10 inspirational business books you need to read

Smart practice

Friday 11 December 2015

Our checklist of top business books will stimulate and motivate you to build a better business

If you’re looking to catch up on some inspirational reading over the holidays, check out this handy list.

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life by Arianna Huffington

After collapsing from exhaustion in 2007, journalist-turned entrepreneur Arianna Huffington began questioning the balance in her life. Then she wrote this book to encourage new thinking on what it means to be happy and successful. Huffington discusses the importance of ‘unplugging’ from the modern world, as well as the impact meditation and mindfulness can have on both your personal well-being and the bottom line. In the process she provides practical tips backed by science.

The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco

Don’t be fooled by the title – this isn’t just another ‘get rich’ guide. The Millionaire Fastlane explains the entrepreneurial mindset in a clear and concise way, reminding readers that real wealth comes from severing the link between their labour and their income. DeMarco loves a metaphor, especially one based on his beloved Lamborghinis, which means this book should particularly appeal to car-lovers.

The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership by Richard Branson

This very readable bestseller from the Virgin founder is billed as ‘a book on leadership from someone who has never read a book on leadership in his life’. Branson uses anecdotes – both personal and borrowed – to illustrate the leadership philosophy that has helped him take Virgin to where it is today. Branson also gives his take – with some memorable quotes – on business successes such as Steve Jobs and Apple and high profile failures like Kodak.

How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg

Welcome to the Google story, told from the businessperson’s perspective. The ex-CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt and former Senior Vice President of Products, Jonathan Rosenberg, share their insights on what makes Google special and what other businesses can do to replicate its success. This includes lessons on how to attract and manage "smart creatives", insights into why businesses should be looking for the "10X idea not the 10%” and the importance of building superior products.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
by Jim Collins

This research-based book aims to show how long-term sustained performance can be built into a company’s DNA right from the moment it opens its doors. After reviewing data from no less than 1,435 companies Collins concludes that it is workplace culture and not a high profile CEO, a killer strategy or the latest technology that makes the real difference. To replicate this, Collins cautions against trying to impose a culture of motivation for employees. Instead he stresses the value of selfless leadership (or ‘Level 5’ leadership), hiring the right people and putting the best talent on the best opportunities, not the worst problems.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams

Adams is best known as the creator of Dilbert: the US comic strip that gained cult status for its original and perceptive take on corporate life. In this book Adams offers his own observations on his career and, in doing so, turns a lot of conventional business thinking on its head. Memorable advice includes telling people that goals are for losers (systems work better) and that the right combination of mediocre skills makes anyone surprisingly valuable. He also reveals his own painful shyness and how he overcame it by acting a role instead of being his normal self.

Memorable advice includes telling people that goals are for losers (systems work better) and that the right combination of mediocre skills makes anyone surprisingly valuable.

The Emotionally-Intelligent Investor: How Self-Awareness, Empathy and Intuition Drive Performance by Ravee Mehta

Forget the title. While the book may be set in the world of trading, the ideas within can be applied much more broadly. In fact, far from offering a system for selecting stocks, this is an in-depth study about the way we make decisions and a guide to how we can make better ones. Mehta argues that the best decisions will be different for every person. He also shows how the best decisions don’t come from simply analysing data but instead by applying the very human characteristics of introspection, emotion and intuition.

Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by Donald Sull and Kathleen M Eisenhardt

Two US-based academics attempt to prove that, by following a few simple rules of thumb, we can all master even the most complex problems and make better decisions. Using corporate-based research they’ve been gathering for over a decade, the authors argue that simple rules act as shortcuts, letting both individuals and companies process enormous amounts of information. Then they illustrate this theory through anecdotes that range from an analysis of investment models through to Tina Fey’s rules for producing the comedy show 30 Rock.

The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership: Classical Wisdom for Modern Leaders by MA Soupios and Panos Mourdoukoutas

It’s tempting to think of the leadership studies as something new. However, the authors draw on classical thinkers to show that ideas from 2,500 years ago remain just as relevant today. The book is based on the ancient Greek premise that leadership is a philosophy and not a science and that good leaders need to tread the path of ‘morality and conscience’. The authors argue that, even today, this means only those who have ‘a carefully conceived philosophy of life’ are capable of real leadership. 

Leadership BS: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time
by Jeffrey Pfeffer

And finally, if you’ve had enough of leadership gurus preaching things like empathy, compassion and humility then this is the book for you. Stanford University Professor Jeffrey Pffefer uses Leadership BS to dissect the ‘leadership industry’. Then he takes a detached look at the data to argue unpopular causes such as the case for self-promotion, that breaching contracts is often just part of business, and that there’s a place in organisations for ‘strategic misrepresentation’, or being selective with the truth. With chapters including ‘Authenticity: Misunderstood and Overrated’ and ‘Why Leaders “Eat” First’, this is a book that’s bound to get you thinking.

A common thread…

While many of these inspirational books offer different – even conflicting advice – you may have noticed a theme. The most inspirational business books tend to transcend our working lives and offer valuable insights on how to live a better life generally.

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