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5 Best Coaching Books for Leaders (Must Read)

Jun 27, 2024 | Coaching Skills

Coaches are learners. We are all constantly learning and improving, both our own coaching skills and competence as well as learning about life, organisations, and how to bring about change.

Here is a selection of insightful reads we recommend for our coaching programmes.

We hope they will enrich your understanding of the coaching and leadership worlds and inspire your ongoing personal growth. Ranging from practical guides to human psychology, they offer a diverse range of perspectives and tools. We hope they will boost your skills, capture your imagination, and inspire you in your coaching journey.


5 Coaching Books you Need to Read

    1. Effective Modern Coaching (latest edition) by Myles Downey


    Effective Modern Coaching (latest edition) Myles Downey


    Introducing us to the principles and art of successful, modern coaching, the latest edition of the book is renowned for its practical approach, packed with numerous examples of coaching conversations to illustrate Myles Downey’s concepts.

    This brings his simple yet powerful coaching models to life, making them easy to grasp and apply. The book emphasises core coaching skills with clear and accessible descriptions, making it suitable for anyone looking to refine their coaching abilities. Key to this is the approach of using these skills in a straightforward way, ensuring we can immediately practice what we learn.

    Favorite quote

    Coaching is the art of facilitating the performance, learning, and development of another. – Myles Downey

    Why we like this book

    This is a great introduction to the coaching book. It combines theory with practical examples, is easy to read, and leaves the reader with the tools they need to start coaching. 



    2. Time to Think – by Nancy Kilne


    Time to Think - by Nancy Kilne


    Nancy Kline introduces us to the 10 conditions she believes help us to create her concept of the “Thinking Environment,” which is centered around creating optimal conditions for effective thinking and dialogue.

    At the heart of this work is the idea that when we pay high-quality attention to others, it enhances the quality of their thinking. When this happens, they express their thoughts freely and explore new ideas, leading to better teamwork, leadership and organisational effectiveness.

    Favorite quote

    The quality of your attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking. – Nancy Kline

    Why we like this book

    The 10 components are very easy to apply in coaching conversations. They are also helpful in any workplace setting – creating space for others to think. This is a transformative and inspiring book.



    3.The Happiness Trap (2nd edition) by Russ Harris


    The Happiness Trap (2nd edition)


    Part of the human condition is to experience a troublesome mind that generates difficulties and worries. This book provides insights both into why and how our minds evolved to do this, and actionable strategies for managing our mind to cultivate our well-being.

    Russ Harris presents the application of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), not only as a therapeutic tool but as a practical framework accessible to us as individuals, coaches, and leaders. He offers hands-on strategies and techniques derived from ACT to help us learn to navigate life with resilience and clarity and to live a life aligned with our personal values.

    Favorite quote

    In ACT, our main interest in a thought is not whether it’s true or false, but whether it’s helpful; that is, if we pay attention to this thought, will it help us create the life we want? – Russ Harris

    Why we like this book

    This is Jean’s most recommended book ever. It is very practical, blending psychology and mindfulness to give us tools to live a less angst-ridden life! There are loads of ways to reduce stress, change habits and build better relationships.



    4.Emotional Agility by Susan David


    Emotional Agility by Susan David


    As humans we are emotional beings. Especially at work, we often attempt to ignore our feelings, pushing them down and wishing them away. This practical guide helps us learn how to make room for our feelings without them overwhelming us.

     The concept of emotional agility is at the core of Susan David’s approach, which involves the ability to navigate our emotions by acknowledging and processing them constructively. This helps us harness our emotions as insight and motivation rather than allowing them to overwhelm us.

    The book provides tools and approaches to help us foster a greater sense of happiness and fulfillment by learning how to overcome setbacks and challenges both in our professional and personal lives.


    Favorite quote

    Courage is not the absence of fear but fear walking.” ― Susan David, Emotional Agility

    Why we like this book

    A blend of science and research and practical approaches to building our own emotional agility. This supports us in deepening our emotional intelligence. Particularly helpful is the idea of learning to label our emotions, thus giving them less power.



    5. The Art of Coaching – A Handbook of Tips and Tools by Jenny Bird and Sarah Gomall


    The Art of Coaching - A Handbook of Tips and Tools


    A useful and very visual book that introduces a wide range of tools that coaches and leaders can use with their clients and teams. Jenny Bird and Sarah Gomall introduce each tool and explain its purpose and how to use it in both coaching and leadership contexts. Each tool is described in detail and offers practical examples of its use. We are introduced to diagrams, maps, symbols, and models as a way of helping people to see things through a new lens.

    Throughout the handbook, there are frameworks to refer to, offering innovative approaches to integrate into practice to support both individuals and organisations.

    Favorite quote

    We have discovered that when we use drawing and diagrams without clients, they grasp complex ideas quickly, unravel their own thinking and are able to move on from places where they have been stuck. – Jenny Bird and Sarah Gomall

    Why we like this book

    New and experienced coaches alike will find this book helpful. Some of the tools will be familiar but used in a different way. Others will be a new and fresh idea for working with a client. It is very visual and easy to dip in and out of.

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    Jean Balfour ICF Accredited Professional Coach and Managing Director of Bailey Balfour

    Jean Balfour

    Founder & Programmes Director


    About the Author

    Jean Balfour is Managing Director of Bailey Balfour and Programme Director of our ICF Accredited Coach Training Programmes. Jean is passionate about helping people to have good conversations both at work and at home. She believes that coaching is a life skill and that you never regret learning to coach.

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