Warren Buffett, as one of his business partners has witnessed, is a big reader and likewise, he admires people who also read a lot. But it is not enough to just read any old business book. There are some pretty terrible books out there, but there are also some that are a must read whether you are a young entrepreneur or an experienced CEO.
1. Peter F. Drucker’s The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done (1967)
In the Effective Executive, Drucker highlights the unique skills that make an executive effective. This ranges from time management, to whether or not they know how to best utilize the various strengths found throughout their organization. According to Drucker, being an effective executive also involves having the ability and will to do what others have overlooked while avoiding making decisions that are unproductive. Although this book was written several decades ago, it remains very relevant.
2. L. David Marquet’s Turn This Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders (2012)
What makes this book unique is that Marquet was not a businessman. Instead, he was the newly appointed Captain of a United States nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Santa Fe (SSN-763). At that time, the USS Santa Fe was said to be the worst performing submarine in the Navy’s fleet. To add to that, Captain Marquet knew very little about it – he was expecting to command a different submarine class altogether. When Captain Marquet unknowingly gave his crew members an order that was actually impossible for them to followed, but they tried to anyway, he identified the problem keeping the Santa Fe behind – The nuclear attack submarine was full of followers, not leaders. By promoting leadership at all levels, Captain Marquet turned the Santa Fe from the worst performing ship to one of the Navy’s best.
3. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936)
Self-help books tend to sell rather well, but this is the first best-selling self-help book ever. Although published in 1936, this book has remained at the top with sales totalling 15 million. One fan of this book is Warren Buffett. When he was 20 years old, he took a course on the book and it is said that to this day he still has the certificate of completion for the course hanging in his office.
4. Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997)
Businessman and Harvard professor Clayton Christensen demonstrates, through interesting examples, how companies focus far too much on customer’s current needs or abilities and end up missing out on opportunities. This heavy focus on the current needs of customers distracts companies from developing updated business models or from the adoption of new, innovative technology that will serve to meet future or unstated needs of clients. With the business world always changing, this book is excellent in helping leaders learn to notice changes and obstacles coming their way.
5. Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things (2014)
This book is aimed not at entrepreneurs just getting started on their business, but at “wartime CEOs.” They are CEOs who, in Horowitz own honesty, have screwed up one way or another. This brutally honest book provides advice on how to spot the next moves and uses examples from Horowitz’s own rise as a leader within the tech industry as a venture Capitalist and half of the firm Andreessen Horowitz and as a successful CEO after the dot-com crash.
6. Blake Master and Peter Thiel’s Zero to One (2014)
Zero to One originated from a set of notes collected by Master that made up a class on startups that Thiel at Stanford University in 2012. As student in the class, Master, a graduate of Stanford and Stanford Law took what he learned from Thiel and founded his own startup. Zero to One goes through events of Thiel’s own life, such as his cofounding of PayPal and early investments in Facebook. Of the many advice he gives on how to build successful startups, the best one is that to be successful a business must differentiate itself from the competition.
7. Warren Buffett and Lawrence Cunningham’s The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Investors and Managers (2014)
A collection of letters written over the span of 30 years that give invaluable insight into the mind of one of the greatest businessmen and investors around. With humour and humility, Buffet even reveals some of his errors throughout his long journey in the world of business and this only serves to add to the value this book possesses for investors and leaders. It is important to note that this book is not about Buffett’s investment strategies, but about his role in the managements of a company now worth over $300 billion, Berkshire. It is focused on the long term and consistent, which is really the best takeaway from being in Buffett’s presence.