Our recommended 10 books for business leaders
A great business book can change your life. As the saying goes "Learn from the best, become the best."
Over the years we’ve interviewed hundreds of top business book authors. They include the best business book writers in the world today, often featured on the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists.
So, if you’re looking for the best Christmas book gifts, the best holiday reads, or the most popular business books to lead into 2024, this list of 10 top business books should do nicely. Plus, Booktopia is offering Growth Faculty readers 10% off!*
This year, the themes of the 10 best business books in our list include finding your potential, changing your habits, leading with empathy, improving self-awareness, capacity-building, and employee experience, pushing through obstacles and dealing with setbacks, finding meaning, and Chat GPT.
Hang on! What if I'm hopeless at reading business books?
If you struggle to read even one business book a year, make a plan to change! Successful leaders read business books, it's as simple as that.
Just look at the evidence.
Elon Musk reads 100 books a year, Sir Richard Branson has his Literati Book Club, Oprah has launched authors' careers, Sheryl Sandberg has recommended Adam Grant’s Originals, Melanie Perkins likes The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma, and Britney Spears told Amazon Book Review The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle was helpful for her in difficult moments.
Brené Brown says she has The Digital Mindset by Paul Leonardi & Tsedal Neeley on her nightstand, Satya Nadella is a fan of Carol Dweck’s Mindset, Indra Nooyi says The Road to Character by David Brooks sparked wonderful discussions with her daughters, and psychological safety expert Professor Amy Edmondson loves Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute.
Quality business books help you grow as a person and can fast-track your professional development. But if you really don't have time to read, that's where Growth Faculty comes in! We're not just expert in curating the best business books, we save you time by interviewing the world's top authors and brightest minds about their books, frameworks, and concepts. See our latest program of live virtual and in-person events.
Here are our latest book recommendations and the authors we've been able to offer access to for our members and community:
1. Atomic Habits by James Clear
Still at #1 on the Amazon Bestseller List, Atomic Habits is a must-read if you haven't got to it yet.
Author James Clear practices what he preaches in this bestselling book. He developed a habit to read more than 30 books a year by proactively making time to read books each day. He began by reading 20 pages of a book each morning. At that pace he will read 36 books over a year.
Atomic Habits is all about changing your life by consistently adopting small (atomic) habits. At our live events with James Clear more than 7000 delegates learned his framework for success.
Great tip from Atomic Habits: A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a different destination.
2. Hidden Potential by Adam Grant
Outliers author Malcolm Gladwell said he read Hidden Potential in one sitting, and we were close to that here at Growth Faculty.
This is another entertaining, fascinating, and inspiring book from Grant, one of the world’s most famous organisational psychologists, authors, and TED speakers and podcasters.
Hidden Potential shows you how to achieve your potential, and explores setbacks, grasping opportunities, improving motivation, perfectionism and procrastination.
“There’s evidence that just being looked at by the leader is enough to encourage people who lack status to speak up.” – Adam Grant
Note: Adam Grant is coming to Australia in February 2024. Tickets selling fast. Early Bird Pricing closing soon. Book Now!
Great tip from Hidden Potential: Choose leaders based on prosocial (helping, serving others) skills who put their mission above their ego.
3. Head & Heart by Kirstin Ferguson
Kirstin Ferguson was once described as “Australia’s Brene Brown” by The Courier Mail, based on Ferguson’s mission to coach others to lead with “empathy so good people don’t quit their jobs.”
With a PhD in leadership, Dr Ferguson has written in Head & Heart about what she knows best. She’s been a company director, was forming acting chair and deputy chair of the ABC, a CEO of a consulting firm, and was dux of her air force class at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
In our interview on Head & Heart she made a powerful point:
“You leave a legacy as a leader in every action you take, every decision you make and every behaviour you demonstrate.”
Great tip from Head & Heart: Complete Kirstin’s free Head & Heart Leader Scale to self-assess how you currently lead.
4. Vertical Growth by Michael Bunting
Michael Bunting says honesty refers to being honest not just with others, but with ourselves. This is a key part of vertical growth.
He explained in our interview that while horizontal growth is learning and developing new skills, vertical growth is seeing down into our unconscious patterns of thought and behaviour, and learning to deal with them, so we can grow upward towards our values and ideals.
Great tip from Vertical Growth: Identify ‘one big thing’ to work on for your journey to vertical growth. It’s probably the last thing you want to do, the thing you resist the most.
5. Elevate Your Team by Robert Glazer
Robert Glazer says reading is an essential part of building your capacity in leadership, work, and life. He recommends Discover Your True North by Bill George and the evergreen Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
In our interview about Elevate Your Team, Glazer makes the point that each person is the same person at work as outside it. To grow their capacity, you need to grow the whole person.
In fact, the key to accelerating an employee’s growth trajectory is doubling down on their personal and professional growth and making it more deliberate and company wide.
Great tip from Elevate Your Team: Find a way to give their rising stars an opportunity to learn and grow or risk losing them to competitors who will. (Note: Read about our 2024 Emerging Leaders Program)
6. Anatomy of a Breakthrough by Adam Alter
Organisational psychologist Adam Grant’s recommended book list for summer 2023 included both Anatomy of a Breakthrough by Adam Alter and Seth Godin’s new book (below). Having written about languishing, Grant says Alter’s book “holds the keys to regaining momentum” for languishers. In our interview with Adam Alter he gives details on how to attack “stuckness” on four fronts: Help, Heart, Head, and Habit.
Alter is a professor of marketing in NYU’s Stern School of Business but also holds an affiliated professorship in social psychology. One of the books he recommends on Princeton’s alumni website is Quit: The Power of Knowing When to Walk Away by Annie Duke.
Great tip from Anatomy of a Breakthrough: Try writing a six-word memoir – it forces you to focus on the essential components of what it means to be you.
7. The Art of Winning by Dan Carter
In 2020 former All Black rugby player Dan Carter made the gut-wrenching decision to retire from professional rugby. Thanks to the pandemic, his retirement at age 37 was taken out of his own hands.
This new book The Art of Winning peels back the curtains on a high performer, and gives us invaluable insights into Carter’s struggles with injuries and setbacks, his identity post-retirement, and his enlightening journey to discover “Who is Dan Carter?”
Great tip from The Art of Winning: Learn to live in the present. Instead of ruminating about the past, ask “What needs to be done now?" And focus on that task.
8. The Song of Significance by Seth Godin
Deep thinker and bestselling author Seth Godin is one of those successful leaders who reads a lot.
He says he’s mostly into audiobooks these days and recent recommendations have included Nothing is Missing: A Memoir of Living Boldly by Nicole Walters and Misbelief by Dan Ariely. Last year he recommended The Power of Regret by Dan Pink.
We featured Godin’s latest book The Song of Significance as our October Author Access event. Godin says that significant organisations are team-centric, and that businesses can create value, cause change, and make a difference by “leading with humans instead of treating them as cogs in a soulless machine.”
Great tip from The Song of Significance: “Show me your agenda for today, and I’ll show you what you value.”
9. Getting Started with ChatGPT and AI Chatbots by Mark Pesce
ChatGPT is the most important technological breakthrough in a generation. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world now regularly engage with a ‘conversation’ AI program, capable of responding to a range of requests.
Futurist and tech expert Mark Pesce wrote Getting Started with ChatGPT and AI Chatbots, to uncover which chatbot is best for which task, simple ‘one-shot’ prompts for the best results, how to detect a ‘furphy’ generated by AI, using this transformational tech safely and wisely, how AI and Chatbots will impact the future of work, and using image generators to turn words into beautiful pictures.
Great tip from Getting Started with ChatGPT and AI Chatbots: Mark suggests you should discuss as a team or as an organisation: Policies: When do we use an AI chatbot? What problems to we want to solve? Where do we want to use it. Where not? Procedures: How do we use it? What are the best prompts? What character and context do we use? Protocols: What happens if it goes wrong?
10. The Experience Mindset by Tiffani Bova
Salesforce research reveals that 7 out of 10 (74%) C-suite members say that no-one really owns the Employee Experience (EX).
Contrast that to the time and resources most companies put behind improving Customer Experience (CX) says Tiffani Bova, author of The Experience Mindset.
The author and former Salesforce executive taught our masterclass that customers will remember the experience they have with a brand much longer than the price they paid.
Bova says employees are “the keepers of your Customer Experience promise,” so they need to be given as much care and attention.
Great tip from The Experience Mindset: Act on employee feedback surveys. Fewer than one-third (31%) of employees say their company excels in acting on employee feedback.
Go into 2024 refreshed and sorted!
So, there is our top 10 business books to take you into the holidays so you can emerge refreshed to blast off in 2024.
These books don’t read like textbooks – they're like having a chat with the brightest business minds out there.
Growth Faculty is famous for its events featuring the world’s brightest minds. Many of our speakers are bestselling authors with their books selling in the millions.
We have the wonderful privilege of reading these books and providing a platform for the authors to explain the concepts and frameworks in their books.
We offer live virtual events most weeks of the year! See our latest program of live virtual and in-person events and why not boost your professional development and join us.
*Ts & Cs for Booktopia offer:
Get an extra 10% off at Booktopia!*
*Ends 11.59pm, 30-Apr-2024. Offer applied at checkout and cannot be used with any other offer. Not applicable on eBooks, eTexts, Gift Certificates, Gift Wrapping, magazines, digital subscriptions or the cost of shipping.
Want to look back at our Best Business Books of 2022? Read on.....
Former PepsiCo CEO and Chair Indra talks in detail about the work involved to become and hold the position of a Fortune 50 CEO. She is candid about how executives climbing the ‘women’s ladder’ face many headwinds, but, having experienced many of her own, she says she 'won the lottery' with her progressive and supportive family and fair bosses.
Indra Nooyi shared behaviours of bosses who were ‘tailwinds’ in her career:
· They looked at me as a talent, not as a woman.
· They didn’t speak to the men in a certain way and me in another.
· They threw me the same challenges as the men and gave me the same unreachable goals!
· They held us all to the highest standard. They made us feel like equal leaders.
· They never rolled their eyes at me, and never talked over me.
· They made me feel a valued member of the team.
· They did the ‘human” thing in supporting me as a human being with a family.
94% of employees say they’re more likely to stay at a company that invests in their learning and development. (Clear Company)
Whitney Johnson, author and CEO of Disruption Advisors, explains why it's so important.
“There is a yearning, deep-bellied, to learn and grow," she says, explaining why she wrote her new book Smart Growth. "Starting to coast is a bad idea, comfort zones are the bane of growth,”
Whitney says growth follows a predictable path, which she calls the ‘S Curve of Learning.’ It starts at a launch point, moves to a sweet spot, then mastery.
Stephen Covey says an innovative and agile culture for the future requires 'Trust and Inspire' leadership.
'Trust and Inspire' leaders see the whole person, and they see leadership as a stewardship.
1. They model – “who we are”
2. They trust others – “how we lead”
3. They inspire others – “connecting to our why”
'Trust and Inspire' leaders know people have multiple layers, says Stephen. Body, heart, mind, spirit. When people come to work they bring their whole selves, even when in ‘work mode’.
Daniel Pink is a New York Times bestselling author and speaker. In our interview on The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward he tells us how regret is a storytelling process that we can use to our advantage to better our lives.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos used regrets to better his life, for example. In the 1990s he was deciding whether to leave his job to start his company on the fledgling World Wide Web. He told an interviewer he imagined himself at age 80 regretting not having tried.
"I knew that would haunt me every day, and so, when I thought about it that way, it was an incredibly easy decision," he told Jessica Stillman of Inc.
Daniel Pink told Growth Faculty this type of regret is a boldness regret, one of four core categories of human regret. The others include foundation regrets, moral regrets, and connection regrets.
A survey by Microsoft of 30,000 workers found that over 70% wanted flexible, remote work options after the pandemic ended.
Takako says there are unique challenges for the virtual workforce and leaders must work hard to Identify when team members are struggling. In video conferencing, for example, all we see is a person’s face - and Takako says "people are good at putting on a good face" during a short interaction.
Takako's signs an employee might be struggling:
- Reduced productivity. Fails to meet deadlines, acts disengaged, late in responding to emails.
- Longer work hours - Gets buried in tasks; stays online longer which may signal they are trying to stay on top of their work. Encourage employees to wrap up their day at a reasonable time.
- Looking tired and disconnected. Take the time to schedule one on one meetings to understand their issues.
The International Business Development head at ROHTO Pharmaceutical Company, Takako Hirata has extensive experience leading remote teams, overseeing 5 subsidiary CEOs, dozens of direct reports, and more than 100 employees across 5 continents.
Indispensable people exist in every organisation. Leaders know exactly who they are. They "play bigger" when others just do their job, and Multiplier leadership behaviours are a clue to building a team of such impact players says Liz Wiseman, author of Impact Players and Multipliers.
For this book, Liz’s research team spoke to 170 leaders in 10 countries from companies including Adobe, NASA, Salesforce, SAP, Splunk, Google, LinkedIn, and Target about their most competent individual contributors.
Traits of impact players include:
- While others do their job, Impact Players do the job that’s needed.
- While others wait for direction, Impact Players step up and lead.
Katy Milkman, PhD, is an award-winning behavioural scientist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She’s worked with dozens of organisations to encourage positive change including Google, Walmart, the US Department of Defense and the American Red Cross.
We all have bad behaviours and stubborn habits. Katy told our book club that we must identify our personal obstacles that are barriers to change. These obstacles to change are:
· Impulsivity – we favour instant gratification over larger long-term rewards.
· Procrastination – we falsely believe willpower will kick in.
· Forgetfulness – the average adult forgets 3 things each day.
· Laziness – we take the path of least resistance to solve problems.
· Confidence – sometimes we have poor self-belief.
· Conformity – we copy behaviours of those around us.
“The internal obstacles that stand in the way of change such as temptation, forgetfulness, underconfidence, and laziness, are like the symptoms of a chronic disease. They won’t just ‘go away’ when you start ‘treating’ them. They’re human nature and require constant vigilance,” says Katy.
So, the message is: It's not "Make the change' it's 'Keep making the change.'
What stops a CEO being mediocre?
And what are the methods and mindsets of the world’s best CEOs?
Three McKinsey & Company’s senior partners set out to find out for their new book, CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest.
The McKinsey trio Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, and Vikram Malhotra conducted detailed interviews with a representative sample of 67 high-performing CEOs and paired it with McKinsey’s data on 7,800 CEOs from 3,500 public companies across 70 countries and 24 industries.
Six key responsibilities of CEOs emerged:
- Setting the direction
- Aligning the organisation
- Mobilising through leaders
- Engaging the board
- Connecting with stakeholders
- Managing personal effectiveness
“We concluded there is no clear pattern. The key takeaway was that despite their different approaches, every CEO at every stage of their tenure meaningfully tended to all six responsibilities.”
“Effective onboarding new team members is the starting point of building a great organization. Yet most companies do a terrible job of it.” – Dr Kaihan Krippendorff, author and founder
‘Onboarded.’is the latest book from Brad Giles who will conduct a live virtual masterclass in February 2023 for Growth Faculty called Onboarded: Fast Track New Hires to Success.
His latest book teaches leaders how to improve productivity, retention, profitability, and culture using onboarding.
It also outlines the two main tools to use for effective onboarding.
Brad Giles has spent more than 20 years as a serial entrepreneur, strategic planner and leadership coach. Brad is also the author of Made to Thrive: The Five Roles to Evolve Beyond Your Leadership Comfort Zone, a prescriptive guide on how to become a great leader.
Chelsea Pottenger is on a mission to have businesses prioritise their employees’ mental health. In The Mindful High Performer Chelsea told a story of not making the NSW State Basketball team when a teenager, and being told by her coach “You’re just not good enough….yet.”
Chelsea says the “yet” was the gift, as it took the full-stop off how she saw her potential. She says psychologists have tweaked the “Practice makes perfect” mantra to a more helpful:
“Practice makes progress!”
Building grit activity: As yourself “What am I not good at?” Then add the word “yet”. It should look something like this: “I can’t………..yet. However, if I………………..(actions)…success still lies ahead.”
Chelsea's book also deals with topics such as meditation, sleep, mindfulness, nutrition, relationships, and digital distractions.
And, a bonus best business book!
Global speaker Patrick Lencioni is best known as the author of multi-million bestseller The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (also highly recommended by Growth Faculty). The 6 Types of Working Genius explores ways we can find happiness and fulfilment at work.
*Indra Nooyi, My Life in Full was published in 2021 and featured on Growth Faculty in early 2022 so is listed here. It's a highly recommended read for all CEOs and executives.