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The Best John Maxwell Book for Every Stage of Your Career

Have you ever considered what the word “career” actually means?

If you Google it, search results will show you that “career” is both a noun and a verb:

  1. Noun: an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person's life and with opportunities for progress
  2. Verb: move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction

What I love so much about these definitions is their implication that individual effort and initiative are what determine the quality of a career.

It’s up to us to pursue opportunities for progress and our progress will be in vain unless it has been determined by ourselves.

From the moment you graduate high school, you begin building towards your career. Through higher education, internships, and mentorship, you develop your career.

For career and leadership development, there is no better author to add to your bookshelf than John C. Maxwell. With more than 100 leadership and business books under his belt, it’s nearly impossible to pick the best John Maxwell book he’s ever written, although others have tried. But each of his books will illuminate different insights for you depending on where you are in your career when you read them.

No matter which stage of your career you’re in, you can find wisdom, guidance, and leadership training inside the pages of these bestselling books by John C. Maxwell.

Explore our top picks for the best John Maxwell book for every stage of your career:

The Best John Maxwell Book for Interns, Recent College Graduates, or Anyone in a Brand New Role 
Read the Maxwell 101 Series

At the beginning of your career, it can feel like you don’t have time to read. You’re too busy learning the ins and outs of a new organization, role, and team.

The Complete 101 Collection: What Every Leader Needs to Know offers up a condensed sojourn with the 8 core fundamental skills of leaders. In these briefcase- or handbag-sized leadership books, you’ll find John Maxwell’s most important and relevant insights for new and beginning leaders regarding attitude, relationships, teamwork, and more.

A great introduction to the world of leadership, this series or any single book included in it would make the perfect graduation gift or an onboarding assignment for new hires.

Our favorite quote: “When a leader is upbeat in the face of discouraging circumstances, others admire that quality and want to be like her.”


Whether one is needing a refresher course on these basic but essential principles or even mentoring a young leader to begin developing these meat-and-potatoes of business and leadership in their own lives, this concentrated collection of briefcase-sized leadership books is the starting point you need to sharpen these crucial bedrocks for leaders in any industry or environment.

The Best John Maxwell Book for Young Professionals 
Read Developing the Leader Within You 2.0

One of the most revolutionary discoveries John Maxwell has ever made in his career, which spans nearly five decades, served as the basis for Developing the Leader Within You 2.0. As part of his master’s thesis paper, Maxwell suggested that leadership was not something a person was simply born with. Instead, he asserted through explanation and example that leadership was a skill a person could develop.

Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 is not only an inspiring read for young professionals, but also a fantastic guide for acquiring and maintaining 10 crucial leadership habits ranging from prioritizing and influencing to problem-solving and self-discipline.

If you or someone you know wants to climb the career ladder fast, this is the book to read and steal best practices from.

Our favorite quote: “Developing yourself to become the leader you have the potential to be will change everything for you. It will add to your effectiveness, subtract from your weaknesses, divide your workload, and multiply your impact.


Develop the vision, value, influence, and motivation required of successful leaders in this thoroughly revised and updated edition of the book that forever transformed how we think about leadership. No matter what arena you are called to―family, church, business, nonprofit―the principles Maxwell shares will positively impact your own life and the lives of those around you.

The Best John Maxwell Book for a Mid-Career Crisis 
Read The 360 Degree Leader

Are you waiting for the right role or a different career to step into your leadership? You might regret sitting on the sidelines, especially after reading The 360 Degree Leader.

In this book, John Maxwell will help you learn to lead with maximum impact regardless of your position. By showing readers how to build influence with those who are above (their boss), across (their peers), and below them (to those they lead), Maxwell provides a blueprint for getting out of a career rut and ascending to a higher level of leadership starting with what you have to offer today.

Prepare to discover the myths of leading from the middle of an organization, the challenges 360 Degree Leaders face, as well as the principles you must practice to lead up, across, and down.

Our favorite quote: “You can lead others from anywhere in an organization. And when you do, you make the organization better.”


As one of the globe's most trusted leadership mentors, John C. Maxwell debunks the myths that hold people back from leaning into and developing their influence. In this inspiring call-to-action, he shows middle managers how to leverage their unique positions and become 360 degree leaders by exercising influence in all directions--up (to the boss), across (among their peers), and down (to those they lead).

The Best John Maxwell Book for First-Time Managers 
Read The Leadership Handbook

The Leadership Handbook is one of few books by John Maxwell with chapters that are intended to be read on a schedule and methods that should be practiced weekly. Whether you’re responsible for training a first-time manager or are a first-time manager yourself, this is the best John Maxwell book for giving a leadership boost.

Comprised of 26 lessons and corresponding “Mentoring Moments,” readers will enjoy and benefit immensely from Maxwell’s highly relatable principles, such as:

  • The Best Leaders Are Listeners
  • Keep Your Mind on the Main Thing
  • Don’t Manage Your Time--Manage Your Life
  • Keep Learning to Keep Leading
  • People Quit People, Not Companies
  • And many more!

Our favorite quote: “Leadership development is a process, and anything you can do to reinforce what you’re learning helps you to make it more permanent.”


John C. Maxwell says, “A leader never has to recover from a good start.” So when a leader takes root by firmly establishing themselves in their field of expertise, preparing for every risk and failure imaginable, the fruit of their endeavors will spread throughout their career and impact profoundly those in whom they invest. In The Leadership Handbook, Maxwell presents 26 insights intended to help build the leader within not only those aspiring to new positions of leadership but also those veterans who aim to improve upon the steps that led them to the front of the line.

The Best John Maxwell Book for Mentors 
Read The Leader's Greatest Return

If you’re a mentor or interested in becoming one, you need to crack open The Leader’s Greatest Return. In it, Maxwell takes you step-by-step through the process of identifying, attracting, empowering, and positioning leaders to create a culture capable of then reproducing and compounding the value of its leaders.

With this book alone, you could not only impact the lives of many individuals, but you could also put into motion a monumental culture change that will benefit your company or organization even decades after you’ve moved on to your next adventure.

Other innovative uses for this book? Find a hire with leadership qualities. Become a better team leader by understanding what motivates people to take ownership over their own success as well as the team’s.

Our favorite quote: “Developing leaders is the one activity that compounds a leader’s time, influence, energy, vision, culture, finances, and mission.”


The Leader’s Greatest Return is perfect for anyone who wants to take the next step in their leadership, build their organization or team today, and create their legacy for tomorrow needs to read. Dive into a masterclass with world-renowned leadership expert and bestselling author John C. Maxwell as he shares the most important lessons he’s learned about the leadership development process over the last quarter century.

The Best John Maxwell Book for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners 
Read 25 Ways to Win with People

As an entrepreneur, you’re among the most voracious of readers. We recommend 25 Ways to Win with People, a complementary companion to the full-sized book Winning with People, because it takes away all of the fluff—leaving you with only the specific action steps for building positive, healthy relationships.

When you’re starting and building a business, cultivating good relationships is key to your success. This book will help unlock doors and realize amazing opportunities if you practice the techniques Maxwell shares such as:

  • Compliment People in Front of Other People
  • Pass the Credit on to Others
  • Be the First to Help
  • Give with No Strings Attached

Our favorite quote: “If you want to win with people, you’ve got to be a winner yourself—or at the very least be on your way to becoming one.”


Winning with people is a process that takes time, but with 25 Ways to Win with People, you'll learn a specific set of skills that can be mastered in a matter of days. If you practice the skills in the book, your life will change. That's a Maxwell guarantee!

Gabrielle Reed

Gabrielle Reed is the editor of Leadership Essentials.

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