Looking to start your business reading list? We asked a selection of leaders what books they would recommend.
Our Leaders’ Insights series sheds light on the career journeys of business leaders, the challenges they’ve met on the way, and the routines and resources that help them to stay on top. Each time, we ask them to recommend a book (or a few) and the answers have ranged from classics to new releases, fact to fiction, research to roadmap.
Here are just a few of these recommendations to help you get started on your own professional reading list.
Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler
For those who aim to make major revenue for their business, Ross and Tyler promise to teach up-and-comers the proven ways to generate leads, without needing to cold-call. Throughout the book, the authors focus on the problem of CEOs and entrepreneurs trying to do their own lead generation, or ‘prospecting’, which can lead to some negative results for the business.
According to Salesforce.com, the method proposed in the book worked a treat, adding $100m in recurring revenue to its business.
On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz
A professor of leadership and innovation at Politecnico di Milano, Italy, Roberto Verganti plumped for a trio of interesting reads. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl, Collaborative Circles by Michael P Farrell and On Looking by Alexandra Horowitz made the grade, the last of which stands out the most.
Horowitz investigates how humans observe the mundane, the normal, the everything. She essentially encourages us to rediscover the extraordinary things that we are missing in our ordinary activities.
Structured across 11 walks taken by Horowitz, readers are provided with the views of several varied experts, with a geologist, physician, sound designer, artist and urban sociologist included. Each are muses to show how we see, what we see and, importantly, what we miss.
The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
Written by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, the book explains that when it comes to sales, there are five groups of reps that deliver an average performance, but only one called the ‘challenger’ has proven to provide higher-than-average results. Through extensive studies, the authors found that a successful sales call shouldn’t be just telling a person about a business, but rather, telling them how to save money and time.
Since its release in 2011, the book has become ubiquitous among sales staff in new companies, challenging the old model of being a ‘relationship-builder’ with customers.
The Trusted Advisor by David H Maister
Alex Lee, the non-executive chairman of FSCom Limited, recommends The Trusted Advisor by David H Maister. In this book, Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford provide answers to questions surrounding consulting, negotiating and advising. The key to professional success, they argue, is the ability to earn the trust and confidence of clients. With anecdotes and examples, success and failures, they detail this world of deal-making.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
For both aspiring and current leaders alike, The Art of War is a military treatise written by Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu. It was first published around 5th century BCE, and has been reprinted and translated countless times.
While it may sound irrelevant to anyone who isn’t planning to go to war, Ciaran Bollard, managing director of Kooomo, said it has incredible insights into leadership. With chapters that focus on the importance of flexibility and creativity, it’s no surprise that ‘Master Sun’s’ military expertise will provide great insights into the mind of a true leader.
The Culture Map by Prof Erin Meyer
Diversity and inclusion is at the forefront of most business leaders’ minds at the moment. How can you ensure your company’s culture complements the culture of your employees?
Leaders always need to understand human nature and personality differences to be successful in business, and anyone aspiring to climb the career ladder will need the same understanding. The Culture Map goes a long way to exploring different cultures and how to avoid falling into generalisation traps.
Emotional Capitalists: The New Leaders by Dr Martyn Newman
Recommended by Brian Stephens, founding designer and CEO of Design Partners, Emotional Capitalists: The New Leaders is a book that is all about turning emotional intelligence into tangible value for your organisation.
Written by psychologist Dr Martyn Newman and based on a decade of research, it explores the seven emotional competencies that set exceptional leaders apart from the rest. This is a common thought among certain academics, that our emotional intelligence (also known as EQ) could actually be more important than IQ in the workplace.
This book acts as a helpful guide for business leaders to inspire employees to unleash their emotional talents for the benefit of their organisation. It offers the building blocks to put this into practice, enhancing your leadership skills in the process.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Recommended by Cynthia Baloula, founder of CB Media, The Power of Habit attempts to understand human nature and its potential for transformation. Charles Duhigg, an award-winning New York Times business reporter, does this through the metaphor of understanding why some people and companies spend years struggling to change while, for others, it seems to happen overnight.
The book is chock-full of data and case studies, including how some people changed basic habits and achieved overnight career success after years in the wilderness; or how product launches – such as that of Febreze by Procter & Gamble – that seemed destined for failure became billion-dollar successes thanks to a slight shift in advertising.
“If you have habits that hold you back, this book is for you,” Baloula said, adding that the book helped her to quit her addiction to sugar.
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Recommended by Jimmy Sheahan, managing director of managed services and group technical director at Ergo, Jim Collins’ book Good to Great attempts to answer whether it is possible for a good company to become a great company.
The book looks at the underlying variables that enable any type of organisation to make the leap from good to great while other organisations remain either good or average. It is the result of five years’ research into more than 1,435 companies, finding which ones made the most substantial leaps forward in performance in a period of time.
Good to Great contains case studies on at least 11 companies including Gillette, Walgreens and Wells Fargo. The answer wasn’t high-profile CEOs, cutting-edge technologies or business strategy, but a corporate culture that rigorously found and promoted disciplined people to think and act in a disciplined manner.
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