20 book recommendations from tech and business leaders

23 Dec 2020

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Here are some of the book recommendations we got from tech leaders in 2020.

Throughout our Leaders’ Insights series on Silicon Republic this year, we asked a host of tech and business leaders from Ireland and further afield to recommend some books that our readers might be interested in.

We got suggestions for books covering leadership, entrepreneurial advice, tech insights and more. So if you’re looking for a new read to tuck into this Christmas or an audiobook to keep you entertained during your time off, here are 20 recommendations.

The front covers of eight books: Weapons of Math Destruction, Shoe Dog, Slow at Work, Loonshots, Remote, How Remarkable Women Lead, Mindset, and Black Box Thinking.

1. Remote: Office Not Required – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

In a year that brought unprecedent upheaval for most of us, remote working came front and centre.

Joe Lennon of Workvivo told us that this book by two of the founders of Basecamp has been “the bible for a remote workforce long before Covid-19”.

2. Slow At Work – Aoife McElwain

2020 was also a year that may have forced people to consider how they work, not just where they work. With that in mind, Donna Gartland of Codema recommended checking out Irish writer Aoife McElwain.

“For anyone who works in a field they are passionate about but feels like it is swallowing up their whole life, this is the book for you,” Gartland said.

3. The 4-Hour Work Week – Timothy Ferriss 

With the mass shift to remote working, many people had to think carefully about managing work-life balance. Xilinx’s Brendan Farley suggested reading Timothy Ferriss for some advice on this topic.

“He provides excellent tips to eliminate time wasting in your work life, which gives more time to improve your work-life balance,” Farley said. “Ferriss encourages the reader to focus on effectiveness by working on the most important tasks and recognising when you are merely being efficient in unimportant tasks.”

4. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni

This leadership book was recommended by several people throughout the year, including Killian MacDonald of Gilead Sciences and Ogie Sheehy of ViClarity.

Amy Bunszel from Autodesk said she was a fan of anything by Patrick Lencioni, and that this book in particular offers “a practical, effective model for building high-trust, high-results teams”.

5. Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin

For a different take on leadership, Arkphire chair Paul Nannetti recommended this book about how Abraham Lincoln built and led a cabinet of conflicting personalities.

“It is an extraordinary story of leadership, of national transformation, and the power of a diverse team when aligned towards a compelling objective,” Nannetti said.

6. Legacy – James Kerr 

James Kerr’s bestseller about the New Zealand All Blacks teams was also recommended by Avanade’s Graham Healy, CybSafe’s Oz Alashe and Rent the Runway’s Dorothy Creavan for its lessons in leadership.

7. How Remarkable Women Lead – Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston

Based on five years of research from McKinsey’s Centered Leadership project, How Remarkable Women Lead includes personal stories and insights from women leaders.

It was recommended to us by Google’s Liz Cunningham.

8. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism – Shoshana Zuboff

If you’re more interested in the topical subject of tech and privacy, Shoshana Zuboff’s book looks at the business models of digital companies such as Google and Amazon and how users’ personal data is employed.

This book wasn’t suggested in our Leaders’ Insights series but was recommended by Silicon Republic editor Elaine Burke.

9. Weapons of Math Destruction – Cathy O’Neil

Here’s another data-related suggestion from the Silicon Republic team. Written by mathematician and data scientist Cathy O’Neil, it looks at the societal impacts of algorithms and how big data can lead to increases in inequality.

O’Neil was also recently featured on our list of 10 women leading the way in data science.

10. Scaling Up – Verne Harnish

If you’re in the start-up scene or thinking of getting your own business off the ground, a popular suggestion among entrepreneurs was Verne Harnish’s book about why some companies make it and others don’t.

It was recommended to us by Adam Coleman of HRLocker and Frank Kelly of Lettertec.

11. Loonshots – Safi Bahcall

This book about nurturing crazy ideas was another popular choice. Jason Ward of Dell Technologies said it offers a “creative insight” into decision-making, while Nessa McEniff of Learnovate said she would recommend it to anyone “interested in the innovation process”.

12. Programmed Inequality – Mar Hicks

Technology historian Mar Hicks looks at ‘how Britain discarded women technologists and lost its edge in computing’ in this book. It’s another recommendation from the Silicon Republic team.

13. Matthew Syed – Black Box Thinking

“It’s about decision-making in large organisations and confronting mistakes,” said Paul McElvaney of Learning Pool. “It’s really fascinating and there’s plenty that can be applied to any business.”

This was also recommended by Dell’s Jason Ward, while CybSafe’s Oz Alashe recommended another book by Matthew Syed – Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice.

14. An Everyone Culture – Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey

HRLocker’s Adam Coleman suggested this book “if you want to improve your business”.

It looks at creating a ‘deliberately developmental’ organisation and thinking of culture as part of your business strategy.

15. Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

This popular psychology book was recommended by Annette Hickey from PayPal.

“It resonated with me because it talks a lot about leadership through gut feeling,” she said. “That is how I manage my teams and make decisions. When something in your gut tells you something is right, it tends to be.”

16. The Art of Possibility – Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander

Combining Benjamin Zander’s experience as the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic with therapist Rosamund Zander’s insights into personal and professional fulfilment, this book offers different perspectives on creativity and possibility.

“The book gave me practices to apply to my personal and working life and encouraged me to open up my thinking to the world of infinite possibility,” said Una Keeshan of SoftwareOne. 

17. Mindset – Carol Dweck

This classic by psychologist Carol Dweck has been recommended by plenty of people to Silicon Republic over the years.

Codema’s Donna Gartland said it gave her “an insight into ‘fixed’ and ‘growth’ mindsets and what mindset does to a person’s ability to be successful”.

18. Shoe Dog – Phil Knight

If you’re looking for business inspiration, Shoe Dog is a memoir by Nike co-founder Phil Knight, where he shares the inside story of the company’s early days and how it evolved into one of the world’s most recognisable brands.

It was recommended to us by Workvivo’s Joe Lennon and Maples Group’s Colm Rafferty.

19. Thrive – Arianna Huffington

Johnson & Johnson’s Leisha Daly picked out this book from the co-founder of The Huffington Post. In the book, Huffington looks to redefine what it means to be successful in today’s world

20. Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson

Finally, Ronan Murphy of CWSI said this biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is one of his favourite books.

“It is worth a read for anyone in any business,” he added.

Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic