I have always loved reading because I have felt it make me a better person.

Books make me a better person because they broaden my horizon, deepen my insights, and expose me to perspectives that are different from my own.

In fact, as I have been writing a book on vertical development and helping organizations vertically develop, I have come to the belief that it is essentially impossible to vertically develop without reading books.

(PS. I just decided on the title for the book and it will be: The Elevated Leader: Leveling Up Your Leadership Through Vertical Development)

Between this post and the next two posts, I want to share the top five books I read across three categories and why I value having read them:

  1. Non-Fiction Business Self-Help (this week)
  2. Fiction (next week)
  3. Non-Fiction Other (in two weeks)

The Five Best Non-Fiction Business/Self-Help Books I Read in 2021

5. The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities by Patrick Lencioni

The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities J B Lencioni Series

Although Patrick Lencioni doesn’t realize it (or at least didn’t articulate it), this book is a vertical development book. It is written in the form of a day-long conversation between rival CEOs, with one being more vertically developed and the other unexpectedly becoming more vertically developed in the process.

I think it is a “must read” for any leader. It invites introspection leading to greater cognitive and emotional sophistication. Plus, it is an engaging read that is relatively short.


4. You Can Change Other People: The Four Steps to Help Your Colleagues, Employees — Even Family – Up Their Game by Peter Bregman and Howie Jacobson 

You Can Change Other People: The Four Steps to Help Your Colleagues Employees—Even Family—Up Their Game

Immediately after reading this book, I sent emails to about 10 partners and clients saying that they needed to read this book. The reason why: It gets to the heart of a primary desire of the leaders that I work with: helping their peers or subordinates to improve their leadership.

If you want to learn skills and practices so that you feel empowered elevate the leadership in your organization (or the leaders you work with), I think you’ll get a lot out of this book.

Not only are the processes for helping others change broken down into a clear and understandable process (no easy feat), but the case studies that the authors carry through the book are issues the leaders I work with commonly face.


3. The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris, M.D. 

The Deepest Well: Healing the Long Term Effects of Childhood Trauma and Adversity

This is among the top-five best books that I have read on Trauma.

To me, the premise of the book is something that everyone needs to better understand. It draws upon an understandable analogy. If a bunch of people are getting sick from drinking from a contaminated well, we need to address the issue with the well and not just treat the sicknesses that people are getting.

Trauma is like a contaminated well. It is something that affects essentially everyone negatively in a variety of ways (e.g., emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually), yet we primarily focus on treating the effects of trauma instead of addressing the foundational issue.

Whether it is yourself or your organization, you likely have a trauma issue that is going unaddressed. This book will help you see that.


2. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam Grant

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Dont Know by Adam Grant

Vertical development involves loosening your grip on what you think is right, exploring ideas that push against your beliefs, and being willing to adopt more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated beliefs.

No book I have ever read makes this clearer and more compelling.

Too often I hear from employees or leaders who say something along the lines of “they are stuck in their ways” or “they are close minded.”

We will all be better off for learning to push against our “ways” or “perspectives,” and there is no better way to do this than reading this book.


1. What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. & Oprah Winfrey.

What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma Resilience and Healing

This is far and away the most approachable book on trauma available. And, it is quite powerful. Not quite as powerful and as comprehensive as The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk, but it is probably the first trauma book that someone should pick up. And, if you are only going to pick up one, I think this is the one to pick up.

This book is both clear and deep, which is really difficult to pull off when writing about trauma.

I can promise you three outcomes you will gain from reading this book:

  1. You will learn some things about yourself that you didn’t know or fully appreciate
  2. You will see others in a much more positive, healthy, and comprehensive way
  3. You will become a more self-compassionate and empathetic person

In short, I think this book can be a life-changer.