Novels with Leadership Insights



Once an Eagle

Once an Eagle

By Anton Myrer

Epic novel about Sam Damon, a U.S. Army officer who has a gift for battlefield tactics and insiring his soldiers. The story spans Damon's 45-year military career, from World War I to Vietnam, and chronicles Damon's growth as a leader and focus on taking care of the troops at the front line. Damon's assigments frequently intersect with those of Courtney Massengale, a self-serving staff officer who is primarily focused on his own career advancement, regardless of the human cost. The contrast between their leadership styles has lessons for many organizations. Has been considered a must-read at West Point.Read More...

The Cane Mutiny

A Bell for Adano

By John Hersey

A Bell for Adano is a charming story about an Italian-American U.S. Army officer assigned to serve as administrator of a village in Sicily following the U.S. invasion of Italy during World War II. The protagonist, Major Victor Joppolo, is a persistently fair and reasonable administrator who strives to do right by his charges. For example, when the city leaders express dismay over the fact that Fascists had melted down the village's 700 year-old bell to make shell casings, Joppolo does his best to find a replacement. Includes great examples of how to get things done through the bureacracy (hint: it's all about interpersonal skills) and also how bureuacracy can be stalled to prevent--or at least delay--negative outcomes. A Bell for Adano won the Pulitzer Prize for novels in 1945. Read More...

The Cane Mutiny

The Caine Mutiny

By Herman Wouk

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Herman Wouk profiles Lieutenant Commander Phillip Francis Queeg (played by Humphrey Bogart in the classic movie adaptation), Captain of the minesweeper USS Caine during World War II. Queeg inherits a ship sorely lacking in discipline and tries to restore order. When his erratic behavior endangers the ship, his senior officers relieve him of command. This is a wonderful study of how a leader's insecurity and overwhelming desire to avoid mistakes can create a toxic environment for subordinates. Includes many lessons about followership, loyalty, integrity, trust, and leadership in a crisis. A gripping read, the book provides more detail about Queeg's personality and behavior than the movie does. Read More...

Watership Down

Watership Down

By Richard Adams

Classic adventure involving a group of rabbits who leave their warren to avoid imminent disaster and find a new home. Their leader, Hazel, is a great listener who leverages the strengths of each of his followers. His leadership is contrasted to that of other Chief Rabbits, who either don't listen, don't protect their followers, or rule by fear. Probably the most intense story you will ever read about rabbits! Read More...

Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers

By Robert Heinlein

This action-packed science fiction classic describes how a raw recruit for a military of the future learns to be an effective soldier--and then to lead--helped along the way by good mentors and exemplars. Some of the politics of the story are a bit provocative, but the message about public service is inspiring. Read More...

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, tells the story of four siblings who discover a portal to another world--one where they become kings and queens. Chronicles their growth as leaders as they face extraordinary challenges and ethical dilemmas. Includes lots of good lessons about learning from mistakes and the importance of mentors. This is the first book published in C.S. Lewis' classic Chronicles of Narnia series.


The ServantThe Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership

By James C. Hunter

First-rate business novel about a business executive who has never thought much about how his leadership impacts his team and family and his personal transformation during a leadership retreat at a monastery. Under the influence of a famous executive-turned-monk named Simon, the executive comes to realize that his work and family life will become richer if he focuses more on helping others be successful rather than putting his own needs first. Provides a terrific introduction to the concept of servant leadership. Read More...

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

By Patrick Lencioni

This very readable business fable is one of the best things that has been written about the dynamics that undermine healthy teams. Lencioni uses a corporate executive team to demonstrate how an absence of trust, a fear of conflict, a lack of commitment, an avoidance of accountability, and an inattention to results can cause teams of otherwise competent individuals to fail. Tremendously useful to building teams in the real world. Read More...

Cover of "Accountability"

Accountability: Freedom and Responsibility without Control

By Rob Lebow and Randy Spitzer

Accountability is an engaging story of five strangers who meet on a train and have a lively debate about how to improve organizational performance.  The wise older man in the group explains how you can increase accountability in an organization by creating an environment in which employees will take ownership of their jobs. Cites many real-world examples that make a compelling case for the idea that effective and engaged front-line employees make for an effective organization. Read More...