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Top 20 Books on Teams and Teamwork

Top 20 Books on Teams and Teamwork

Putting together a list of excellent books on any subject is always a highly subjective exercise. Nonetheless it is often useful to try to sort through the clutter and at least try to assemble some worthy nominations based on a book’s quality or popular appeal (and all the books on this list have regularly topped the best selling and popular lists internationally). The list of Top 20 of the best books on Teams and Teamwork below includes only those written in the last 5 years (2007-2012). The list also includes several excellent books that are in their 3rd, 4th and even 5th printing in this time frame. The top 20 list therefore contains several veteran authors who have written many books on team matters in the past. These include Patrick Lencioni, Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner, Jon R. Katzenbach, John Maxwell, Glenn Parker, Edgar Schein and Goffrey Bellman.

The top twenty list below is rendered in reverse date order. A short description of the book is provided but much more information can be obtained by clicking on the book image (which takes the interested reader to the page for each book).

The Top 20:

1. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business, by Patrick Lencioni, 2012
  • Simply put, an organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified.  Healthy organizations outperform their counterparts, are free of politics and confusion and provide an environment where star performers never want to leave. Lencioni’s first non-fiction book provides leaders with a groundbreaking, approachable model for achieving organizational health—complete with stories, tips and anecdotes from his experiences consulting to some of the nation’s leading organizations. In this age of informational ubiquity and nano-second change, it is no longer enough to build a competitive advantage based on intelligence alone. The Advantage provides a foundational construct for conducting business in a new way—one that maximizes human potential and aligns the organization around a common set of principles.
2. Team Turnarounds: A Playbook for Transforming Underperforming Teams, by Joe Frontiera, Daniel Leidl, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, 2012
  • In today’s uncertain economic environment, teams are asked to do more with less. With resources stretched thin, turning around a struggling team has never been harder, and managers must work to identify and maximize whatever potential strengths a team already has. As sports fans already know, behind every great underdog story is a leader who roots out the competitive advantage that will propel the team to victory. In Team Turnarounds, Joe Frontiera and Dan Leidl share how this fine art of the turnaround really works, from how to inspire the team to the actual tools for change. Through interviews with team managers and turnaround masters in the NFL, MLB, and the NCAA, as well as managers at top global firms who have successfully reversed their fortunes, they show the six steps every team takes to make a 180 in their performance.
3. Help the Helper: Building a Culture of Extreme Teamwork, by Kevin Pritchard and John Eliot, 2012
  • “Help the helper” is a basketball motto preached by some of the sport’s legendary coaches, including Dean Smith and Phil Jackson. All good players know they should support a teammate who’s under pressure. But the true greats know how to take it one step further. They fill the gaps left behind when one teammate goes to help another—gaps that are often far from the basket and out of the spotlight. The true greats step up in quiet ways to make sure no subtle holes develop on defense and no opportunities are missed on offense. Help the Helper aims to show you how to put this level of teamwork to work in your business, to build a culture that recognizes and rewards those who help the helper—even when they don’t have sexy statistics. In the process, it will teach you how to de-emphasize the CEO/ quarterback/ superstar and effectively redefine leadership.
4. Harvard Business Review on Building Better Teams, by Bob Frisch, 2011
  • If you need the best practices and ideas for superior team building–but don’t have time to find them–this book is for you. Here are 10 inspiring and useful perspectives, all in one place. This collection of HBR articles will help you:
    – Boost team performance through mutual accountability
    – Motivate large, diverse groups to tackle complex projects
    – Increase groups’ emotional intelligence
    – Reverse the fortunes of a struggling team
    – Prevent decision deadlock
    – Extract results from a bunch of touchy superstars
    – Fight constructively with top-management colleagues
    – Ensure productivity in far-flung teams
5. Leading Project Teams: The Basics of Project Management and Team Leadership, by Anthony T. Cobb, 2011
  • This practical book provides entry-level project tools and skills for newcomers to project management. It helps student teams become more effective at doing course projects by learning and applying project management tools and techniques. It also provides invaluable skills that students can utilize when they enter the workplace. Chapters focusing on project initiation and planning are followed by coverage of the human resource issues involved in project leadership and how to write up project reports. Appendices introduce the use of earned value analysis and show how critical paths are calculated.
6. Building Team Power: How to Unleash the Collaborative Genius of Teams for Increased Engagement, Productivity, and Results, by Thomas Kayser, 2010
  • Building Team Power is a hands-on, how-to book. It is a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-your-hands-dirty book. It is applications oriented all the way. Don’t look for complex psychological, sociological or academic group theory models here. You won’t find any. This book digs into the crucial behaviors you need to understand and practice to be a collaborative leader. It takes you into the “how-tos” for building collaborative partnerships and facilitating teamwork within your own work group, across work groups, or in task forces, committees, problem-solving teams, executive councils, and the like. It is one thing to say, “We need more and better collaboration around here;” it is another thing to do it. This book fills a void because it shows you how to do it in terms you can understand, with skills you can actually put into practice!
7. Clear Leadership: Sustaining Real Collaboration and Partnership at Work, by Gervase Bushe
  • Hidden agendas, unresolved conflicts, crucial issues never discussed—these examples of drama in the office are what the author calls, interpersonal mush. Conflicts or issues can dominate the workplace and hamper honest communication. Clear Leadership directly tackles these issues by providing specific tools and techniques; as well as personal stories of individuals who have put the principles and practices of Clear Leadership into action. Beginning with exploring interpersonal qualities, employees can achieved outstanding results for themselves and their organizations. Expanding on the powerful concepts that made the first edition a success, this fully revised edition looks beyond what it takes to lead performance. Clear Leadership now includes 23 skill-building exercises, dozens of case examples, and alternative thinking about approaches to conversations. Additional chapters put a sharper focus on ways the original model of the four selves (the Aware Self, the Curious Self, the Appreciative Self, and the Descriptive Self) can help us all learn from our collective experiences.
8. Teamwork and Teamplayby James Cain and Barry Jolliff, 2010
  • Possibly a key choice for those looking for an experiential-adventure type resource book. This book is well-laid out and clearly written with many visual aids. In addition, the authors focus a great deal on assisting the reader in identifying and locating the resources and tools necessary for each activity and initiative that they describe.
    The book features a whole range of teamwork and teambuilding activities from the short and the simple (and possible to run with little propos or resources) to the longer, more complicated activities which clearly need more time, resources and planning to get the most from them.
9. Leading Global Project Teams: The New Leadership Challenge, by Russ J. Martinelli, Tim J. Rahschulte and James M. Waddell, 2010
  • Any globalization strategy is worthless without effective execution in a globally distributed team environment. Based on the authors’ personal experience and best practice research of leading global companies, Leading Global Project Teams: The New Leadership Challenge looks at effective global team leadership from a holistic perspective. Martinelli, Rahschulte, and Waddell show that globalization strategy and global execution must be tightly aligned. This means that global product and service development success is not the work of just one leader, but of many working as a collective, collaborative team that happens to be separated by distance, time, culture, and organizational position. This book answers the question “How does one effectively lead highly-distributed global teams to achieve the improved business results needed to compete in today’s market?” by focusing on the responsibilities of the collective team – from senior managers, to project managers, to individuals who make up our globally distributed teams.
10. Virtual Team Success: A Practical Guide for Working and Leading from a Distance, by Richard Lepsinger and Darleen DeRosa, 2010
  • This book leverages robust research studies and provides a practical resource for virtual team members and leaders. Based on a research study which is one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted on virtual teams, this book offers a wealth of solid recommendations. To help organizations and leaders enhance virtual team performance, the book includes information on: key challenges, factors for success, characteristics of effective virtual teams, a model for success, effective practices, enhancing performance of low performing teams. The book also includes sections on future challenges and issues.
11. Leading with Emotional Intelligence: Hands-On Strategies for Building Confident and Collaborative Star Performers, by Reldan S. Nadler, 2010
  • Everyone agrees that Emotional Intelligence (EI) plays a key role in overall success. But when it comes to putting theory into practice, EI consultant Reldan Nadler, Psy.D., has written the a unique book which aims to show the reader step-by-step how to: INCREASE CONFIDENCE, IMPROVE TEAMWORK, ENHANCE COMMUNICATION,  DEVELOP STAR PERFORMANCE, & PROTECT YOUR IQ WITH EI. The more than 100 tools and strategies presented here are used by the most effective leaders in the world. This complete, hands-on action plan has worksheets, exercises, self-quizzes, and much more to show how great leaders put Emotional Intelligence to work.
12. Group Dynamics for Teams, by Daniel Levi, 2010
  • This book explains the basic psychological concepts of group dynamics with a focus on their application with teams in the workplace. Grounded in psychology research but with a very practical focus on organizational behavior issues, this book helps readers understand and participate in teams more effectively in day-to-day work. Dr. Levi’s research and consulting with factory teams primarily has focused on the use of teams to support technological change and the adoption of just-in-time and quality programs.  This work examined a variety of team issues including job redesign, training, compensation, supervision, and change management approaches.  Other topics covered in this book include the impact of information technology on teams, facilitation and training needs for professional teams, and the impacts of organizational culture and leadership.
13. The Discipline of Teams (Harvard Business Review Classics), by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, 2009
  • In The Discipline of Teams, Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith explore the often counter-intuitive features that make up high-performing teams–such as selecting team members for skill, not compatibility–and explain how managers can set specific goals to foster team development. The result is improved productivity and teams that can be counted on to deliver more than just the sum of their parts.
14. Teamwork 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know, by John Maxwell, 2009
  • Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships. “Teamwork is always at the heart of great achievement,” says New York Times best-selling author John C. Maxwell. “The question isn’t whether teams add value. The question is whether we will acknowledge that fact and work to become better team players.” This concise, power-packed game plan can help you create an environment that results in victory and fulfillment for the whole team. Learn to: Build a team that lasts, create positive energy on the team, harness a team’s creativity, identify weak players who negatively impact a team, and judge if the team can accomplish the dream.
15. Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results, by Geoffrey M. Bellman and Kathleen D. Ryan, 2009
  • Two leading experts present a new approach to help teams nurture extraordinary experiences and excel. Bellman and Ryan argue that an extraordinary group emerges when a group experience satisfies two or more core needs that members intuitively bring to any group they join. Based on extensive research, the book presents the Group Needs Model to help anyone nurture extraordinary experiences in their groups and achieve outstanding results. This book is written for anyone who leads groups including HR and OD professionals, managers, executives, nonprofit managers and directors, virtual teams leaders, and trainers.
16. Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance, by Howard M. Guttman, 2008
  • Understand and decode the inner workings of great business teams with the more than 30 in-depth examples in Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance. Author Howard Guttman examines and dissects teams at top-management, business-unit, and functional levels and isolates five key factors that drive team performance to offer you insight into the ways these teams achieve success. Using this book, go directly to the marketplace to scrutinize teams in a variety of industries, evaluating the challenges they face and the methods they choose to manage these challenges.
17. Team Players and Teamwork, Completely Updated and Revised: New Strategies for Developing Successful Collaboration, by Glenn M. Parker, 2008
  • Since the first edition of Team Players and Teamwork was published in 1990, there have been significant and often dramatic changes in the business environment in which teams now operate. Teams are now cross-functional, cross-cultural, and even virtual. As a result, team trust is more vital than ever, and communications technology is critical. With team players often serving on multiple teams, leadership has become more important and more challenging. In this thoroughly revised and updated edition of his groundbreaking book, Glenn Parker analyzes these trends and shows how his concept of effective teamwork is even more relevant today. Team Players and Teamwork provides specific, practical tools that will help both leaders and members identify their team player style—Contributor, Collaborator, Communicator, or Challenger. Parker explains how each style contributes to five key leadership functions—planning, communication, risk taking, problem solving, and decision making.
18. The Pfeiffer Book of Successful Team-Building Tools: Best of the Annuals (Essential Tools Resource), by Elaine Biech, 2007
  • Year after year, consultants, trainers, and human resource professionals have used the Pfeiffer Annuals to provide them with the most current and quality tools on a wide variety of topics. In this book, editor Elaine Biech and contributors to the Annuals have honed in on the important theme of team building to create the first topic-specific book in The Pfeiffer Annuals series. The Pfeiffer Book of Successful Team-Building Tools, 2nd Edition, includes an innovative ten-block model for building a high-performance team and draws on the best-on-the-topic articles from thirty-five years of Annuals volumes.
19. X-teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate and Succeed, by Deborah Ancona and Henrik Bresman, 2007
  • Why do good teams fail? Very often, argue Deborah Ancona and Henrik Bresman, it is because they are looking inward instead of outward. Based on years of research examining teams across many industries, Ancona and Bresman show that traditional team models are falling short, and that what’s needed – and what works – is a new brand of team that emphasizes external outreach to stakeholders, extensive ties, expandable tiers, and flexible membership. The authors highlight that X-teams not only are able to adapt in ways that traditional teams aren’t, but that they actually improve an organization’s ability to produce creative ideas and execute them – increasing the entrepreneurial and innovative capacity within the firm. What’s more, the new environment demands what the authors call “distributed leadership,” and the book highlights how X-teams powerfully embody this idea.
20. Team Building: Proven Strategies for Improving Team Performance, by William G. Dyer, W. Gibb Dyer Jr., Jeffrey H. Dyer and Edgar H. Schein, 2007
  • This book is filled with the concepts, ideas, and practical suggestions that are needed for any manager to have at hand if he or she is a member or creator of a committee, team, task-force, or any other activity involving collaboration among several people. The ideas are proven by several decades of experience and well-supported in the text with numerous examples. This fourth edition book demonstrates that the business context requires increased teamwork; that the composition of teams must adapt to local and visible as well as global and virtual settings; that the competencies and tools for effective teams can be delineated and mastered; and that temporary, alliance, and virtual teams can change the way we think about organizations.


As we said at the outset, this Top 20 list is a subjective one. However, it does offer considerable diversity of reading material (from the highly academic to the heavily anecdotal) and therefore offers great insight into the critical subject of Teams and Teamwork theory and practice.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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One Comment

  1. Ken ArmstrongMarch 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Interesting stuff… I recommend anyone reads @olympianBen ‘s great book ‘Will it make the boat go faster’ – It is a lesson in how teamwork improves performance

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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