I love to read books about leadership, business management and generally how to improve your chances of succeeding as a business or social enterprise (business whose profits go towards a social purpose), since I’m involved in running both.

So I thought I’d share my absolute favourites, the books I come back to again and again for simple advice in navigating the trickiest of situations.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us
Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Good for:

Anyone wanting to change the world but doesn’t think they are a leader
Post-students not sure what to do with their lives
Seth Godin’s books are always a quick read filled with inspiration, though not a lot of practical How-To (that’s what the other books on this list are for). But they’re a great starting point to fill you with energy and a Can Do spirit that’s essential when you’re running a community organisation or social enterprise.

His idea is that each of us can and should be a leader, and that it’s just a matter of finding your niche, your tribe of people. Figure that out, and you’re set to conquer the world.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Getting It Done: How to Lead When You’re Not In Charge
Getting It Done: How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge

This book goes hand in hand with Dealing with People You Can’t Stand because, chances are, if you need one you need the other. This book is for all of you stuck in interminable meetings that result in little action and a lot of boredom. It helps you learn to facilitate a meeting so that things actually happen without you having to be pushy — or a doormat.

How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge

StrengthsFinder 2.0
StrengthsFinder 2.0

Good for:

hiring the right volunteers or staff by figuring out what their skills really are
inspiring your staff/volunteers by helping them develop
developing yourself as a leader
I’ve used this book and online test again and again to help me figure out how best to work with volunteers and staff. When Touchwood Project had a group of 4 students come up for 10 days to volunteer, I ignored their CVs and instead focused on their StrengthsFinder profiles. So the volunteer that had “Woo” as her top strength, which is about Winning Over Others (WOO) and in general being very charming and persuasive, was the person we put at the door of all our events to meet and greet. She did an outstanding job and didn’t even realise her ability was a strength that not everyone had.

Indeed, I’ve had so much success with StrengthsFinder that I’ve written extensively about it on the Touchwood Project website if you’d like to find out more. But first, take the test yourself — which you can only do by buying the book — and use the opportunity to develop yourself first.

StrengthsFinder 2.0

Strengths-Based Leadership: Recommended over 2.0 if you’re the head of an organisation.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Good for:

Activists
People within an organisation wanting it to change
Anyone trying to persuade people to change their behaviour
Chip and Dan Heath also wrote the excellent Made to Stick book, and their approach here is to research examples of how people within businesses like Target or environmental activists managed campaigns that changed people’s behaviour. The book is easy to read, engaging and has the occasional exercise to get you to apply what you’re reading. For anyone looking to change the world.

Switch: How to Change When Change Is Hard

Your Chance to Change the World
Your Chance to Change the World

Good for:

How to start a social enterprise
Deciding whether you’re cut out to be a social entrepreneur
Learning what to look for in your team
Your Chance to Change the World is really the only book I recommend to aspiring or existing social entrepreneurs, or people who want to make the world a better place but have a streak of innovation and going against the tide that makes them too restless to work in traditional non-profits.

The book, written by well-established social entrepreneur Craig Dearden-Phillips, breaks down what it takes to get a social enterprise going, step by step. It’s Social Enterprise 101.

How to Deal with People You Can’t Stand
Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst

Good for:

working with Board of Directors or similar groups of people
handling a co-worker you find impossible but have to deal with
I hear a lot of complaints from people in community organisations about the people they have to deal with in meetings. There always seems to be at least one cantakerous or obnoxious person that just seems to ruin things, to keep progress from happening. Well this is the best solution I can give you: read up on the different types of irritating people and how to deal with them. It takes some practice, but it’s well worth it.

Dealing with People You Can’t Stand