Personal Development

The 16 best executive coaching books (and a dozen great reads for clients)

best executive coaching books woman sitting and reading

Executive coaching can be a rewarding and fulfilling career, but it requires deep introspection and commitment and an array of interpersonal and leadership skills. Becoming an executive coach and growing in the role demands lifelong learning — and that means delving into the kaleidoscopic variety of leadership, business personal development, and executive coaching books.

As Vistage Chair Rodger Jenkins explains, “Leaders are readers. There are lots of great books out there to help you stay sharp.”

Aren’t there ever! In fact, a comprehensive list of executive coaching resources threatens to overwhelm. That’s why we’ve consulted with coaches of various tenures to garner their top picks.

Whether you’re seeking to enhance your one-to-one coaching skills, become a better group facilitator, put your own practice in order, or pass along some insightful reads to clients, we have the recommendations you need.


Executive coaching books for improving one-to-one coaching skills

Much of the individual coaching process boils down to conversation, and seasoned executive coaches offer multiple books on how to improve these interactions.

Trillion Dollar Coach by Bill Campbell

Ever wondered what coaching Steve Jobs of Apple, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt of Google, and other top executives relied on? This book — written by a Silicon Valley executive coach whose clients have achieved combined revenues of over $1 trillion — provides an inside peek. Most importantly according to Vistage Chair Marty Stowe, it imparts simple, universal principles applicable to any coaching practice.

The Disciplined Listening Method by Michael Reddington

“I recently heard the author speak to my Vistage group, and he shared his approach to listening,” says Becky Tolnay, a Vistage Chair who calls Tallahassee, Florida, home. “He helps us to understand where we are, possibly unintentionally, making mistakes when we think we are listening. Then he lays out how to approach a conversation.”

Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work & Life One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott


A Vistage Chair favorite recommended by Tom Grogan and Niels Lameijer, among others, this book “has great tools and tips to master the art of conversation,” says Kevin Trout, who sold his medical distributorship and became an executive coach. He points out that “it helps to be aware of these factors when coaching one-on-one.” Agreed.

More great executive coaching books

The Introvert’s Edge: How the Quiet and Shy Can Outsell Anyone by Matthew Pollard

Jeannette Hobson, who has been a coach for more than two decades, says, “Being an introvert myself, I find this wisdom very helpful when coaching another introvert.”

The Advice Trap and The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier

Vistage Chair Francine Lasky, known as a straight-shooter by her clients, “loves the ‘shut up and listen’ advice” in these books.

Books to help with group coaching skills

Not all coaches engage in group coaching environments, but those who do find a unique value to peer advisory groups and similar structures. Here are some resources Vistage Chairs have used to hone in on their group facilitation skills and build a thriving practice.

The Secrets of Facilitation by Michael Wilkinson

A glowing review from Tolnay: “A great resource for any facilitator. The methods and processes go beyond building a peer group and apply to working with teams and groups to help participants achieve results.”

Peernovation: What Advisory Groups Can Teach Us About Building High-Performing Teams by Leo Bottary

Looking for an easy yet impactful read? Jenkins suggests this investigation of what happens when a group of people who share common values, yet different perspectives and skills, bring ideas to life.

The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea by Bob Burg and John David Mann

Stowe describes this book as “a business parable about the power of putting others first.” He applied the principle of helping others, expecting nothing in return, as he built his practice. “And just as the book predicts, out of nowhere, these people start paying it back, with referrals, connections, and more.”
More great reads

Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers by Gino Wickman

Recommended again and again by Vistage Chairs, Traction “illustrates the power of team facilitation,” says Tom Grogan.

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

Coaching isn’t always a go-along-to-get-along proposition. Lasky values this book for “causing me to think about challenging group norms.”

Books to help you get your own house in order

An effective coach spends as much time on their own growth and development as they do guiding others. Where do Vistage Chairs turn for help? Here are a few of their suggestions.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

Don’t be deterred by the title — this book reaches audiences far beyond traditional artists. Niels Lameijer, who trains Vistage Chairs and also serves as a coach himself, says that this classic “helped me connect with what drives me, what shapes me, and what I wanted to create for myself.” Best of all, it’s a workbook so you’ll immediately apply each lesson.

Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential by Shirzad Chamine

Tolnay says the science-backed program outlined in Positive Intelligence “helped me to identify the saboteurs in my mind and thoughts and understand how they negatively impact me and my relationships with others.” Do the exercises that are included to reap the maximum reward.

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

According to Stowe, Building a StoryBrand should be required reading for anyone seeking to become an executive coach. “The book teaches you how to make your coaching client the ‘hero’ and you the trusted guide to help them get to the place they want to be — opposite to how most coaches think.”

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Brown’s work is yet another that will cause current and aspiring executive coaches to abandon the “know-it-all” approach. Tom Grogan appreciates the message that our imperfections “can really be positive influences in our growth.” A valuable perspective indeed.

More great reads

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This classic is a “must-read for anyone serious about business,” says Jenkins.

The Road to Character by David Brooks

The author recommends building your eulogy, rather than your resume, a message that inspires Lasky in her coaching practice and life.

A dozen books to recommend to clients (or read yourself!)

Sometimes a well-timed book recommendation is the best gift a coach can give.

Here are some picks from Vistage Chair Michael Edwards, as well as additional selections from Hobson, Jenkins, Lasky, Tolnay, Stowe, Grogan, Lameijer, and Trout. Load up that bookstore cart!

1. The Five Dysfunctions of the Team by Patrick Lencioni

2. Good to Great, or BE 2.0 by Jim Collins

3. Start with Why or The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

4. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

5. Culture Trumps Everything by Gustavo R. Grodnitzky Ph.D.

6. Radical Candor by Kim Scott

7. Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker

8. Atlas of the Heart Brene Brown

9. The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Jim Huling, and Sean Covey.

10. Crucial Conversations by Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny

11. When I Say No, I Feel Guilty by Dr. Manuel Smith

12. Marketing Warfare by Jack Trout & Al Reis


Related Resources

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The best leadership books chosen by Vistage members and Chairs

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About the Author: Vistage Staff

Vistage facilitates confidential peer advisory groups for CEOs and other senior leaders, focusing on solving challenges, accelerating growth and improving business performance. Over 45,000 high-caliber execu

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