12 Most Inspiring Leadership Books for Women

Updated on April 12, 2020
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Whether you’re starting a business or managing a team, there’s a number of challenges you’ll need to solve. These can be scary, exciting, nerve-racking—but at least life’s never boring. Unfortunately, though, there are some challenges female business owners and managers face specifically. If you’re having trouble seeking funding, networking, or simply getting the respect you deserve, know that you’re not alone! 

To prove it, we’ve broken down the best leadership books for women and put them all together in one place. Whether you’re looking for step-by-step advice or an inspirational biography, you should be able to find the right read for you.

Here are 12 business books we highly recommend every female founder—or big dreamer—read.

12 Best Leadership Books for Women

Below we’ll go over the 12 best leadership books for women, including new women managers. These leadership books for women range from self-help to inspirational and are bound to prepare you for the challenges you’ll face as a leader in the workplace.

1. “Been There, Run That” by Kay Koplovitz

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First up on our list of leadership books for women is “Been There, Run That.” There’s an extraordinary amount of good advice in this book, curated by the legendary Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Networks.

Been There, Run That” is full of insights and actionable advice about transitioning from aspiring to actual entrepreneur, choosing the right market for your product, how to crowdfund, and so much more. Koplovitz also provides takeaways in the chapters she didn’t write, which have been penned by numerous successful entrepreneurs.

2. “Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World”  by Joann S. Lublin

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According to this book, written by Joann S. Lublin, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the former management news editor of The Wall Street Journal, more than 75% of millennial women say there’s still gender bias in the workplace. Lublin interviewed 52 corporate female leaders who, she writes, “dismantled the old boys’ club, destroyed myths about capabilities of female leaders, and continue to serve as role models.”

Reading about the challenges and triumphs of these women will not only inspire you but inform you as well. It has a lot of lessons about what to do and what not to do for women who are striving to propel their career or business forward.

3. “Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur” by Cara Alwill Leyba

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Third on our list of best leadership books for women is “Girl Code.” Written by Cara Alwill Leyba, master life coach and blogger, this is more of a feel-good book that helps you build confidence and connections, both vital attributes for achieving entrepreneurial success.

4. “Goats of Anarchy: One Woman’s Quest to Save the World One Goat at a Time” by Leanne Lauricella

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According to Japanese research, looking at cute cat pictures online for a few minutes helps you refocus and be more productive. While we can’t swear to that, looking at the pictures of goats in this book, based on author Leanne Lauricella’s Instagram account, offers a welcome respite from a day crammed with business must-dos.

This book is not just a welcome distraction—when Lauricella got married, she moved from Manhattan to the New Jersey countryside (yes, New Jersey has a countryside) and rescued two goats. She quit her corporate job, posted a pic of the goats on Instagram, and got over 30,000 followers in a few hours (she’s since garnered hundreds of thousands of followers). Moved by helping the goats, Lauricella started a nonprofit goat-rescue business. Her message is inspirational: “Take a risk if you are feeling unhappy or unfulfilled…. Find what you love, and then do what you love.”

5. “Leading From the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women”  by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch

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This book by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch, two women entrepreneurs who were once captains in the United States Marine Corps, draws upon the authors’ experience in the male-dominated Marines, making it one of the best books for new female managers in male-dominated office spaces.

The authors contend many women have never received formal leadership training, and therefore haven’t been taught to be decisive, commanding, and ready to take risks. But they argue that it’s never too late to change, and “Leading From the Front” shows you how to enact that change and transform your life.

6. “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” by Sheryl Sandberg

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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg hit the bestseller list with this book in 2013 and it’s endured as one of the top leadership books for women—with good reason. Sandberg’s book sprung from a TED Talk she gave describing how women unintentionally hold themselves back in their careers, and she provides ample proof in the book backing up that claim.

“Lean In” is personal and professional, filled with both personal stories and hard data showing women what they can do. There’s a lot of how-to advice for women here, including reiterating that you can’t go it alone. In other words, you can’t build a corporate career or small business on your own—just as it takes a village to raise a child, you need a village to grow a business.

7. “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers” by Lois P. Frankel

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Written with the corporate world in mind, this is one of the best books for new female managers. Author Lois P. Frankel is the founder and CEO of Corporate Coaching International. She explains that women leaders need to manage their don’ts as well as their dos. If not, women leaders may make unconscious mistakes that sabotage their path to success. Frankel notes 101 unique behavior patterns women have learned in childhood that can end up hurting their careers—and ways to break those patterns.

8. “Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate, and Think” by Mona Patel

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Author Mona Patel is the CEO and founder of Motivate Design, which explains why this book is so beautifully packaged. But “Reframe” is also an immensely useful book—it’s centered around Patel’s eight-step process, which she calls “Reframework,” that can get you unstuck and out of a rut.

Patel is an innovation and disruption evangelist. That’s how she runs her company—and how she wants you to run yours. Among her best insights is a chapter called “Creative Openers to Problem Solving.” Part of the exercise is asking eight “creative openers” that can lead to all sorts of discovery.

You’ve likely asked yourself some of these openers before, such as “Why?” or “What if?” But have you considered that a question seemingly grounded in negativity like, “What if I can’t?” can lead to positive results? Patel applies a lot of design principles to a broad array of entrepreneurial challenges—and it works here. For instance, she advises, “In design, you try something, and if it doesn’t work, you try something else. There’s no reason to be scared or stuck in analysis paralysis.”

9. “She Means Business: Turn Your Ideas Into Reality and Become a Wildly Successful Entrepreneur” by Carrie Green

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Author Carrie Green started her first business at 20 and is also the founder of the Female Entrepreneur Association. This book is high on motivation and visualization even if it’s short on practical tips. Green is a successful young entrepreneur who is determined to inspire her generation, so this is one of the best books for new female managers if you’re of a younger cohort.

10. “Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 Into a Billion Dollar Business” by Barbara Corcoran

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By now most people are familiar with Barbara Corcoran, one of the stars of “Shark Tank.” But Corcoran was a business force to be reckoned with long before she joined the TV show. She has a gutsy story to share and an engaging style of telling it. The book, part memoir, part how-to, offers information and laughs.

11. “Take the Lead: Motivate, Inspire, and Bring out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You” by Betsy Myers

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Betsy Myers formerly headed the Small Business Administration’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, a business resource for women entrepreneurs. There she, as an entrepreneur herself, educated and advocated for the emerging class of entrepreneurial women. Today, Myers is known as a leadership expert and the founding director of the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University.

Myers believes leadership exists everywhere, and that it begins with ourselves. In order to lead and inspire others and foster collaboration, Myers says we need to be able to lead ourselves. In “Take the Lead,” she delineates the seven key principles—authenticity, connection, respect, clarity, collaboration, learning, and courage—that enable you to lead.

12. “Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals” by Rachel Hollis

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To round out our list of best leadership books for women, we have a book that comes from best-selling author, motivational speaker, and entrepreneur Rachel Hollis. Her book will motivate you to follow your dreams while empowering you to do so without the fear of failure or being judged while you’re at it.

It might not be your traditional leadership business book for women but the lessons from it are bound to be helpful and valuable as you go on your journey to becoming a leader.

Leadership Books for Women: The Final Word

Though we’re living in a time where women are making great strides in leadership, we still have a long way to go to reach gender parity in the boardroom. In the mean time, we hope this list of the best leadership books for women will help give you the boost you need to get to the next level in your career. For women in management, books like these can be a lifeline while you build your support system and climb the corporate ladder. We know you can do it!

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.
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