Patricia Hill is the co-creator of EducatorTools.info, a website dedicated to offering helpful resources and inspiration to both established and aspiring educators. She’s also a Brilliant Detroit volunteer. Over the past month, she created a reading list for the Brilliant community that asks a powerful question: what does it mean to be a community leader today? “Our leaders are the forward-thinkers of society,” Patricia thinks, “and by enriching themselves, we grow with them.”

We hope you enjoy this thoughtful resource. Thank you, Patricia!

10 Books Every Community Leader Should Read (+ 5 Books for Kids!)

Whether you’re involved in local politics, grassroots activism, or a community organization like Brilliant Detroit, making a difference in your community calls for leadership. But what exactly does it mean to be a community leader, especially in the modern era? While most people can agree on the essential traits it takes to lead — the courage to execute, the charisma to influence, and a commitment to coaching, to name a few — there’s no single definition of leadership.

Regardless of how ambiguous a definition of leadership might be, there are a lot of great books on the topic that can guide your personal development as a community leader — like these.

The Essential Leadership Reads
If you’ve never read a book on leadership, where’s the best place to start? These are the books experts agree belong on any leader’s reading list.

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey: Great leadership starts from within. This book explains how to change your thinking and habits to become a more effective leader.
  • Dare to Lead by Brene Brown: Brown’s 2018 release is a must-read for community leaders and anyone else seeking to lead with empathy and connection.
  • The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner: While Covey and Brown’s books focus on personal development, this classic covers what it takes to get things done in organizations.
  • Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam: Work-life balance is a constant struggle for anyone in a leadership position. Vanderkam’s book discusses how leaders can get more done without burning out.

Books to Foster Diversity and Inclusion
It’s one thing to lead people who are like yourself, but true community leaders work with people from all walks of life. These books explore what it takes to create truly inclusive organizations where everyone can work together for the common good.

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: This 2018 bestseller is full of practical advice on discussing white privilege, racism, intersectionality, and other sensitive topics.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: A must-read for any leader seeking to deepen their understanding of the Black experience in America, Coates’ book uses history and personal narratives to paint a thought-provoking picture for allies.
  • Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald: It’s not enough to have good intentions, Banaji and Greenwald’s book explains. It’s also necessary to examine and dismantle personal biases in order to lead fairly, and this book will help.

Books About Changing the World
Transformational change occurs at every level, from a single community center in an underserved neighborhood to global climate policy. Regardless of whether you’re working on a local or global scale, these books will inspire you to think big.

  • Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky: A blueprint for community organizers, this classic book discusses how incremental victories can lead to transformational change.
  • This Is an Uprising by Mark Engler and Paul Engler: From Martin Luther King, Jr. to Black Lives Matter, the Englers’ book uses historical insights to examine why some movements succeed and others fail.
  • Six Degrees by Duncan Watts: Changing the world isn’t a one-person job. Add this book to your reading list and explore the power of social networks.

Leadership Books for Children
Leadership isn’t just for adults. These books will awaken the inner leader in young readers.

  • Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed: Accessible to even the youngest of readers, this picture book is inspired by the story of Mae Jemison, the first Black female astronaut.
  • Firebird by Misty Copeland: This popular children’s book tells the story of a ballerina who overcomes self-doubt to achieve greatness.
  • One Family by George Shannon: A must-read for future community leaders, this book celebrates family, community, and oneness.
  • Call Me Tree by Mata Christina Gonzalez: This lyrical book about self-discovery and growth is available in both English and Spanish.
  • King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan: Rich in color and texture, this storybook is a memorable read for children with disabilities and other differences.

It doesn’t matter if you’re new to community organizing or an established leader in your area. When you seek to change the world for the better, there’s always more to learn. From tips on improving your personal leadership skills to advice for engaging with your community, these books are full of insights to make you a more effective leader.


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