6 Business Books Every Leader Needs to Read

Benjamin Franklin once suggested we either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. Some of the top writers today are CEOs and business professionals sharing experiences and dispensing good advice on how to run a lean business, develop innovation, deepen employee engagement, and achieve balance and harmony across all areas of life.

I recently asked our leadership team to share the titles of books that have in some way impacted the way they approach business, leadership and relationship-building. The following are their top reads for those core areas and might be worth adding to your fall reading list.

On simplifying business: Picks by Ed Borromeo, COO

I have two favorites — manifestos — that have inspired new realms of thinking or processes in business and my personal life. The first is “The Checklist Manifesto.” This book, authored by surgeon and public health researcher Atul Gawande, explains how the fast-paced complexity of knowledge has surpassed the ability for an individual to deliver information in an accurate and understandable way –and how our responsibilities have become increasingly complex.

What’s the remedy? Checklists.

Through stories and anecdotes, Gawande illustrates how using checklists can clarify and organize knowledge, communicate imperative points, and get things done with greater efficiency. But make no mistake, he doesn’t suggest simply putting together simple to-do lists. These are checklists that make proper use of what we know to reduce error and failure, and serve as best-practice guides.

The second is “Understanding The Agile Manifesto: A Brief & Bold Guide to Agile.” This book masterfully breaks down what is to “be” agile rather than “do” agile.

Author Larry Apke highlights the key priorities of being agile — putting individuals above process and systems, working iteratively to allow for easier pivots and improvements along the way, and continually evaluating if you’re delivering value rather than just following a series of steps.

On management: A personal favorite

One book I read this summer that hit home was “The 12 Week Year” by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington. Most people and organizations are locked into the 12-month goal planning cycle, which can lead to annualized thinking and lethargic work productivity. This book stresses how that becomes impossible when we set a 12-week plan to replace stagnant work with urgency for results.

We were already working in quarterly stints, based on year-long goals, but this drove home the argument that operating in a 12-week year drives deeper focus and clarity on what truly matters. It not only places urgency on what needs to be done, it also helps eliminate complacency and latent productivity –and it can be applied outside of the workplace too.

On brand building: Picks by Robert Wallace, EVP of marketing

An oldie, but a goodie, “The Agile Marketer: Turning Customer Experience Into Your Competitive Advantage” nails what branding is all about. It makes the case that brand cannot be decoupled from product, growth, and marketing –really any touchpoint the customer interacts with directly, and even those behind the scenes at the operational level.

This book by Roland Smart coincides with our view that product, brand and growth must be developed in tandem. The modern marketer needs to look to technology for ways to capture customers’ hearts and minds. Marketing is less about awareness and impressions, and more about customer experience at every touchpoint.

Another favorite is “The lean brand” by Jeremiah Gardner. In essence, it applies lean methodology to marketing and makes the case for brand development to based on the discovery of value. It provides a blueprint of sorts for creating value-based relationships with customers and eliminating costly marketing waste. Truly a great read for any marketing leader.Th Lean Brand”

On understanding people: Picks by Mike Barbeau, VP of business development

This one really has nothing to do with selling strategies or disciplines, but has most definitely influenced how I approach sales. Dan Ariely’s “Predictably Irrational” is a great read on how people make and shape their decisions.

With humor, Ariely delves into why people buy certain vehicles, choose spouses, change jobs and make other normal human choices. Naturally, understanding the behavior and motivations behind decisions empowers you to relate to prospective customers and better identify where they are in the decision-making process.

Another benefit –it also helps with relationships with your colleagues and those who report to you, as well as those in your personal life.

By Jeff Pruitt
Chairman and CEO, Tallwave@jeffreypruitt

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