Top 5 Leadership Books for College Students

You may be interested in reading books to learn how to develop leadership qualities. At the same time, if you put “leadership books” into a search engine, you will likely receive over 50 million results. Students frequently ask me for suggestions on leadership readings. Thus, I wanted to share my top 5 recommendations for leadership books for college students…

1) Exploring Leadership for College Students who Want to Make a Difference, 3rd ed – Susan R. Komives, Nance Lucas, and Timothy R. McMahon
If you are a college student interested in learning about leadership and how to practice it, this book is for you. The book details the five key attributes of successful leaders, and is filled with stories set on a college campus to help you learn what you need to know.

2) The Truth About Leadership: The No-Fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts you Need to Know – James Kouzes, Barry Posner
This is an excellent short summary of 25 years of research by the authors on “the least you need to know” to practice effective leadership anywhere. While the authors are experts in the field of business, this book is focused for a general audience and is highly applicable for someone reading their first book about leadership.

3) Influencer: The Power to Change Anything – Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
Influencer is designed to teach people who are already practicing leadership what they need to know to get a group of people all moving in the same direction towards common goals. While the books above describe leadership, this book focuses more on the specific actions necessary for helping a group become successful over the long term.

4) The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative – Stephen Denning
I am a big fan of this book, as I believe a key part of leading others is how to cultivate narratives to use for teaching and focus. Much more than simply story-telling, the focus of the book how to inspire action in others. Denning highlights a number of key points to address as you consider how to communicate with the groups that you lead and work within.

5) The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr – edited by Clayborne Carson
While not technically a book about leadership, per se, Carson has organized Dr. King’s writings and speeches in a coherent story about King’s journey from childhood to leading one of the most impressive leadership stories of the 20th Century in the United States – the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

A common myth about leadership is that it is an innate quality. Yet, this is far from true…leadership qualities are learned. Hopefully, some of these books will help you to develop and become the leader you aspire to be.

About David Rosch, PhD

Dave Rosch serves as an Assistant Professor in the Agricultural Education program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His particular areas of research interest include college student leadership development and the effects of leadership programs and courses on development. Dave has spent much of his professional career helping to educate future leaders on the skills required for effectiveness in contemporary society. He has worked at the University of Illinois since 2006, beginning at the Illinois Leadership Center and became faculty in the Agricultural Education program in 2011. There, he currently teaches leadership theory and methods courses and conducts research in emerging adult leadership development. He has published research on the process of leadership education within the Journal of College Student Development, Journal of Leadership Education, Journal of Leadership Studies, and Studies in Higher Education, among several other peer-reviewed journals.

He has also served in a variety of capacities in the International Leadership Association, Association of Leadership Educators, as a Co-lead Facilitator for LeaderShape Inc., and the co-chair of the National Leadership Symposium. Originally from New York, Dave graduated from Binghamton University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Sociology, where he was involved as a Resident Advisor, Orientation Leader, and was the captain of the Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Team. Dave received a Master’s Degree from Colorado State University in Student Affairs in Higher Education and a PhD in Higher Postsecondary Education from Syracuse University, where he worked in university housing and advising student governance organizations.

, , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply


Career Skillet is an online educational resource designed to help students with skills that will help them successfully transition from student to career roles. Please review this Privacy Policy and Disclaimers periodically as we may make changes and updates without prior notice. We will post a date at the bottom of the page, so our audiences can see when the page was most recently updated.

Privacy Policy

We may use information from the Career Skillet site for program improvement or educational purposes (for example, presentations at conferences or publications in journals). Information that we may obtain from the site about you include:

  • -Manage your participation in events, promotions, or research you sign up for on the Career Skillet site.
  • -Analyze trends and statistics regarding visitors’ use of the Career Skillet website (for example, the pages visited, the most popular content, the types of information that our visitors share with others, how long visitors spend on the website, the types of questions visitors ask).
  • -To comply with legal policies and industry standards


To ensure that Career Skillet visitors receive reliable and accurate information, part of our model is to include comments, authored articles, summaries, and other types of content from contributing authors. Career Skillet assumes no responsibility for documents posted by users or contributing authors although we will make every attempt to block or delete offensive material or any information that conflicts with the goals and mission of Career Skillet.

Contributing authors come from various backgrounds and were invited to contribute to the Career Skillet websites because of their expertise. The contributing authors are not responsible for the information posted by other authors.

Career Skillet will link to other websites. These links are provided as a convenience to visitors. Therefore, these links should not be considered an endorsement of the other website, and Career Skillet is not responsible for the content on the third-party websites. Although we are selective and only generally reference articles, infographics, or other materials on third-party websites that we believe is of quality, when you link to third-party websites, you do so at your own risk. If Career Skillet links to information on your website and you would like it removed, or you believe that Career Skillet is violating your website’s copyright policies, we ask that you notify Career Skillet in writing of a copyright infringement click here. If we remove or disable access to content in response to a copyright infringement notice you sent, we will make every attempt to notify you.

If you wish to use the content on the Career Skillet website for another website or online resource of similar nature, we ask that you do not duplicate our original content and that you list the Career Skillet name and provide a direct link back to the Career Skillet website. Please notify us and tell us how you are using our content.

For Questions, comments, or Advertising inquires please submit the following form and we will contact you back as soon as possible.

Your Name: *
E-mail Address: *
Subject: *
Message Details:  

*=required field
[php] include('mathcaptcha.php');[/php]