As an entrepreneur, executive or manager in a fast-paced world, keeping up with the latest thinking about business leadership is essential. Seeking out the best business books is one effective way of gaining insight, learning new strategies and finding inspiration for your evolution as a leader or entrepreneur.
Read on to find a curated selection of the best business books that can help you navigate the evolving business landscape, improve your leadership abilities and work toward your professional goals.
A good question to ask before “Which business books to read?” is “Why read business books?” Are these books really worth the time one needs to invest in reading them?
There are several benefits of reading business books, especially if you seek out those that have stood the test of time or been recommended by CEOs. Business books have various advantages over other forms of information delivery. Unlike advice on social media and YouTube videos about business topics, books go deeply into one element of business and unpack the context and complications of the subject. Unlike online courses, books demand little investment or scheduling, as you can pick them up for free at the library and read them whenever you have time.
Business books collectively cover a lot of ground, offering everything from leadership and entrepreneurship to marketing and finance. They can help you improve yourself in any way you need, such as becoming a better manager, mastering the art of negotiation or understanding market trends.
Business leadership books can help people at all levels of the business ecosystem, especially managers and executives striving to be better leaders.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
One of the most famous business leadership books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is so celebrated because it goes deeper than many other business advice books. Its central message is that our level of effectiveness, both in personal and business pursuits, arises from how well we embody and enact societal values and immutable principles.
Dare To Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown
Brown, a researcher who gained fame for espousing the importance of vulnerability, brings her powerful perspective to business leadership. The book focuses on the need to bring courage and empathy in equal measure to leading others, which can be a challenge in an environment where fear and uncertainty dominate.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Since he caught the business world’s attention in 2009 with a TEDx talk called “Start with Why — how great leaders inspire action,” Simon Sinek has been advancing his idea that the most successful leaders think about their organizations’ work in a way that goes beyond describing what they do. His book Start with Why includes his now-famous idea of The Golden Circle.
The Power of Many by Margaret C. Whitman
As eBay's former president and CEO, Whitman identified ten principles that she used in ethical business leadership. In The Power of Many, she unpacks those ideas for others, showing that trust and authenticity are core elements of success, that courage and validation are essential for good leadership, and that a “bias for action” is highly valuable.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Two Navy SEALs teamed up to examine how principles of combat can be translated to help business teams thrive. With evocative portrayals of their mission of helping secure Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold in Iraq, they translate military lessons of self-discipline, mental fortitude and personal responsibility for business leaders.
There is a lot to think about when starting a business, so reading high-quality books with advice from those who have become successful entrepreneurs can make a huge difference.
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work And What To Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
This well-known business book explains why Inc. magazine called Gerber “the world’s #1 small business guru.” He applies the lessons of franchising to all kinds of businesses, showing how the efficiencies of this business model can benefit any startup. A vital takeaway is the critical difference between working on your business and working in your business.
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
Good to Great discusses the results of a five-year research project that sought to determine what makes some companies become great while others languish. The book identifies approaches that superior companies and leaders employ, such as prioritizing good people over specific plans and harnessing momentum drivers to accelerate growth.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Since publishing The Lean Startup in 2011, Reis has created a training and consulting business around the concepts he introduced in the book. Those concepts include the imperatives to be extremely efficient with capital, to use the creativity that your people bring to your new business, and to discern what your customers actually want.
The Unicorn's Shadow: Combating the Dangerous Myths that Hold Back Startups, Founders, and Investors by Ethan Mollick
Wharton School Professor Ethan Mollick uses new data to dispel old myths about startups, such as the idea that their founders tend to be young, that they’re typically started by teams, and that moving fast is the best path to business prowess. The book relies on quality research and empirical evidence to reveal what actually works to make startups succeed and grow.
The Creator's Code by Amy Wilkinson
Stanford Graduate School of Business Lecturer Wilkinson interviewed 200 top entrepreneurs, including the founders of Airbnb, LinkedIn, eBay and PayPal, to find out what business leaders of high-growth companies do differently. She learned their success isn’t due to natural talent or personal gifts, but to skills and practices, they’ve learned and cultivated.
Business leadership books have a lot of sometimes conflicting advice about why and how to create a business plan, so it’s a good idea to invest a little time in your startup journey learning about the benefits and challenges of proper planning.
The Successful Business Plan: Secrets and Strategies by Rhonda Abrams
Adams is an entrepreneur and author whose USA Today column, “Small Business Strategies,” was once the most widely distrusted small-business column in the country. In this book, she guides readers through a step-by-step approach to creating a business plan, emphasizing the need to consider the long-term needs of both the business and yourself.
The One-Page Business Plan by Jim Horan
Horan, a Fortune 500 executive who passed away in 2019, gained an enthusiastic following for his idea that a very short business plan can be even more effective than a long one because it must be meticulously honed. The book has templates, sample business plans, sales calculators and other tools. There are various editions of the book that speak to specific needs.
The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan: A Pro Shares A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Plan That Gets Results by Hal Shelton
This book from seasoned corporate executive Shelton walks readers through a series of steps, starting with listing your concerns about creating a business plan. Would-be entrepreneurs who would like some hand-holding and guidance will find this useful. The author has published worksheets for each chapter, freely available online.
The Complete Book of Business Plans: Simple Steps to Writing Powerful Business Plans by Brian Hazelgren and Joseph Covello
Possibly the most thorough business plan book around, Hazelgren and Covello’s 512-page tome provides a comprehensive look at how to create one of these important documents, including more than a dozen business-plan models. While some may find this amount of information overkill, others will be reassured by the detailed guidance.
Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
Your business model is one of the most essential elements of a business plan, but it can be tricky to conceive. Most new entrepreneurs aren’t familiar with all the possibilities or can’t envision new approaches to existing models. This visually appealing and colorful guide unpacks business model patterns and shows how you can put them to your own unique use.
CEOs have a lot of business experience and very little time to themselves, so the books they feel are worth reading are likely valuable for anyone looking to learn and grow. One lesson from CEOs’ reading lists is that business leadership books aren’t the only kind of books that business leaders find helpful.
Harvard Business Review 10 Must Reads for CEOs by multiple authors
The Harvard Business Review team sifted through hundreds of articles for their publication to find those that provide the best value to C-suite leaders. This collection of articles contains advice about setting priorities, anticipating challenges, leading change efforts, managing risk, advancing innovation and cultivating effective relationships with staff and board members.
The Age of AI: And Our Human Future by Daniel Huttenlocher, Henry A. Kissinger, and Eric Schmidt
Ginni Rometty, former chair and CEO of IBM and cochair of OneTen, recommended this book for McKinsey’s 2023 Summer Reading Guide. “This book reinforces why we must focus on stewarding good tech,” she told McKinsey. “…I’m a believer that AI has a great upside and will change every job for the better, but it matters how we implement it.”
Burn Rate: Launching a Startup and Losing My Mind by Andy Dunn
Ariela Safira, founder and CEO of Real, told McKinsey that Burn Rate is “the most honest business book I’ve read to date, highlighting the real journey of founding a company.” The book is a first-person account of the founder of the menswear brand Bonobos, chronicling the collision between his relentless pursuit of business success and his mental health problems.
The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix the Future by Solitaire Townsend
Mads Nipper, president and CEO of Ørsted, found inspiration in reading how business can lead in finding solutions to forestall global climate catastrophe. Townsend tells stories of plant-based food businesses, net-zero technologies and other innovations. “I know this book offers tangible examples of courageous moves that can literally change the world,” Nipper told McKinsey.
Scaling People: Tactics for Management and Company Building by Claire Hughes Johnson
Julie Hansen, CEO of Babbel GmbH, told Bloomberg that she found Johnson’s book “useful and inspirational at the same time.” A former executive at Stripe and Google, Johnson lays out actionable and specific approaches to growing your company while making team workflows efficient. The book includes worksheets, templates, exercises and examples.
There are scores of best business books for entrepreneurs, business leaders, and other interested readers that provide new perspectives, exciting insights and guidance on learning skills. The business books listed here are a great place to start, offering well-conceived ideas about leadership, startup success and business planning.
Many business books also discuss how business leadership should think about money since capital, cash flow and budgeting are essential for business success. However, there’s nothing like talking to a professional with expertise in business finance when it comes to funding your enterprise. Schedule a consultation with one of our bankers and learn how Seacoast can help your company succeed.