9 Best Books on Management for School Leaders

Great professional reads for your wish list.

school management books

The key to being a good manager is to constantly be thinking about new and innovative ways of doing things. The best way to do that is to beef up your library of career, leadership and management books. Some you’ll read from cover to cover while others you’ll flip to the sections/passages that speak to you the most. But all will help you grow as a leader and think about new ways to inspire everyone who looks to you for guidance and motivation—from your teachers to the students too. Here are nine of our favorite picks to get you started.

1. The One Minute Manager 
The One Minute Manager

This classic (it was originally published over 30 years ago) is told as a parable of a young man in search of a good manager. The simple story-telling, however, has a big message—it takes very little time to get the results you AND your employees desire. This can be done via one minute goal setting, one minute praising and one minute redirecting when things don’t go as planned.

Bottom line: No one wants to be coddled and micromanaged, but they do want and need to be acknowledged, even if just for one minute of the day!


2. Don’t Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns That Limit Success 
Don't bring it to work

We all have baggage and for many, that baggage comes from our family of origin. And when you can’t quite figure out what to do with your overachieving new teacher or admin who just can’t seem to meet deadlines—understanding why they’re wired that way can really help you as a manager. The thirteen most common patterns that play out in the office include: Super Achiever, Rebel, Persecutor, Victim, Rescuer, Clown, Martyr, Splitter, Procrastinator, Drama Queen or King, Pleaser, Denier, and Avoider.

Bottom line: While you can use this book as a tool to better understand your staff, use it to look within. What do you believe arr your greatest weaknesses and struggles as a manager? This book can empower you to make shifts both at work and home.



3. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You 

The “rules” of this book are as much about leadership as they are influence. Maxwell tells stories of successful influencers like  Princess Diana, Lee Iaccoca and Abraham Lincoln to illustrate his points so you can start applying his techniques.

Bottom Line: Each of these “laws” will spark something different depending on your current frustrations, needs or issues. Our favorite? Number nine: the law of magnetism— who you are is who you attract!


4. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose 

You wonder what a book written by the CEO of Zappos has to do with leading and managing a school. Well, a lot more than you think! Just view your parents and students as a “customer” and your staff as “employees.” Then delve deep into this best-seller and think about how you can create a school culture focused on happiness.

Botttom Line: Hsieh made company culture his top priority. He applied research from the science of happiness when dealing with his employees plus made it his mission to help them grow both personally and professionally. Not unlike a principal, right?

5. Tribes 

tribes by seth godin
No, you don’t want to think of your teachers, students, parents and support staff as your followers. But,  you DO want them to feel like they’re part of something big. And, you want them to see you as their fearless leader,  rallying for them, inciting change and bringing your school to the forefront of the community. This is a leadership book about finding loyalty among your team and connecting with them as a strong and trusted leader.

Bottom Line: Godin’s three steps to building a tribe are: the desire to change things, the ability to connect your “tribe,” and the willingness to lead. All things principal’s want to accomplish too.


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

You know the old saying, “never let them see you sweat?” Brown busts that myth wide open, arguing that vulnerability is where our greatest strength and courage comes from. She writes: “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”

Bottom line: This isn’t a book about wearing your emotions on your sleeve. It’s a book about being courageous and always taking important leaps in your professional, personal and creative pursuits.

7. The One Thing You Need to Know . . . About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success 

This book has a wonderful approach to getting the most from your staff. Buckingham says great managers should identify their employees’ individual strengths and capitalize on them instead of trying to improve their weaknesses. To motivate and get the best out of your team, he suggests setting clear expectations, offering praise and recognition, and showing them you care.

Bottom Line: This is a great read for first time principals who are struggling with the best approach to leading their new team.

8. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity 

getting things done by david allen
This book stays true to it’s title—you will get things done. It teaches you how to get organized and accomplish everything on your daily to-do lists (both at work and home). Allen’s overall method is meant to declutter your brain so you can focus on the big picture.

Bottom line: How can you focus on the needs of your teachers and students if you’re distracted by an overflowing inbox or pile up of calls to return? You can’t. But, this book helps you bring your mind back to what matters most.


9. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear 

big magic
No, this may not be your typical leadership/management book. Yes, Gilbert, is the author of Eat, Pray, Love. But, she’s tapped into the importance of being creative in everything we do. When we’re not feeling creative it’s because fear is holding us back. Broken down into six sections—courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust, and divinity—Gilbert’s tips and strategies will inspire you to do big and innovative things at your school.

Bottom Line: Your staff and students can greatly benefit from the philosophy of this book too. Encouraging creativity in all aspects of your school will bring the best out in everyone, guaranteed!


Join our Facebook group Principal Life for more conversation about and insights into the challenges of school leadership.