Looking for books to make you a better business or organizational leader but don’t want to be preached at or made to feel less than by some Harvard MBA author? I often times get asked by my accounts, friends, and coworkers on the best books to read for CEO’s and business leaders. Below is a list of the books we think are worth reading, some from execs who have lived through the same situations you are going through.
1.) How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This book has become one of the most successful books in American history, selling more than 30 million copies worldwide. The book is based on a course taught by the original author. Warren Buffett took the course when he was 20 and still has the diploma from the course hanging in his office. The overall goal of the book is to teach you to change other people’s behavior by changing your behavior toward them.
2.) Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
A lot of people glorify starting a business by only focusing on the “good” things. Ben Horowitz is not that guy. The Hard Things About Hard Things is brutally honest about the hardships of running one. Horowitz, the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, draws on his founding, running, selling, buying, managing, and investing in technology companies to navigate the toughest problems. If you’re a hip-hop fan, you will love the lyrics he matches to the thesis of each chapter.
3.) Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel
“Shallow men believe in luck, believe in circumstances … Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Zero to One details what it takes to go from 0 – 1. It is written with the view that tomorrow’s success is not about competing in today’s marketplace, but rather learning to ask questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places. Thiel has some unique ideas that guide his line of thinking – like, “having a bad plan is better than no plan.”
4.) Linchpin by Seth Godin
While I don’t totally agree with everything this book states – I wholeheartedly agree with Seth that we should become the best we can be. I agree that our work should be developed, refined, and carried out with the intentions that it is viewed as art (or at least a masterpiece). By all means, be the BEST employee you can be. Contribute to your company and mission! My disagreement is simple. DON’T think that you’re the ONLY contributor or the ESSENTIAL contributor because a well-managed company does not allow itself to become dependent upon the performance of ANY individual. Read it through and comment below with what YOU think!
5.) Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard
This book is written by the founder of Patagonia. Anything I say about this book won’t do it justice, so instead, I’ll use two of my favorite quotes from it:
“Our philosophies aren’t rules; they’re guidelines. They’re the keystone of our approach to any project, and although they are ‘set in stone,’ their applications to a situation isn’t. In every long-lasting business, the methods of conducting business may constantly change, but the values, the culture, and the philosophies remain constant.”
“We have always considered Patagonia an experiment in doing business in unconventional ways. None of us were certain it was going to be successful, but we did know that we were not interested in ‘doing business as usual.’ Well, we have survived and even thrived for close to half a century.”
6.) Predictable Revenue: Turn Your Business Into a Sales Machine with the $100 Million Best Practices of Salesforce.com by Aaron Ross, Marylou Tyler
Looking for help to build your sales machine? This is a book for CEO’s, entrepreneurs and sales VP’s, and sales rep’s looking to build a fluid sales machine with zero cold calls. This guide to and outbound sales process was used to produce $100 million in recurring revenue to Salesforce.com, almost doubling their enterprise growth. Learn what it takes for your sales team to generate as many highly-qualified new leads as you want, create predictable revenue month-over-month, and meet your financial goals.
7.) The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries
Breaking News: Most startups fail. But many of those failures are preventable, which is the dirty truth no one wants to hear. The Lean Startup is a guide to help you learn a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built (and new products are launched). Eric Ries defines a startup as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. That sums up the thesis of this book – lessons on innovation to penetrate that fog of uncertainty to discover a successful path to a sustainable business.
8.) The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Ryan Hoover, the founder of Product Hunt, turned me onto this book. His quote that made me jump in:
“The Power of Habit arms readers with an understanding of human psychology that can be applied in life, business, and the products we create. Acquiring and applying the knowledge I gained from this book helped me identify the intrinsic values necessary to make a product part of a customer’s habit.” – Ryan Hoover (Founder, Product Hunt)
9.) Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
This is a HEAVY book, man! We suggest doing it as a book on tape, but if you are an avid reader – go H.A.M. Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotions; System 2 is is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives.
10.) Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
What does it mean to manage well? This book dives into that question. Ed Catmull is the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios. This is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality. At the heart of this book is an organizational structure nerd going off on how to foster a creative culture and “expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.” To which we say – Nerd On, Brother.