Are you operating at your full potential? Take the 3 minute test to find out.

The 10 Best Leadership Podcasts for Personal and Professional Growth

Eric Partaker

If you’re here, it’s probably because:

  • You are a leader or business owner and are ready for bigger roles, bigger responsibilities, and to lead bigger teams.
  • You are new to leadership and are learning the ropes.
  • You are a professional with ambitions of becoming a leader.

Although the reasons may vary, the objective is the same: to learn. Becoming a good leader takes a lifelong commitment to learning. Barack Obama would set aside an hour each day to read while he was in office. Warren Buffett is famous for spending 80% of his day reading. Bill Gates reads a book a week.

But while reading is an effective learning technique, most leaders are too busy to find enough time in their day to read. If you are one such leader, you may find podcasts to be a suitable alternative. They provide opportunities to learn on the go.

According to Insider Intelligence’s Podcast Industry Report, there are over 400 million podcast listeners globally. That’s 20.3% of all internet users. But there are over 3 million podcasts to choose from. Which ones should you listen to? And which ones are the best for leaders?

In this article, I am going to walk you through what leadership podcasts are, the best leadership podcasts to follow in 2023, what you can learn from them, and how you can apply the lessons.

What’s a Leadership Podcast and Why Should You Listen to One?

Have you ever looked back to a time in your life and wished you knew then what you know now? How your life could have unfolded differently if you had someone to guide you?

Think of podcasts as that guide. They are information-rich programs, where you hear about the experiences of people who are, or have been, where you want to be.

Sometimes, the hosts share their own stories of struggles, learnings and triumphs. At other times, they invite industry experts to do the same. It’s like getting a front-row invitation to listen to Sundar Pichai talk about his journey from growing up without a computer to becoming the CEO of Google. Why would you want to miss that?

Here are some reasons to consider listening to a leadership podcast:

  • Expert insights. You will get a peek into the mindset of successful people. Guests from diverse fields talk about growing and scaling a business, leading complex organizations and teams, navigating challenges, and balancing work with other commitments to lead a fulfilling life.
  • Inspiration. The best amongst us can lose motivation on occasion. But what separates the elite from the rest is the discipline to keep at it regardless of how they feel. You will learn to cultivate that mindset from people who have mastered it.
  • Diverse perspectives. Every individual goes through a unique journey. Episodes feature guests from several industries, businesses, and backgrounds. They talk about the unique challenges and opportunities in each of their domains. Listening to them can broaden your outlook.
  • Staying informed. Markets evolve. Industries evolve. And businesses evolve. You can learn about the current and future trends in your industry and use that information to equip yourself with tools to future-proof your career.
  • Convenience. You can listen to them while you’re running. On the bus. Taking a stroll by the beach. All you need is a smartphone and an internet connection.
  • Accessibility and affordability. Most podcasts don’t cost a thing. Consider the other benefits above and you won’t find too many better deals.

Best Leadership Podcasts to Follow in 2023

1. The Diary of a CEO

Host: Steven Bartlett

If you’re a business owner, The Diary of a CEO is a must-listen. Bartlett, a university dropout, was 18 when he began building his company, Social Chain, which went on to become a social media marketing giant. He resigned as CEO at 27 – an age when most people haven’t even made it yet. He has since built multiple businesses, across marketing, web3 and private equity. Bartlett takes listeners through the lessons he’s learned on his extraordinary journey. It’s a fascinating record of the obsessive passion and fierce ambition it takes to build a successful business.

Why should you listen?
By his own admission, a lot of what Bartlett says in his episodes are not scripted. He simply refers to the notes in his diary and reflects on them in real time (hence the title The Diary of a CEO). He speaks from the heart, which makes him refreshingly candid and original. His stories about shoplifting pizzas and eating leftover food from takeaway shops during the early days of his business are especially telling about the sacrifices it takes to achieve greatness.

2. The McKinsey Podcast

Host: McKinsey & Company

The McKinsey Podcast is your free pass to the oldest and largest of the ‘Big Three’ consulting firms. You will gain access to the most trusted experts and advisors from across fields, as they shed light on the most pressing business issues of our times. If you’re after industry-relevant learning, you will find few resources that are more valuable.

Why should you listen?
If there’s one thing I learned at McKinsey & Company, it’s that how you think is as important as the ideas you generate. You will experience how the industry’s best minds think of business problems. It doesn’t matter if you’re a corporate, governmental organization, or not-for-profit. The episodes cover every sector, industry, and function. 

The podcast will also make you think of the larger role business plays in society. Bringing that perspective into your strategy can help you think beyond business objectives and operate more responsibly in the wider social context. It is truly for everybody.

3. HBR On Leadership

Hosts: Alison Beard and Curt Nickisch

You’ve heard it before: leaders aren’t born, they are made. That is the core philosophy of this podcast. The episodes talk about cultivating selflessness, tools to motivate and bring out the best in your team, handling disagreements with superiors, and making difficult decisions. The ideas covered will help you develop your own leadership philosophy.

Why should you listen?
It doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. Bold or timid. Confident or indecisive.  Sociable or awkward. Anyone can be a leader with the right skills. The episodes reassure you and prompt you to not let your inhibitions get in the way of your ambition.

4. Quiet: The Power of Introverts

Host: Susan Cain

Susan Cain is renowned for her work in introversion, which is best exemplified by her 2012 bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Although this podcast is intended for parents and teachers of introverted kids, there are plenty of takeaways for leaders. 

Cain dives into the neuroscience of introversion, for instance, which can broaden your understanding of related behaviors. “Parent/Child Fit” (which could loosely translate to person-organization fit in business), talks about the impact of temperament on relationships, and how to find common ground. And in “Sports and Self-Esteem”, Cain invites Olympic gold medalists, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, to talk about how they used introversion to their advantage in competitive sport.

Why should you listen?
While introverts typically don’t match the stereotype of a good leader, they are often the unheralded champions at the workplace. This 10-part series tells inspiring stories to help you reframe perceived limitations and appreciate the strengths of introversion.

5. Women at Work

Hosts: Amy Bernstein and Amy Gallo

Another gem from Harvard Business Review. Hosts Amy Bernstein and Amy Gallo invite trailblazing women to talk about topics ranging from project management to decision-making, being taken seriously as a new manager, resolving conflicts, and rediscovering your purpose amidst the noise.

Why should you listen?
Gender pay gap, lack of leadership opportunities, standing up to male colleagues, and career progression challenges are all well-documented issues that have plagued women in the workforce. The podcast empowers women, using real-world success stories to reinforce the idea that they can succeed despite the obstacles.

6. Jocko Podcast

Hosts: Jocko Willink and Echo Charles

Jocko Willink is a 20-year US Navy SEAL veteran and author of Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win. Echo Charles, a seasoned martial artist, holds a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Together, they talk about faith, the power of never giving up, staying grounded, and winning in life. The podcast is replete with powerful lessons from two accomplished individuals, who have not only endured cataclysms but bossed them.

Why should you listen?
Few of us experience the world the way a martial artist and a military veteran do. The training and discipline that are required to excel at their professions are unlike that of any other. I have long believed that to achieve your true potential, you need to scale three pillars: your business, your leadership and yourself. This podcast especially helps you scale the leadership and self pillars.

7. Ask a CEO

Host: Greg Demetriou

Greg Demetriou, a former New York City detective, invites CEOs from across industries to discuss their path to success. You will learn the attitudes, qualities, and skills that it takes to become a great leader.

Why should you listen?
As a former detective, Demetriou, as you can imagine, is fantastic at extracting information. His interviews are engaging, informative and a rich source of motivation for those in need of it.

8. Resilient

Host: Lori Lorenzo

This series, hosted by Lori Lorenzo from Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory, carries an uplifting message: “adversity is never the end of the story”. Chief Legal Officers, educators, VPs and general counsels talk about cultivating client relationships, embracing the unknown, how ancient wisdom can help us cope with modern-day disruptions, and leadership lessons from the performance arts.

Why should you listen?
Aptitude alone won’t take you very far. Attitude matters, too. The best leaders have grit, resolve, and conviction. In the face of a crisis, your employees turn to you. It’s a big responsibility – one that requires tact that only a great few possess.

9. Nonprofit Leadership Podcast

Host: Dr. Rob Harter

If you’re into social innovation, then this is for you. The podcast tells the stories of individuals who have dedicated their lives to championing humanity. Experienced professionals share the practices that have helped them fulfill their mission. You will learn to rethink traditional giving, emulate the efficiency of business entrepreneurs, and build a connected future that benefits all.

Why should you listen?
Business and technology podcasts are all the rage. Nonprofits live under the shadow of corporate giants. Yet, as of 2020, the sector is the United States’ third-largest private employer, with 12.5 million workers across 1.3 million organizations, according to the New York Times

You will learn counterintuitive ideas, as in the episodes How nonprofits can move from being an organization to a “brand”, and How to turn former gang members into nonprofit leaders, which features Thomas Vozzo, the first CEO of Homeboy Industries, the world’s largest gang rehabilitation program.

10. Masters of Scale

Host: Reid Hoffman

Masters of Scale has one overriding mission: to democratize entrepreneurship. Host Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn and a Silicon Valley investor, interviews CEOs to find out what it takes to build a company from the ground up into a global juggernaut. Hoffman and his guests talk about fundraising, overhauling a struggling brand, and capturing the imagination of an attention-bereft economy. The episodes reveal the mindset that characterizes those at the top of the food chain.

Why should you listen?
The podcast utilizes two formats. In the classic format, Hoffman picks one unconventional theory about scaling a business and tests it with his guests.

In the second format, “Rapid Response”, host Bob Safian, the former editor-in-chief of Fast Company, interviews guests about how they respond to disruptions and manage uncertainty.

What Skills Can I Learn from Leadership Podcasts?

The skills you learn will depend on the podcast’s theme and the guests’ expertise. Choose podcasts that align with your developmental goals. These are some of the general skills you’ll learn:

  • Communication. Podcasts cover subjects such as leading change, building culture, and managing crises – all of which require impeccable communication to get everybody on board. Moreover, podcasts are auditory media. So the speakers are typically outstanding communicators. Listening to them articulate their experiences can be a lesson in itself.
  • Strategic thinking and decision making. Guests are experienced in building and leading organizations and have faced diverse situations. You will learn how they think and act.
  • Problem solving. You’ll learn to accurately diagnose problems and quickly come up with innovative solutions. The guests come from diverse backgrounds, so you can learn about the unique challenges faced by each industry.
  • Time management and productivity. A business owner wears many hats throughout the day. They have a bird’s-eye view and are involved in every area of the business. You will learn to juggle tasks and prioritize by identifying what’s important.
  • Emotional intelligence. Top leaders have likely encountered many personalities. You will learn to manage those personalities effectively and to put yourself in the shoes of others.
  • Innovation. Innovation is a science and an art. You will learn frameworks that foster creativity without losing sight of long-term goals.

How Can I Make the Most of These Leadership Podcasts?

Listening to these podcasts without taking action is like buying a Porsche 911, but only using it to drive to the local supermarket. While these podcasts will provide you with plenty of knowledge, it’s how you use that knowledge that will make a difference.

Take these actions to apply what you learn:

  1. Make notes. After listening to an episode, take a few moments to write down the parts that resonated the most. Extract the essence of the message.
  2. Identify areas of improvement. Next, list the parts of your leadership that you’d like to improve. See if the lessons can be applied to any of them.
  3. Set goals. When setting goals, it’s okay to be ambitious. But it’s just as important to be realistic.
  4. Take action. All your planning is to no avail otherwise. Take small steps but be consistent. Ex: if your goal is to get better at networking, try to have one conversation with a new coworker per day.
  5. Analyze, reflect, and pivot. Lastly, what gets measured gets improved. Track your progress weekly. Double down on what’s worked well. Try new solutions to navigate roadblocks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best leadership podcast?
That would depend on your learning and development goals. If you want to learn to build and scale a business, I suggest The Diary of a CEO and Masters of Scale. If you want to cultivate mental toughness, I suggest Resilient and Jocko Podcast.

Can I learn from listening to podcasts?
Absolutely. One of the best ways to learn is by listening to personal experiences. Chances are, you’re not going to have a face to face with the CEO of Nike. This is your next best alternative.

How can I listen to podcasts?
The two most popular services are Apple Podcasts and Spotify. They offer millions of programs for free. Some premium programs, however, can only be purchased with a monthly or annual subscription.

Will leadership podcasts help me grow?
Leadership podcasts offer you a peek into the minds of the world’s top professionals. You will learn how they think and respond to situations and develop frameworks and strategies to grow as a professional and as an individual. Connect the learnings to your goals, have an action plan, and check in regularly to monitor progress.

Eric has been named "CEO of the Year" at the 2019 Business Excellence Awards, one of the "Top 30 Entrepreneurs in the UK" by Startups Magazine, and among "Britain's 27 Most Disruptive Entrepreneurs" by The Telegraph.

Are you operating at your full potential?

Take the 3 minute test to find out.