Leadership Books for College Students, Courses, and Programs in Higher Education

Books for Leadership Development Programs

Root Down & Branch Out: Best Practices for Leadership Development Programs is designed to help you develop a high quality leadership program or course for college students. It shares a number of different program types and activities that have positively impacted student learning and leadership development. It is a source of ideas. You can design and assess your program or course using the tool in the book.

In researching and writing a couple of earlier publications on leadership courses as well as leadership retreats, I reviewed a number of leadership books used with students. I’d like to highlight books that could be great for students and used within courses or programs. I choose books that are relevant for and geared towards students, are good theories to develop educational experiences around, and are readily applicable for leadership practice by students. I also like these books because they have companion instructor’s guides or workbooks that give you activities to do with students. Many also have companion assessments.

Leadership for a Better World
Understanding the Social Change Model of Leadership Development

The three components of the leadership development model and/or the “seven C” values are good content for leadership educators to design program with.

1. Individual Values
a. Consciousness of self
b. Congruence
c. Commitment

2. Group Values
a. Collaboration
b. Common purpose
c. Controversy with civility

3. Societal/Community Values
a. Citizenship
b. Can also add a section on “Change” if you need another C!

Stated Description: The Social Change Model of Leadership Development particularly appeals to undergraduate students because it’s an approach to leadership development that views leadership as a purposeful, collaborative, values-based process that uses multiple perspectives to enact positive social change. This accessible textbook engages the reader in understanding the nature of social change and the dimensions of leadership that help one become an effective change agent. It includes case studies, reflection questions, and learning activities to help facilitate engagement with the model. Written and edited by some of the country’s most recognized and active scholars and educators in student leadership, the book has been field-tested by leadership faculty.

This approach to student leadership development was initially developed by a 15-person “Working Ensemble.” The approach differs in certain basic ways from traditional approaches that view “leaders” only as those who happen to hold formal leadership positions and that regard leadership as a value-neutral process involving positional “leaders” and “followers.”

There is an instructor’s guide available for download from the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs.This short guidebook was developed for leadership educators to use with college students. Citizens of Change: The Application Guidebook and The Socially Responsible Leadership Scale are companions for using the social change model. The original Citizens of Change Application Guidebook and newer instructor’s guide include many different activities that correspond to each of the social change model values. I highly recommend it for your leadership development resource library.


exploring leadership book cover

Exploring Leadership
For College Students Who Want to Make a Difference

You could build your leadership education experience around the five components of the Relational Leadership Model which is a good leadership framework for college students.

1. Inclusive
2. Empowering
3. Process-oriented
4. Purposeful
5. Ethical

Stated Description: This third edition is a thoroughly revised and updated version of the bestselling text for undergraduate leadership courses. This book is designed for college students to help them understand that they are capable of being effective leaders and guide them in developing their leadership potential. The Relational Leadership Model (RLM) continues as the major focus in this edition, and the book includes stronger connections between the RLM dimensions and related concepts, as well as visual applications of the model. The third edition includes new student vignettes that demonstrate how the major concepts and theories can be applied. It also contains new material on social justice, conflict management, positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, emotional intelligence, and new self-assessment and reflection questionnaires.

For those focused on the practice of leadership development, the third edition is part of a complete set that includes a Student Workbook, a Facilitation and Activity Guide for educators, and free downloadable instructional PowerPoint® slides. The Workbook is a student-focused companion to the book and theFacilitation and Activity Guide is designed for use by program leaders and educators.

PLUS! Each copy of Exploring Leadership, Third Edition comes with an access code so students can take the Clifton StrengthsFinder, a 30-minute online assessment which has helped more than eight million people around the world discover their talents. After they take the self-assessment, they’ll receive a customized report that lists their top five talent themes, along with action items for development and suggestions about how they can use their talents to achieve academic, career, and personal success. In the book, the authors discuss the importance of understanding oneself, and how using the StrengthsFinder assessment will help one do so. (E-book customers must prove they have purchased the book to obtain their StrengthsFinder access code from Wiley Customer Service.)

This book is widely used and was developed specifically for college students. An Exploring Leadership Instructor’s Guide is also available online.


Leadership Challenge Amazon
The Leadership Challenge

Using this book you can build the content of your course or experience around the five exemplary practices of leadership.

1. Challenge the Process
2. Inspire a Shared Vision
3. Enable Others to Act
4. Model the Way
5. Encourage the Heart

Stated Description: The 25th anniversary edition of the bestselling business classic, completely revised and updated

For more than 25 years, The Leadership Challenge has been the most trusted source on becoming a better leader, selling more than 2 million copies in over 20 languages since its first publication. Based on Kouzes and Posner’s extensive research, this all-new edition casts their enduring work in context for today’s world, proving how leadership is a relationship that must be nurtured, and most importantly, that it can be learned.

  • Features over 100 all-new case studies and examples, which show The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership in action around the world
  • Focuses on the toughest organizational challenges leaders face today
  • Addresses changes in how people work and what people want from their work

This is a leadership book that has sold over one million copies and is based on a large amount of research. It is not written specifically for college students but is applicable. It proposes the five exemplary practices of leadership. The Student Leadership Practices Inventory, an instrument for college students, and The Leadership Challenge Workbook, would make excellent companions to the book for conference developers.


Primal Leadership

You can build the leadership learning content around Personal and Social Competence and/or the Emotional Intelligence Domains.

1. Personal Competence
a. Self-Awareness
b. Self-Management
2. Social Competence
a. Social Awareness
b. Relationship Management

Stated Description: Daniel Goleman’s international bestseller Emotional Intelligence forever changed our concept of “being smart,” showing how emotional intelligence (EI)-how we handle ourselves and our relationships-can determine life success more than IQ. Now, Goleman teams with renowned EI researchers Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee to explore the role of emotional intelligence in leadership. Unveiling neuro-scientific links between organizational success or failure and “primal leadership,” the authors argue that a leader’s emotions are contagious. If a leader resonates energy and enthusiasm, an organization thrives; if a leader spreads negativity and dissonance, it flounders. Drawing from decades of analysis within world-class organizations, the authors show that resonant leaders-whether CEOs or managers, coaches or politicians-excel not just through skill and smarts, but by connecting with others using EI competencies like empathy and self-awareness. And they employ up to six leadership styles-from visionary to coaching to pacesetting-fluidly interchanging them as the situation demands.

This New York Times national bestseller is from the author of Emotional Intelligence (EI). This book could be interesting for students as it looks at leadership through a different lens of emotion.


emotionally intelligent leadership for students AmazonEmotionally Intelligent Leadership

This new book provides a guide for students on emotionally intelligent leadership. You could build your leadership development experience around the core facets of the model of emotionally intelligent leadership.

1. Consciousness of Context
2. Consciousness of Self
3. Consciousness of Others

Stated Description: The only book for students which explores the connection between emotional intelligence and effective leadership

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership: A Guide for Students is based on a conceptual model that helps students to become emotionally intelligent leaders. Research from around the world has demonstrated that there is a relationship between emotional intelligence and leadership. For the second edition of Emotionally Intelligent Leadership, the authors have incorporated their revised, data-based emotionally intelligent leadership (EIL) model into an engaging text for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students.

The book can be used in conjunction with the Emotionally Intelligent Leadership for Students Inventory and Student Workbook for an immersive and transformative educational experience. Students will appreciate the opportunity to learn more about themselves as they reflect on their experiences as learners and their own leadership journeys.

  • The new edition is substantially rewritten based new research on the EIL model
  • Its clear structure is organized around the three facets of emotionally intelligent leadership and 19 leadership capacities
  • Questions at the end of each chapter encourage purposeful reflection and leadership growth

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership is one of a kind, fostering growth and promoting intense self-reflection. Students are empowered to enhance the campus experience and develop into effective leaders of the future. Emotionally Intelligent Leadership is the perfect introduction to leading with emotional intelligence.

There is also a workbook and inventory available.



Strengths Based Leadership Amazon
Strengths Based Leadership
Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow

Stated Description: In recent years, while continuing to learn more about strengths, Gallup scientists have also been examining decades of data on the topic of leadership. They studied more than 1 million work teams, conducted more than 20,000 in-depth interviews with leaders, and even interviewed more than 10,000 followers around the world to ask exactly why they followed the most important leader in their life.

The results of that research are unveiled in Strengths Based Leadership. Using Gallup’s discoveries, authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie identify three keys to being a more effective leader and use firsthand accounts from highly successful leaders — including the founder of Teach For America and the president of The Ritz-Carlton — to show how each person’s unique strengths can drive their success.

A new leadership version of Gallup’s popular StrengthsFinder assessment helps readers discover their own special gifts and specific strategies for leading with their top five strengths. Filled with novel research and actionable ideas, Strengths Based Leadership will give you a new road map for leading people toward a better future.


The following books may help you as you design, and assess leadership development programs for students.

handbook for student leadership development amazonThe Handbook for Student Leadership Development

Stated Description: This is a comprehensive handbook provides essential research, theoretical framing, and practical guidance to help higher education practitioners develop, advance, and sustain a student leadership program. This new and thoroughly revised edition introduces a model for designing and executing any student leadership program, which will serve as a framing device for the book. This model covers: Foundations of Leadership Education, Program Design, Program Context, and Program Delivery. In addition, the book includes a rich, organized array of further recommended resources that will be connected to elements in various chapters.


Student Leadership Competencies Book Amazon
The Student Leadership Competencies Guidebook
Designing Intentional Leadership Learning and Development

Stated Description: Bridge the gap between leadership development and career preparation!

This guidebook gives leadership educators the tools they need to help students develop the competencies necessary for their chosen careers and required by their academic programs. It also offers a way to understand and demonstrate the effectiveness of leadership programs.

Organized into chapters each focused on one of 60 leadership competencies common across 522 academic degree programs accredited by 97 agencies, each chapter covers:

  • a definition and description of the competency through the lens of each of four dimensions: knowledge, value, ability, and behavior;
  • a scenario related to college student leadership that showcases the competency in action;
  • related competencies to help readers understand how developing one competency may also intentionally or unintentionally develop another;
  • a correlation of the competency to the Relational Leadership Model, the Social Change Model, the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, and/or Emotionally Intelligent Leadership; and
  • tangible curricular ideas to use with students to help them develop each dimension of the competency.

This is an infographic about leadership education in colleges.

Leadership Education in Colleges Infographic

Root Down & Branch Out: Best Practices for Leadership Development Programs is designed to help you develop a high quality leadership course or program for college students. It shares a number of different program types and activities that have positively impacted student learning and leadership development. It is a source of ideas. You can design and assess your program or course using the tool in the book.

Are there books, models, or guides not listed here that you use with good results? Please comment below and I can add them to this toolkit.


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