refreshing take on how leaders can navigate the complex landscape of academia. By examining leadership through various lenses, educators and administrators can uncover unique strategies that resonate with today’s diverse educational environments. Two influential books provide poignant insights: Robin Sharma’s ‘The Leader Who Had No Title’ offers a global perspective, while Bettina Love’s ‘We Want to Do More Than Survive’ sheds light on empowering minorities and inclusivity in education.

Global Views On Leadership In ‘the Leader Who Had No Title’ By Robin Sharma

‘The Leader Who Had No Title’ by Robin Sharma stands out as a monumental piece in educational leadership literature. Sharma’s book invites readers to a world where leadership is redefined, stressing that you don’t need a formal title to make a significant impact. It delivers a powerful message that resonates with educational leaders globally:

  • Leadership is a mindset, not just a position.
  • Everyone in an organization plays a role in cultivating a culture of excellence.
  • Inspiring personal growth is essential for collective success.

The book encourages educators to adopt innovative approaches, embracing change and inspiring students to excel beyond traditional boundaries. Sharma’s anecdotes and practical exercises are designed to equip educational leaders with tools to thrive in diverse and constantly evolving learning environments.

Empowering Minorities And Inclusive Education Insights In ‘we Want To Do More Than Survive’ By Bettina Love

Dr. Bettina Love’s pivotal work, ‘We Want to Do More Than Survive’ , emphasizes the importance of embracing diversity and promoting inclusive practices in educational settings. Love’s insights advocate for:

  • Empowering minority voices within the education system.
  • Recognizing the impact of culture and identity in academic success.
  • Developing curricula that reflect diverse histories and experiences.

This book serves as a resolute call to action for educational leaders to harness the power of inclusivity and to create learning spaces where all students can flourish. Love’s compelling narrative illuminates the ongoing challenges faced by marginalized communities and offers transformative strategies for educators to foster equity and empowerment in their schools.

Conclusion: Integrating Insights Into Practice

Embarking on the journey toward exceptional educational leadership demands a deep plunge into literature that stirs the mind and soul. As we wrap up our exploration of the best education leadership books , it’s crucial not to just close the covers and shelve the knowledge acquired. True transformation begins when these insights shift from printed page to daily practice, reshaping the landscape of learning environments. The task at hand is clear: meticulously integrate the rich perspectives and strategies into the tapestry of school leadership.

Creating A Personal Development Plan Based On Leadership Readings

The path to growth often begins with a map. Crafting a Personal Development Plan (PDP) serves as that very blueprint for educational leaders seeking excellence. Here’s how you can design your PDP:

  • Identify Key Learnings: Distill vital lessons from each book into actionable insights.
  • Set Clear Goals: Define what success looks like for you personally and professionally.
  • Design Action Steps: Break each goal into attainable tasks, aligned with your insights.
  • Establish Timelines: Set realistic deadlines for each action step to maintain momentum.
  • Reflect and Adjust: Regularly review your plan, celebrate successes, and fine-tune as needed.

By turning insights into a structured plan, educational leaders can track progress and ensure continual personal growth.

Fostering A Community Of Practice Among School Leaders

Leadership is not a solitary endeavor. Establishing a community of practice is key for sustained development among school leaders. Steps to build this professional network include:

  • Connect with Peers: Reach out to other leaders who share a passion for educational excellence.
  • Organize Knowledge-Sharing Events: Host regular meetups, workshops, or webinars to exchange ideas.
  • Collaborate on Challenges: Work together to tackle common problems and implement best practices gleaned from readings.
  • Cultivate Mentorship Relationships: Pair experienced leaders with newcomers to guide them through their leadership journey.
  • Encourage Continuous Learning: Promote an ethos where mutual learning is celebrated and encouraged.

Through collaboration and shared experiences, school leaders can elevate their impact and bring about positive change in education.

Frequently Asked Questions For Best Education Leadership Books

What are top books for education leaders.

Leadership in education is essential for innovation and progress. Some top books include “Leadership: Theory and Practice” by Peter G. Northouse, “The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact” by Michael Fullan, and “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

How Do Books Improve Educational Leadership?

Books provide educational leaders with insights, strategies, and case studies from experienced educators and thought leaders. They foster critical thinking, inspire innovation, and offer practical solutions to challenges in educational settings, thereby enhancing leadership effectiveness.

Can Books Transform Your Leadership Approach?

Yes, books can radically transform your leadership approach. They introduce new perspectives, frame challenges differently, and offer evidence-based strategies that can be applied to significantly improve leadership practice in educational settings.

What Recent Titles Inspire School Leaders?

Recent inspiring titles for school leaders include “Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education” by Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica, and “Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes. ” By Jimmy Casas. These books offer fresh ideas on creating positive school cultures.

Embracing the insights from these top education leadership books can profoundly shape your approach. Each offers unique strategies and wisdom to guide aspiring leaders. As you close the pages, remember that the journey to effective educational leadership is ongoing. Keep learning, keep leading, and let these books be your compass along the way.

Supported by Red Hat

Top 7 leadership books for 2023


Looking to take your leadership skills to the next level in 2023? Having trouble navigating the world of hybrid and remote work? Or are you making a resolution to finally read the stack of books that’s been piling up on your desk? We’ve got you covered with our annual list of leadership must-reads.

Boost your leadership IQ – and EQ – with the books from this list. Let’s dive in.

[Also read:  How to build strong teams: 8 must-read books .]

Sludge: What Stops Us from Getting Things Done and What to Do About It  


By Cass R. Sunstein

Book description (via MIT Press):  “We’ve all had to fight our way through administrative sludge—filling out complicated online forms, mailing in paperwork, standing in line at the motor vehicle registry. This kind of red tape is a nuisance, but, as Cass Sunstein shows in Sludge, it can also impair health, reduce growth, entrench poverty, and exacerbate inequality. Confronted by sludge, people just give up—and lose a promised outcome: a visa, a job, a permit, an educational opportunity, necessary medical help. In this lively and entertaining look at the terribleness of sludge, Sunstein explains what we can do to reduce it.

Because of sludge, Sunstein explains, too many people don’t receive benefits to which they are entitled. Sludge even prevents many people from exercising their constitutional rights—when, for example, barriers to voting in an election are too high. (A Sludge Reduction Act would be a Voting Rights Act.) Sunstein takes readers on a tour of the not-so-wonderful world of sludge, describes justifications for certain kinds of sludge, and proposes “Sludge Audits” as a way to measure the effects of sludge. On balance, Sunstein argues, sludge infringes on human dignity, making people feel that their time and even their lives don’t matter. We must do better.”

Why you should read it: Lead contributor Dave Egts says this is “a must-read for any public sector IT leader charged with improving customer experience and service delivery. The pandemic and current economic crisis have increased constituent engagement with government services more than ever. This demand surge has pushed many systems and processes beyond their breaking point, leading to constituent frustration and damaging their trust in their government. Modernizing technology to meet the demand is necessary but insufficient to address these concerns. The processes used to deliver these services need to be reevaluated to drive out inefficiencies that waste the time of constituents and public servants. This book brings to light much of the red tape we’ve all seen in government processes and their societal and economic impacts. He proposes using “sludge audits” to identify and eliminate sludge to transform customer experience and service delivery to rebuild trust in government.”

Can We Talk? Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work  


By Roberta Matuson

Description (via Amazon):  “The key to successful dialogue starts and ends with changing the conversation. Recognizing that it takes two people to engage in meaningful outcomes, Can We Talk? outlines what each contributor needs to do to achieve the best possible result. Using examples from everyday work situations, this book offers guidance on how to create the right conditions for a meaningful discussion. The author identifies the seven key principles that enable both parties to gain a deeper understanding of what the other person may be thinking and will help establish their point of view more clearly: confidence, clarity, compassion, curiosity, compromise, credibility, courage.

Can We Talk? includes examples and advice from those who have been there and thrived, as well as lessons learned from conversation failures and example scripts of productive conversations. Readers will learn how to prepare, start and manage the potentially challenging exchange of words that typically occur at work, and come away with an understanding that for any conversation to take place, both parties must be engaged.”

Why you should read it:  This book offers practical advice for team leaders to navigate difficult conversations in the workplace. Lead Contributor Roberta Matuson predicts that “given how unstable the economy seems to be, which is impacting workplaces near and far, managers are going to have some really tough conversations on their plate in the coming year.” Strengthening your organization’s ability to have these conversations is necessary and worth the discomfort.

The Transformation Myth Leading Your Organization through Uncertain Times  


by Gerald C. Kane, Rich Nanda, Anh Nguyen Phillips, and Jonathan R. Copulsky 

Description (via MIT Press):  "The authors, all experts on business and technology strategy, show that transformation is not a one-and-done event, but a continuous process of adapting to a volatile and uncertain environment. Drawing on five years of research into digital disruption—including a series of interviews with business leaders conducted during the COVID-19 crisis—they offer a framework for understanding disruption and tools for navigating it. They outline the leadership traits, business principles, technological infrastructure, and organizational building blocks essential for adapting to disruption, with examples from real-world organizations. Technology, they remind readers, is not an end in itself, but enables the capabilities essential for surviving an uncertain future: nimbleness, scalability, stability, and optionality.”

Why you should read it:  You’re a business leader looking for advice on how to adapt in an era of continuous disruption. COVID-19 was the ultimate acute crisis; are you prepared for the next one? Learn how to thrive amid the chaos by reading this leadership book.

Office Shock: Creating Better Futures for Working and Living

By Bob Johansen, Joseph Press, Christine Bullen 


Description (via Amazon):  “An abrupt, unsettling change in where, when, how, and even why we work. In this visionary book, three prominent futurists argue that the office is both a place and a process—offices and officing—with a new range of choices, including what they call the emerging officeverse. To see the possibilities with fresh eyes, we must use future-back thinking to ask, What is the purpose of your officing? What are the outcomes—especially regarding climate—you want to achieve? With whom do you want to office? How will you augment your intelligence? Where and when will you office? How will you create an agile office? Traditional offices were often unfair, uncomfortable, uncreative, and unproductive. This book explores how to seize this great opportunity to transform office work.”

Why you should read it:  You’re curious about the future of the flexible office. Lead contributor Dan Roberts calls this book a “must-read for CIOs.” Read it to discover how to make your office more agile and change the dynamics of your workforce.

Digital Trailblazer: Essential Lessons to Jumpstart Transformation and Accelerate Your Technology Leadership  


By Issac Sacolick

Description (via Amazon):  “In Digital Trailblazer, Isaac Sacolick, a technology leadership expert and a former CIO and CTO, delivers a hands-on guide to help technology and business professionals at all stages of their careers acquire the skills necessary to drive transformative change. With an eye-opening collection of stories and more than fifty lessons, Sacolick gives listeners a view into what goes on behind-the-scenes in leading digital transformations. From tense IT Ops conference calls to make-or-break executive meetings, Sacolick presents the challenging scenarios faced by product, technology, and data leaders and helps listeners learn to lead transformations and become Digital Trailblazers.

In the book you will: step out of your comfort zone and develop the management and leadership skills required to influence executives and win over detractors in driving technology changes; learn how to transform experiences, lead data driven organizations, and foster high performance teams; and discover how to deliver innovation, empower agile self-organization, and evolve standard digital practices that drive culture changes in your organization.”

Why you should read it:  This book will help rising technology and business leaders navigate many of the challenges they’ll encounter in their careers. Want to learn how to accelerate your technology leadership journey? You’ll discover more than 50 lessons to guide your way. Whether product, technology, or data leaders – from those aspiring to leadership roles through vice presidents, CIOs, and CDOs – add this to your 2023 book list!

Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World  


By Ginni Rometty

Description (via Amazon):  “Ginni Rometty led one of the world’s most iconic companies, and in Good Power, she recounts her groundbreaking path from a challenging childhood to becoming the CEO of IBM and one of the world’s most influential business leaders. With candor and depth, Rometty shares milestones from her life and career while redefining power as a way to drive meaningful change in positive ways for ourselves, our organizations, and for the many, not just the few—a concept she calls "good power. With heart, humility, and conviction, Good Power offers an inspiring, compelling guide to creating meaningful change in our lives.”

Why you should read it:  You’re looking for actionable advice on shaping authentic leadership. This read delivers a powerful combination of leadership lessons and big ideas on how we can all drive meaningful change. What is “good” power? It’s a choice available to everyone, and the five principles discussed in this book will give you the answer.

Leadership Paradigms for Remote Agile Development: How To Lead Your Team Remotely  


by Benjamin Jakobus, Pedro Henrique Lobato Sena, and Claudio Souza

Description (via Amazon):  “This book acts as a concise, practical guide on how to lead successful agile projects in a remote environment. The authors draw from industry experience and a wide range of fields and disciplines–from software engineering to criminology and sociology–to teach you how to maintain technical oversight, manage deadlines, and calibrate expectations, while also creating and maintaining a healthy remote work environment. You will gain both practical tips grounded in reality, while learning why such tips work by navigating the background on which they are founded–from Broken Window Theory, Labeling Theory to the Dunning-Kruger.

Why you should read it:  You are wondering why your engineers aren’t delivering, why so many engineers are leaving, or why your software is infected… Anyone in (or wishing to move into) an IT leadership position, such as senior software engineers, founders, engineering managers, or team/tech leads, will learn how to avoid common mistakes and prevent failure of their engineering projects. Carve out a road for success with your 2023 software projects.

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15 Best Leadership Books To Read in 2023

Saphia Lanier

Updated: March 11, 2024

Published: September 06, 2023

If you want to become a better leader, it’s important to stay on top of the latest leadership trends, theories, and strategies. Doing so keeps you informed, lets you try out new ideas, and empowers you to synthesize it all into your own unique leadership style .

Best leadership books

One way to achieve this is by reading some of the best leadership books in the industry. They come out regularly, so you’ll need to refresh your reading list every few years to stay on top of the latest leadership best practices. 

What are the best leadership books?

The best leadership books provide readers with the tools and insights they need to become better leaders.

With this in mind, here are some criteria you can use to determine what makes a great leadership book:

  • A clear and concise writing style that is accessible to all levels of readers
  • Detailed examples from real-life situations to illustrate key points
  • Strategies and tactics for leading people in various contexts, such as team management, individual coaching, or boardroom negotiations
  • Insights into organizational structures and cultures that help guide effective decision-making
  • Easy-to-understand explanations of complex theories
  • Practical advice that can be applied to a variety of leadership positions
  • Compelling and engaging style that will keep readers motivated to read on

15 best leadership books of all time

1. good to great: why some companies make the leap… and others don’t by jim collins.

Good to Great focuses on the principles and practices that differentiate great companies from good ones. It dives deep into the business strategies, culture, decision-making processes, and the role of leadership in driving organizations from good to great.

This book helps new and experienced leaders, empowering them with insightful concepts that can transform their leadership style and drive performance. It emphasizes the importance of humility, determination, a disciplined mindset, and surrounding oneself with the right people as crucial factors for successful leadership.

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline.” - Jim Collins

2. Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Start With Why delves into the quest for purpose and fulfillment in our personal and professional lives. Its central idea is the Golden Circle — a strategic framework that empowers organizations to thrive. The Golden Circle enables movements to succeed, and inspires individuals to pursue their dreams by starting with the “why.” The book emphasizes that exceptional leaders motivate people to take action by communicating their “why” — the driving force behind their beliefs, values, and goals.

This book can benefit leaders of all kinds, including entrepreneurs, executives, teachers, and parents. It helps leaders understand the importance of having a clear sense of purpose and how that purpose can influence their decision-making, communication, and leadership style. 

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” - Simon Sinek

3. Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Extreme Ownership shares hard-hitting Navy SEAL combat stories that translate into lessons for business and life. The authors served together in SEAL Task Unit Bruiser and now teach leadership principles to companies that want to build high-performance, winning teams.

Extreme Ownership teaches proven leadership principles used by thousands of people in leadership positions, resulting in improved productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness in their teams and organizations. These valuable lessons can help any leader improve their team's performance.

“Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.” - Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

4. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection is a guide to embracing your imperfections and living a wholehearted life. Brown encourages readers to let go of societal pressures and expectations and to instead cultivate self-love, self-compassion, and authentic connections with others. She provides actionable steps and insights on how to cultivate these qualities and embrace vulnerability. This book is helpful for any leader who wants to cultivate a deeper sense of self-awareness and authenticity in their leadership style. Brown’s emphasis on vulnerability and wholehearted living can help leaders connect more deeply with their teams and foster a culture of trust and openness.

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” - Brené Brown

5. The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

The Art of Possibility provides a unique perspective on how to live a more fulfilling life. The authors use inspiring stories and examples to encourage readers to embrace the power of possibility and cultivate a mindset focused on opportunities rather than limitations. This book is ideal for leaders who want to inspire their teams and create a positive work culture. It helps leaders to shift their perspective from one of scarcity to one of abundance. And to approach challenges with a growth mindset, unlocking their true potential and that of their team.

“In the measurement world, you set a goal and strive for it. In the universe of possibility, you set the context and let life unfold.” - Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander

6. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People teaches readers how to develop personal and interpersonal effectiveness through seven habits. Covey argues that success results from fundamental character traits rather than skills and practices that bolster the public image. 

The book helps readers shift their paradigm to focus on what they can control, establish guiding principles, prioritize essential tasks, and work collaboratively with others to achieve common goals. This book helps leaders who want to improve their personal and interpersonal effectiveness by developing new habits. 

“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” - Stephen R. Covey

7 . The Untethered Soul, by Michael Singer

The Untethered Soul explores the relationship between our thoughts and emotions, and how they affect our consciousness. It offers practical techniques to help readers let go of negative energy patterns and live in the present moment.

The book can be helpful to leaders looking to develop their emotional intelligence and become more self-aware. It teaches readers how to recognize their thoughts and emotions and how they impact their leadership style. 

“Unconditional happiness is the highest technique there is. You don’t have to learn Sanskrit or read any scriptures. You don’t have to renounce the world. You just have to really mean it when you say that you choose to be happy.” - Michael Singer

8. Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

Immunity to Change is about identifying and overcoming personal barriers preventing individuals from achieving their goals. It delves into the concept of “immunity to change,” which refers to people’s hidden assumptions and beliefs that can hinder their growth and progress. The book offers a unique approach to tackling internal resistance to change, revealing unconscious roadblocks that hinder personal and organizational growth.

This book is ideal for leaders looking to improve their personal and professional growth. It helps leaders identify the hidden assumptions and beliefs that may be hindering their progress. 

“When we have the privilege to make a change, we also get a chance to make a change for our organization.” - Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

9. Opening Your Presence: Presenting the YOU You Want Others To See by Greta Muller

Opening Your Presence: Presenting the YOU You Want Others To See is a guidebook written by a coach and trusted adviser to Fortune 500 companies. However, it’s for anyone who wants to present themselves authentically and confidently. The book is written in a candid, humorous, and graceful manner that’s easy to understand and follow.

This book is ideal for the nonprofessional speaker who must present at company meetings and events. It helps them clear their fears and misconceptions, prepare for their encounters, craft their message, and present with confidence. 

“Say it with me: People buy you (or don’t) before they buy (or not) whatever it is you’re selling.” - Greta Muller

10. Leading Inclusion: Drive Change Your Employees Can See and Feel by Gene Cox

Leading Inclusion provides a practical guide for leaders to build inclusive organizations. It challenges preexisting beliefs about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and offers a strategic way for leaders to incorporate DEI efforts into their organizations from the top down.

The book is perfect for CEOs, C-suite leaders, board directors, human resources professionals, and other leaders who want to understand inclusion from a strategic perspective. 

 “In this new day, you can do things that will help with healing and forward movement.” - Gene Cox

11. Dare To Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown

Dare To Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. teaches readers how to be daring leaders in a culture of fear and uncertainty. The book explores the four skill sets that make up daring leadership — rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust, and learning to rise.

This book is for anyone who wants to step up and lead with courage and empathy, whether in a small entrepreneurial startup or a Fortune 500 company. It helps leaders cultivate the skills needed to be brave, have tough conversations, and show up with their whole hearts.

“If we shield ourselves from all feedback, we stop growing.” - Brené Brown

12. Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World by Ginni Rometty

Good Power: Leading Positive Change in Our Lives, Work, and World is a mix of a memoir, leadership lessons, and big ideas by former IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. The book explores the concept of “good power,” which aims to drive meaningful change for ourselves, our organizations, and the world.

This book caters to leaders seeking to cultivate authentic leadership, inspire teams, improve their companies, and create healthier societies. It shares practical guidance on using good power through five key principles: be in service of others, build belief, know what must change and what must endure, steward good tech, and be resilient.

“Power can be good when it seeks to maximize beneficial impacts and avert rather than ignore harmful consequences. Power can be good when it’s inclusive, shared, and distributed.” - Ginni Rometty 

13. Leading Lightly: Lower Your Stress, Think With Clarity and Lead With Ease by Jody Michael

Leading Lightly offers a new perspective on leadership, emphasizing mental fitness, emotional intelligence, and mindfulness. Michael provides a road map for transforming performance, achieving greater self-awareness, and managing work and life with clarity and ease.

This book suits leaders struggling with stress, anxiety, and fatigue at work. It helps them shift their mindset, think differently, and respond to situations with more agility. 

“Leading lightly means that no matter what happens during your day, you have the capacity to approach everything with enduring ease and clarity.” - Jody Michael

14. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek 

Leaders Eat Last explores the key elements of successful leadership and why some organizations thrive while others struggle. It delves into the concept of trust in leadership and how it impacts the success of organizations. Sinek explores trust’s biological and anthropological roots, the importance of creating a healthy environment within organizations, and the role of empathetic servant leadership.

It’s valuable for leaders at all levels, from CEOs to team leaders, helping them to understand the importance of putting their employees’ needs first and inspiring trust through their actions. 

“Leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, leaders choose to eat last.” - Simon Sinek

15. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is about the fundamental principles of leadership. It explains 21 laws that every leader should follow to become an effective and successful leader. The book provides practical examples and insights to help readers understand each law and how to apply it in their personal and professional lives.

The book is suitable for business leaders, executives, entrepreneurs, and even aspiring leaders. It helps them understand a good leader’s essential qualities, such as vision, integrity, influence, and communication. It also teaches how to build a strong team, make effective decisions, and motivate and inspire others.

“There are different types of leaders, one who attracts followers and the other is one who develops the other leaders.” - John C. Maxwell

Now that you have a solid list of leadership books to read, it’s time to get started. Select several that resonate with your needs as a current or aspiring leader, buy them as ebooks or hardcovers, and set aside time to read them every day.

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Are you a supply teacher or teaching assistant looking for some help and advice? If so, you are in the right place. Our blogs offer tips and tricks on everything from classroom management to interview tips and support, along with day in the life case studies from real supply teachers, ECTs and cover supervisors. They also give you an insight into what  working for Smile  is like, the ways which we support local communities and charities  and the training and events that we offer. 

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The 10 must-read books for every school leader

The 10 must-read books for every school leader

Lots of school leaders often ask us what books we’d recommend and so we’ve put together this handy list of our 10 top must reads. Below you’ll find books on everything from wellbeing to practical tips and advice on becoming a leader. 

Making the Leap: Moving from Deputy to Head - Jill Berry

Is currently number 1 on Amazon’s best sellers list for school governors. The book offers practical advice to anyone considering a headship. The book leans on Jill’s own experiences in the matter and answers questions such as how can I ensure the early months and years of headship are as successful as possible and how can I establish the most positive and productive relationship with the outgoing head?

It’s a definite must read for any teachers, middle leaders or senior leaders who are considering becoming a headteacher within a school setting. 

A Manifesto for Excellence in Schools - Rob Carpenter

Rob Carpenter is the CEO of the Inspire Partnership and author of the aforementioned book. He took  a school from Special Measures to Outstanding in less than two years and firmly believes that the quality of teaching and leadership holds the key to raising standards in our schools today.

The book contains a balance of practical advice, examples, resources and ideas to help teachers and school leaders alike plan and deliver high quality learning experiences. When asked why he wrote A Manifesto for Excellence Rob said:

“I want people to use A Manifesto for Excellence in Schools as a reference point for what schools can be when we place 'whys' before 'whats' and 'hows'. Above all else, I hope those who read this can feel inspired to stand up to the policy wonks, placing children at the centre of our beliefs and actions. There is a better way….”

Back on Track: Fewer Things, Greater Depth - Mary Myatt

Released just last year, Back on Track is already becoming a firm favourite for school leaders. The book calls upon leaders to reevaluate their focuses and look at whether some of the processes in our schools are really adding value to the core purposes of schools.

Chunked into short sections the book is easy to read and easily digestible. Despite only being released less than a year ago It’s racked up 165 reviews on Amazon with 93% of those being 5-4 star! 

Putting Staff First: A blueprint for revitalising our schools: A blueprint for a revitalised profession - John Tomsett and Jonny Uttley

Wellbeing is high on everyone’s agenda so it’s no surprise that this book made its way onto the list. Authors John Tomsett (headteacher at Huntington School, York) and Jonny Uttley (CEO of The Education Alliance Multi Academy Trust) believe that happy teachers provide the best educational experience for their students. In their book is a blueprint which unapologetically puts staff first.

The Wisdom of Heads: short advice for school leaders - Dr Denry Machin PhD

Combining wisdom and humour with knowledge and experience, you’ll certainly find it tough to put this book down. This book full of insightful anecdotes from a range of headteachers on a variety of topics. One reviewer actually described it as being similar to a “Zoom meeting between the world’s best heads”.

Reading this book will give you an insight into how leaders cope with change and how they survive the stresses of the job and what resources you should buy to make your life easier and those to avoid - all from headteachers who have been there and done it. 

The Headteacher's Handbook: The essential guide to leading a primary school - Rachel Snape

As the title suggests this book is aimed at primary headteachers - both aspiring and existing. Though, we have a slight confession to make - it’s not actually out yet - it gets released in August this year. Early reviews, however, have been positive and describe the book as: “comprehensive guide which covers every aspect of taking on the headteacher role. It is at once practical, honest, insightful and, probably most importantly, incredibly useful.”

If that doesn’t convince you, it may be worthwhile knowing a little more about Rachel who is an experienced headteacher in Cambridge and is a National Leader of Education.  She is also Vice Chair of the DfE's Primary Headteachers' Reference Group, Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Founding Fellow of the Chartered College of Teaching, and Ambassador for 

Riding the Waves: Finding joy and fulfilment in school leadership - James Hilton

Here, author James Hilton explores how primary and secondary school leaders can find fulfilment in their challenging roles in order to lead their schools successfully. Riding the Waves offers practical strategies, advice, reflective questions and activities for developing the fulfilling aspects of school leadership to carry school leaders through these challenging times.

This is the book for you if you are a school leader looking enhance your mental health, improve your work-life balance, you want to take control and take a break. 

Supporting the Emotional Work of School Leaders - Belinda Harris 

Another book which focuses on wellbeing. This practical book deals with the emotional and moral dimensions of school leadership. If you are seeking to develop your own emotional resilience this book will provide you with a few tools to help you bounce back that much higher when the inevitable challenges of school leadership come your way. Belinda provides a range of person-centred strategies for building communities of professionally committed, relationally competent, collaborative individuals.

It comes highly recommended by headteachers and deputy heads alike with one saying commenting that if schools leaders are to read any book it should be this one! 

Staying A Head: The Stress Management Secrets of Successful School Leaders - Viv Grant

Staying A Head is a book about overcoming the stresses of school leadership. The book is written by Executive Coach and Director of Integrity Coaching, Viv Grant, specialises in working with head teachers and school leaders in urban schools, where both the challenge to succeed and the stress levels are high.

You should read this book if you are a school leader who is looking to develop greater emotional resilience, stop stressing and achieve their vision without sacrificing their own health and personal wellbeing. 

Leaders With Substance: An Antidote to Leadership Genericism in Schools' - Matthew Evans

This book draws on research evidence to explore the specific things that expert leaders know and do, arguing for a notion of school leadership rooted in the realities of leaders' daily experiences. It presents a case for how school leaders can develop their expertise and, in doing so, places domain-specific knowledge at the heart of school improvement efforts.

But do not be fooled, Leaders With Substance is not a handbook. It sets out to change the way we think of leadership and school improvement. It is both a critique, a manifesto, and a call to arms.

If you’d like more help or advice, Smile Leadership is on hand to help. We have over 10 years experience working in a range of educational settings and have supported school leaders all over the UK in finding their dream role.

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best books for educational leaders 2023

Key Research & Insights on Diverse Books, Reading Scores, and More in 2023 

Naomi Suyat is a First Book Marketing and Communications Assistant. She recently graduated from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to supporting educators and students by providing brand-new, high-quality books and additional resources tailored to meet the needs of today’s educators. Since 1992, First Book has distributed over 225 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income backgrounds. We support over one-third of the estimated 1.3 million classrooms and programs in need, reaching an average of 5 million children a year.  At First Book, we remain committed to using our research to inform and enhance our resources and programs. We strive to ensure that every educator and student has the tools to succeed. 

Our growing Network , with over 575,000 individual members serving Title I-eligible schools and programs, is our main audience. To provide essential resources to the communities that require them the most, these educators are working at the front lines. Furthermore, many of the resources we create are openly accessible to people outside the First Book Network. 

2023 Research & Outcomes

Our Research & Insights team conducted 23 surveys in 2023, providing invaluable data to guide our efforts and distribution of resources. These surveys enable us to create impactful tools for the educational landscape while understanding our Network’s evolving needs. Below are some of the main conclusions from our research this past year. Visit the Marketplace  to download all free resources.

best books for educational leaders 2023

The Importance of Diverse Books 

Our pilot projects have shown us repeatedly the incredible impact that diverse books have on students’ reading preferences and academic achievement. 

Increased Reading Time : Imagine a classroom where the joy of reading is contagious. With the introduction of diverse books in classrooms, the average collective reading time increased by four hours per week within just five months. By adding about 48 diverse books to each classroom, there was a remarkable boost in student engagement and a love for reading.  

Improved Reading Scores: The results speak for themselves. Our study revealed a significant improvement in reading scores. Teachers reported an average score increase three points above the national average . The most remarkable gains were seen among the lowest-scoring students, highlighting how diverse books can help close the achievement gap. 

Impact of Bilingual and LGBTQ+ Titles: Our research also emphasized the unique benefits of LGBTQ+ and bilingual books. Students showed an average improvement of seven points in reading scores for each bilingual book introduced, and 4.5 points for each LGBTQ+ book . These findings underscore the importance of providing students with diverse books that reflect a wide range of identities and experiences. 

The Negative Impact of Banned Books 

Our surveys also addressed the concerning issue of book bans and challenges faced by educators in our Network. 

Prevalence of Book Bans: One-third of educators reported facing challenges, policy limitations, or book bans . Despite these obstacles, a sizable majority (86%) think that books should rarely or never be banned. This disparity highlights the ongoing struggle teachers face in providing inclusive and diverse books. 

Influence on Teaching and Book Selection: The discussion surrounding banned books is influencing educators’ choices. Although many are not removing books due to book bans, 37% of educators said that the debate affects their teaching strategies, and 46% of educators said it influences their book selections . This implies that fear of censorship is impacting educational practices. 

Empowerment through Banned Books: Teachers have shared countless stories of how their students’ engagement with banned books fostered critical thinking skills and open-mindedness. The significance of these books in developing critical thinking skills and empathy was highlighted by educators. 65% said the banning of books is having a negative impact on their ability to teach. Among the impacts, 71% indicated that book banning undermines educator expertise; 40% feel that book bans contribute to a sense of erasing people and history; and 36% feel that book bans discourage critical thinking . These stories emphasize the need to protect access to diverse books. 

Demand for World Language Books 

Another significant finding from our research was the demand for books in multiple languages. 

Diverse Linguistic Needs: According to our World Languages survey, First Book Network educators and program leaders work with students who speak up to twelve different languages . This diversity necessitates educational materials that cater to the linguistic diversity of the student population. 

Expanding Access in 2024: In response to this demand, First Book plans to increase access to world language books in 2024. This initiative aims to better support the multilingual needs of the children our Network serves and ensure that language barriers do not impede educational opportunities. 

The Future of Research & Insights 

Each year, our research team works with our Network to identify the greatest areas of need for educators and students in low-income communities. With the support of our partners, we diligently survey and create resources that address both current needs and long-standing concerns. New projects roll out annually, and we invite you to explore our past surveys and findings on our dedicated research page . 

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