A huge number of leadership books are published every year.
Are you surprised by that? I definitely was.
It seems there’s a huge market for leadership books, as people look for a way to get ahead in their personal lives and businesses. Even people who might not want to use the information in them can sometimes find them inspiring—there’s a ton of value in a good leadership book.
While the sheer number of leadership books published every year might suggest that they’re a walk in the park to write, the opposite is true. To write an effective leadership book, you need to have a solid idea of what you’re doing, or you risk discrediting yourself or miscommunicating your ideas. Thankfully, we’re here to help!
In this article, we’ll talk about why leaders write books, how to write as a leader, and walk you through the 8 steps to writing an effective leadership book.
This guide on how to write a leadership book covers:
- Why do leaders write books?
- How do you write a leadership book?
- Step 1 – Know your subject
- Step 2 – Make an outline
- Step 3 – Draft the book
- Step 4 – Set it aside
- Step 5 – First round of revisions
- Step 6 – Second draft
- Step 7 – Reader feedback
- Step 8 – Second round of revisions
- Examples of effective leadership books
- How to get started
Why do leaders write books?
If you’re a business leader or a community leader, it might not seem worth the hassle to put together a book, especially when you consider the work and money that goes into self-publishing. But putting out a book can actually be hugely helpful for leaders, and here’s why.
1. Establish Credibility
A published book has an element of prestige to it. Although you could technically self-publish just about anything, and a lot of people do know this, it doesn’t change the fact that a polished book on its own lends a feeling of credibility to the author.
A book also gives its author the space to assert their knowledge on a given subject. Instead of condensing their information down to a speech, for example, or a conference, they have all the time they want in their book to thoroughly demonstrate their understanding of their subject, and to share that information with the reader.
2. Share Information
A book is a perfect place to share information with an audience.
If you’ve been a successful business leader for a long time, it’s probably because you’ve learned some valuable information that’s informed your business and leadership decisions—same goes for long-time community leaders.
3. Community Connection
Everyone’s story has value.
The information leaders have to share is valuable, and there’s potential for real connection with your business, community, or even with the public at large.
Books about connecting with other people, for example, can be personally impactful for both networking experts and people who aren’t involved with business at all. Books about leading a company might be most relevant to aspiring CEOs, but they’re also helpful to anyone looking to learn better management or leadership skills.
4. Writing for Yourself
Have you ever kept a journal? If so, you’re probably familiar with how it can feel to get the stuff in your head down on paper. It can help clarify your thoughts, sort out problems, and keeping it written for personal reference helps with future issues.
It’s the same with leadership books. A leadership book can give you a place to sort out your ideas, and once they’re sorted, you might find yourself expanding on them and further developing your ideas and theories.
How do you write a leadership book?
Perhaps most significant to your leadership book will be your credibility. After all, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, why should anyone listen to what you have to say?
To establish a credible tone and write as a leader, hone in on the following:
- Write within your area of expertise. Pick something to write about that you are an expert on, whether that’s leading a company, making connections with other people, or explaining different learning and leadership styles. This will both help you keep the book personal, as you’ll be passionate about the subject matter, and it will keep you credible.
- Keep your subject matter at the top of your priority list. You can share personal experience if it helps you explain your points, but remember that this is a leadership book and not necessarily a memoir or autobiography. You’re here to share information first and foremost.
- Keep your writing style concise and professional. This isn’t the place for florid prose or excessively casual writing. While you do want to stay accessible and personable, part of sounding credible will come with producing a polished book free of typos and grammatical errors.
How to write a leadership book in 8 steps
With these guidelines in mind, here are the eight steps to writing a leadership book!
Step 1. Know your subject
As I mentioned previously, you’ll want to pick a subject you care about and know a lot about. You’ll want to do a ton of research and read other books about your subject—this includes books written by people you might not agree with, since considering opposing viewpoints will make your own arguments and ideas stronger. Make notes of these viewpoints.
You might find that disagreeing with other people gives you a helpful jumping-off point and helps to reveal things you’re really passionate about. And, of course, you’ll want to read books similar to the one you intend to write.
This subject should also be something you’ve personalized. There’s a market for everything, which is another way of saying that everything’s been done before, and there are definitely countless leadership books floating around covering just about every topic under the sun.
This doesn’t mean there’s no place for your book—it just means that you need to focus on what you, as a unique individual, bring to this subject. This will be what sets your book apart from the rest.
So, to sum it up: your subject should be personal (something you care a lot about), well-researched, something you know, and something you’ve personalized.
Step 2. Make an outline
Now that you’ve got your subject ready to go, it’s time to make an outline. Compile your research, opposing viewpoints, and general information, and consider how you want to present it to your audience.
This is where reading other leadership books will become especially helpful. Looking at how other authors structure their work will be instrumental in helping you figure out how to structure your own.
You may have one basic idea that you need to break down and develop over the course of the book, or you may have a list of tips and tricks to share with your reader—the format will vary depending on what you have to say.
Decide on a structure, then organize your information. Book chapters should have an easily identifiable subject, as should each section. Getting all of this organized before you start drafting will help you keep your thoughts clear and prevent the information from getting jumbled—the information should go in a straight line, making an easy path for the reader to follow.
Step 3. Draft the book
With your content organized, you’re ready to draft. You may think of new ideas as you go, and that’s totally fine! You can either go back to the section where that idea belongs, make a note to add that information later, or write it down in a new document for reference later.
There are tons of differing ideas about the best way to go about drafting a book, but there’s one piece of advice that holds up best, at least for me: draft it all the way through as quickly as you can without burning out.
Find a writing schedule that works for you and stick to it—a word count goal or accountability partner might be helpful here. The more consistently you’re able to write, the better your writing will be, and the sooner your draft will be done.
The reason I emphasize writing consistently and drafting the book as quickly as possible is simple: if you put it down too long, you might not pick it back up. Coming back every day and doing a little more builds momentum, and it’s much harder to pick a draft back up once that momentum’s come to a halt.
Step 4. Set it aside
Once the book has been drafted, set it aside. Don’t look at it, and try not to think about it too much. Focus on other projects, writing or otherwise, and let it rest.
This space away from your project will help you come back to it with clear eyes, which will make jumping into revisions much easier.
Step 5. First round of revisions
You’ve taken some time (ideally about six weeks) away from your project, and now you’re ready to revise. Take the manuscript back out and read straight through it. Make notes as you go if you find obvious mistakes, but try to get through the entire manuscript at least once with minimal notes. Again, this is to make sure you make it through the entire manuscript without getting stuck on revising your first chapter forever.
For your first round of revisions, try to focus on developmental issues. Are there areas where you could explain yourself more thoroughly? Are there any redundant chapters or sections, or anything that doesn’t strengthen your overall message? Is there a better way you could lay out your chapters?
Step 6. Second draft
When you go into your second draft, go into it with set goals. Making a list of your edits helps with this, as does keeping that first draft with its notes handy. Some writers like to work from an entirely new document when they start their second draft, while others edit the first—whatever works for you is fine, so long as you stay on track.
Some writers will revise as they go for things like grammar and formatting. You might dedicate the first fifteen minutes of each writing session to reviewing your work from last time. Again, do what works for you. If you don’t revise as you go, you might want to do a quick check for polish before you go on to the next step.
Step 7. Reader feedback
Now that you’ve ironed out the big developmental issues, it’s time to get some feedback. Reach out to close friends or coworkers and ask them for their thoughts. Having a few specific questions will help them provide you with more targeted, useful feedback.
Here are a few examples of questions you might ask:
- What was your favorite part of the book, and why?
- Were any parts of the book confusing or difficult to follow?
- What did you get from this chapter/section/book? What do you think it was about?
Step 8. Second round of revisions
With your feedback handy, you’re ready to start revising again. Having targeted questions can help point out weak spots in your manuscript—go back and address readers’ concerns, as well as any additional flaws you might notice this time around.
And, again, some writers might add additional rounds of revisions or rounds of feedback. It’s all up to you. But this is the bare minimum of what you should do before you reach out to an editor and start the publication process.
This means that after this step, you can go ahead and pat yourself on the back! You’ve written a leadership book, and you’re ready to start with the publishing and marketing process. Perhaps, you can even get your book into airport bookstores like Jay Papasan did with The One Thing.
Examples of effective leadership books
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dave Carnegie
- Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu
- The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle
- Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, & Annie McKee
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
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