What Books Have Profoundly Impacted Business Leaders?

What Books Have Profoundly Impacted Business Leaders?

Diving into the wisdom of fifteen business magnates, we've compiled a list of must-read books that have shaped their leadership and strategic thinking. From a business builder's focus on core values to a Co-founder & CEO's cultivation of success through clear goals, discover the diverse literary influences that guide today's industry leaders in their approach to business.

  • ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’
  • 'How to Win Friends and Influence People'
  • ‘Made to Stick’
  • ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’
  • 'Major Account Sales Strategy' and 'SPIN Selling'
  • ‘Deep Work’
  • ‘Leaders Eat Last’
  • ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’
  • ‘Crossing the Chasm’
  • ‘The E-Myth Revisited’
  • 'Start with Why'
  • 'Thinking, Fast and Slow'
  • ‘Leadership Strategy and Tactics’
  • ‘Good to Great’
  • ‘The Lean Startup’
  • 'Think and Grow Rich'

‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck’

Mark Manson's book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, has deeply influenced my approach, not just to my business, but also to my clients' businesses, by teaching me to focus on what truly matters.

His straightforward advice on setting priorities helps channel a business owner's energy into projects and goals that align with their core values, which, in essence, is their “Make or Break.” Manson's views on embracing challenges and learning from failures also encourage a resilient culture in business, viewing setbacks as growth opportunities.

Bruce BakerBusiness Builder, Workplaces

'How to Win Friends and Influence People'

Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People—a cliché choice, I know, but as someone who transitioned from being a programmer to being a successful business owner, I found that the book provided a good primer to fill in some major gaps for me. It was among the first things that made me comprehensively think about what it really meant to be someone in my position, and the responsibilities of being the face of an organization when it came to networking, selling, and just generally getting people to like both myself and my business.

So many books have borrowed from Carnegie, but in my opinion, everyone should read this book first and foremost, before moving on to more modern texts.

Dragos Badea
Dragos BadeaCEO, Yarooms

‘Made to Stick’

One book that has profoundly influenced my approach to business as a digital marketer is Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. This book dives deep into why some ideas thrive while others die, providing insights directly applicable to crafting marketing messages that resonate and endure. The authors discuss the six key qualities of an idea that's 'sticky'—simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and story-based—which helps develop campaigns that capture attention and maintain it.

Applying these principles, I've been able to design marketing strategies that are more impactful and memorable. For instance, focusing on simplifying complex information has enabled me to create clearer, more effective customer communications. This approach not only improves engagement rates, but also enhances the overall effectiveness of our digital marketing efforts, making it easier to measure ROI and adjust tactics accordingly.

Vaibhav Kakkar
Vaibhav KakkarCEO, Digital Web Solutions

‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz reshaped my perspective on entrepreneurship. This book doesn't sugarcoat the harsh realities of running a business, offering practical advice for handling failure, conflicts, layoffs, and tough decisions. Horowitz's candid approach and emphasis on perseverance resonate deeply, showing that successful leaders don't quit.

This inspired me to face challenges head-on and lead my team unwaveringly. The book's real-world examples and authentic narratives guide entrepreneurs through every stage of building and scaling a business.

Marco Genaro Palma
Marco Genaro PalmaFreelance CMO and SEO Consultant, SEO Coach

'Major Account Sales Strategy' and 'SPIN Selling'

I've personally found Major Account Sales Strategy and SPIN Selling, both by Neil Rackham, to be game-changers. During the early days of my tech startup in the healthcare sector, securing our first client and channel partnerships was a massive challenge due to slow decision-making, risk aversion, and changing stakeholders within the organizations we targeted. I lacked a clear framework for navigating these complex sales environments, which initially made me question my own capabilities. Reading these books provided clarity and practical strategies, such as focusing on situational questions to better understand the client's needs, which were crucial for moving our deals forward.

Rafael Sarim Özdemir
Rafael Sarim ÖzdemirFounder & CEO,

‘Deep Work’

Deep Work by Cal Newport is a game-changer for business leaders seeking to maximize their productivity and focus in an increasingly distracted world. What sets this book apart is its compelling argument for the value of deep, concentrated work in an age of constant connectivity and shallow distractions.

This book has profoundly impacted my approach to business by highlighting the importance of prioritizing meaningful, focused work over constant busyness. Newport's insights into the benefits of deep work for creativity, productivity, and professional success have inspired me to reevaluate how I structure my time and attention.

One key takeaway from Deep Work is the idea that sustained, undistracted focus is essential for producing high-quality work and achieving long-term goals. Newport offers practical strategies for cultivating deep work habits, such as minimizing distractions, setting clear boundaries, and embracing boredom as a catalyst for creativity.

As I implement the principles outlined in Deep Work, I've been able to enhance my productivity, tackle challenging projects more effectively, and ultimately drive better results for my business.

This book has been instrumental in helping me harness the power of focused attention to thrive in today's fast-paced business environment.

Marissa Sabrina
Marissa SabrinaCreative Director, LeadLearnLeap

‘Leaders Eat Last’

There are few books that have had a bigger impact on me than Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. The book looks into the concept of leadership that is based on trust, collaboration, and empathy, because great leaders need to prioritize the overall well-being and success of their teams above their own—a servant leader, to use the Scrum term.

The book helped crystallize my own leadership style, which is very much in line with what Sinek outlines, because I've long ago realized that a good leader is one who takes themselves out of the process as much as possible, except to enable the team of experts they've hired to do their jobs. By focusing on building strong relationships and not letting ego get in the way, you become the best version of a leader you can be, in my opinion.

Kate Kandefer
Kate KandeferCEO, SEOwind

‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’

I'm going to go against the grain here and mention a book that has little to do with business:

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

This 1984 novel is ostensibly about two women, two men, and a dog during the 1960s Prague uprising against Soviet occupation, but it's really a philosophical experiment that forces the reader to examine how randomness reigns supreme despite our best efforts.

As an admitted control freak, it was an influential metaphor, one that left me thinking deeply about the struggles I self-inflict.

Most business owners can relate. We tend to be type-A personalities who believe hard work trumps all, and while that mindset can lead to great success, it can also turn imposing and burdensome when things go wrong (as they inevitably do.)

After reading this book, I stopped rallying against factors I didn't sway, and instead, leaned into the beauty of unexpected outcomes. In business, these are often the events that wind up bringing progress and prosperity, and I soon realized that by trying to assert my dominance over every facet of industry, I was actually shutting the door to unforeseen opportunities.

Travis Hann
Travis HannPartner, Pender & Howe

‘Crossing the Chasm’

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore has been a game-changer for me, especially in understanding the complexities of marketing technology products. Moore's technology adoption lifecycle model, which focuses on the specifics of marketing high-tech products moving from early adopters to the mainstream market, has reshaped how I approach product launches and audience targeting. The book emphasizes the importance of focusing on niche markets before attempting to cross into the mainstream, a critical strategy in the competitive digital space.

Utilizing these insights, I've tailored my marketing efforts to suit each segment of the adoption curve better, ensuring that messaging and campaigns are precisely aligned with the expectations and needs of each group. This targeted approach has significantly increased the effectiveness of our digital marketing strategies, leading to higher conversion rates and a more robust, loyal customer base.

Sahil Kakkar
Sahil KakkarCEO & Founder, RankWatch

‘The E-Myth Revisited’

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber taught me that building a successful business requires more than just hard work—it requires smart, strategic thinking and a commitment to creating systems that support long-term growth and success.

Jodi Brandstetter
Jodi BrandstetterStrategic HR Consultant & Brand Positioning Expert, Lean Effective Talent Strategies

'Start with Why'

Simon Sinek's leadership book, Start with Why, has had a particularly strong impact on me. This book emphasizes the value of understanding the deeper reasons for our actions, and communicating this 'why' in order to inspire others.

The book has reshaped my leadership style by encouraging me to make decisions and guide my team based on purpose and vision. I have found that clearly articulating the reasons for our goals and strategies helps to motivate my team, and fosters a collaborative and committed work environment.

This approach not only increases engagement, but also produces more meaningful outcomes.

Kim Maine
Kim MaineChief Numbler, Numble

'Thinking, Fast and Slow'

One book that I recommend over and over again is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It's not so much a business-specific book, as it deals with how we think and how we make decisions.

As a business leader, you always want to make the smartest decision, but what this book made me realize was that, often, my decisions were based less on strategic thinking and more on misleading heuristics. Understanding this has allowed me to really take a step back and look at problems as if it were the first time I'm seeing them, without letting preconceived ideas distort them. It's been amazing how different the outcome has often been after forcing myself to do this exercise.

Elyas Coutts
Elyas CouttsCEO, Connect Vending

‘Leadership Strategy and Tactics’

Leadership Strategy and Tactics by Jocko Willink has profoundly shaped my approach to leadership. Willink's book emphasizes the importance of balancing the strategic oversight of a leader with the tactical know-how of frontline operations. This perspective has encouraged me to be more involved in the day-to-day operations of our IT services and cybersecurity efforts, ensuring that our strategies are effectively implemented and aligned with our ground-level operations.

Adopting Willink’s principles has led to significant improvements in how we handle project management and client engagements. His advice on leading from the front and taking ownership of both successes and failures has cultivated a more accountable and proactive organizational culture.

In a specific case study within our cybersecurity division, after applying Willink’s tactics, we noticed a 40% improvement in project completion times and a 25% reduction in critical incidents. This was a direct result of more streamlined decision-making processes and enhanced team empowerment, which allowed for quicker responses to security threats and more efficient project turnarounds.

Konrad Martin
Konrad MartinCEO, Tech Advisors

‘Good to Great’

As a business leader, there are countless books that have influenced my approach to business. However, one book that has profoundly impacted my perspective is Good to Great by Jim Collins. This book takes a deep dive into the characteristics of companies that have made the leap from being good to becoming truly great. It examines the key principles and strategies that these companies employed to achieve long-term success.

Reading this book helped me understand the importance of building a strong organizational culture, hiring the right people, and focusing on sustained growth rather than short-term gains. It taught me valuable lessons on how to lead and manage a business effectively, and had a lasting impact on my approach to business strategy and decision-making.

Michael Gargiulo
Michael GargiuloFounder, CEO,

‘The Lean Startup’

The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries: I realized that the methodology in this book. was very useful for today's business needs. Some of the mind-blowing statements that I enjoyed are:

- If a task doesn't add value to the client, it should be left behind.

- If the business is not going well, pivot.

- Use your time and efforts to validate a product first, then the company.

The book impacted me because I come from the traditional way of starting a business: with a business plan. But how can you make it without data to back your decisions? That's where the Lean method comes in handy for businesses, old and new.

Jean Devenish
Jean DevenishInternational SEO Consultant, Unmaze It

'Think and Grow Rich'

The book that played a crucial role in shaping my business approach is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Hill's principles of success and personal achievement are timeless, and have empowered me as a tech CEO, to not just dream about success, but actually pave the way towards it. The concept of defining clear goals and having an unwavering belief in their attainment has had a profound impact on our company's mission and vision.

It's a guidebook that frames the mindset for persistence, leadership, and harnessing the power of teamwork and mastermind alliances in business.

Abid Salahi
Abid SalahiCo-founder & CEO, FinlyWealth

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