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12 Books Recommended By CEOs That Will Help You Succeed At Work

12 Books Recommended By CEOs That Will Help You Succeed At Work

As business leaders, CEOs face incredible challenges at work. How do they get through it? They seek ideas, inspiration, and strategies from books. Here is a list of 10 novels, works of history, and classic business books that have inspired today’s top CEOs.

1. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras (Jeff Bezos, Amazon)

Built To Last

    “Visionary companies pursue a cluster of objectives, of which making money is only one—and not necessarily the primary one.”

    Jeff Bezos recommends this book because it shows how to create a long lasting company. If you are seeking to build a legacy in business, this modern classic is required reading. Collins and Porras bring outstanding research depth to the book. A key insight from the book is that profit is usually not the only motivation for visionary companies.

    2. The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right by Atul Gawande (Jack Dorsey, Square/Twitter)

    Checklist-Manifesto

      “Good checklists, on the other hand, are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything – a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps – the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss.”

      Jack Dorsey recommends this book because he knows that top notch execution is essential to business. Having good ideas is only part of the equation. Improving performance is a major concern for leaders and CEOs. If you are frustrated with mistakes and errors, building a checklist is a great solution. As Atul Gawande explains, surgeons, doctors, and commercial pilots use check lists to save lives. For a checklist to be useful, it must have a small number of steps that address major problems.

      To get started, read How To Build A Checklist In 6 Steps.

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      3. Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright (Tony Hsieh, Zappos)

      TribalLeadership

        “Change the language in the tribe, and you have changed the tribe itself.”

        Leadership makes the difference between a company that grows and one that fails. We only need to think about corporate scandals and the problems caused by unethical leaders (e.g. Enron) to understand that principle. Tony Hsieh admires the book because it explains the importance of creating a strong company culture. If your organization, department, or team is in trouble, tribal leadership could be the answer.

        4. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson (Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola)

        The Ascent of Money

          “Only when savers can put their money in reliable banks that it can be channeled from the idle to the industrious.”

          In the modern business world, we have endless financial options and resources to use. There are plenty of ways to borrow money and many ways to seek investors. However, the financial system is a human system that can break down. In Ferguson’s book, you will learn how the financial system evolves and the forces that drive it. Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent considers it a great read. On a personal level, I found this book to be an outstanding and highly engaging introduction to economic history.

          5. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Randall Stephenson, AT&T)

          The Brothers Karamazov

            “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”

            A long-standing classic of world literature, The Brothers Karamazov is a powerful read. CEO Randall Stephenson recommended this book in Scouting Magazine. There is much to learn from this book including perspectives on family life and life in Russia. If you’re looking for an engaging work of fiction to read, this book is a great place to start.

            6. The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman (Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase)

            The World is Flat

              “No matter what your profession – doctor, lawyer, architect, accountant – if you are an American, you better be good at the touchy-feely service stuff, because anything that can be digitized can be outsourced to either the smartest or the cheapest producer.”

              Understanding recent changes in the global economy is a challenge. In this popular book, Friedman has explained several key trends including outsourcing and improving technology. As you interact with global customers and competitors, this book will give you a big picture understanding. CEO Jamie Dimon recommends this book (along with The Intelligent Investor) in his suggestion to JP Morgan summer interns.

              7. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil)

              Atlas Shrugged

                “Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won.”

                Atlas Shrugged is a popular book among many successful people. Financial blogger Trent Hamm listed the book as one of the 10 books that changed his life. CEO Rex Tillerson recommends the book because it shows the positive impact that business leaders can make on the world. Published over 50 years ago, the novel remains a popular read in the business community.

                8. The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind (Warren Buffett, Berkshire-Hathaway)

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                The Smartest Guys In The Room

                  “The tale of Enron is a story of human weakness, of hubris and greed and rampant self-delusion; of ambition run amok; of a grand experiment in the deregulated world; of a business model that didn’t work; and of smart people who believed their next gamble would cover their last disaster—and who couldn’t admit they were wrong.”

                  As you build a career, you will be faced with choices. You may have decide whether to take a job or move to a new city. You will also be faced with the decision on whether to act ethically. This book is a great case study in what happens when an unethical focus to produce profits takes over. Warren Buffett has recommended the book. Buffett’s recommendation is in line with his famous newspaper test principle.

                  9. Competing Against Time by George Stalk (Tim Cook, Apple)

                  Competing Against Time

                    “The creation of value by using time as a competitive weapon requires strategies to lock up the most attractive customers to keep competitors at bay.”

                    With millions of customers to impress, it is no surprise that Apple CEO Tim Cook recommends this book. The recommendation is likely influenced by the fact that Cook came up through the ranks with a focus on operations and procurement. After all, if materials and inventory do not arrive on schedule, it is very difficult to run an effective business.

                    10. The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin (Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs)

                    The Discoverers

                      “I have included the story of only a few crucial inventions – the clock, the compass, the telescope and the microscope, the printing press and movable type – which have been essential instruments of discovery… My focus remains on mankind’s need to know – to know what is out there.”

                      Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein has been reading this sweeping history book for years. Much like The World is Flat and The Ascent of Money, this book puts our world into context. You will learn about the people who explored the world, took risks and challenged their society’s ideas. Those are all important lessons to learn as you navigate through new business challenges. This book may also inspire you to keep working if you are working on a new product or a start-up – situations where you are confronted with uncertainty.

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                      11. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (Marilyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin)

                      malcolm_gladwell_blink

                        “We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it…We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world. The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”

                        Gladwell has become a widely quoted and important author for good reason. His insights and storytelling ability have few peers. In Blink, you will learn about the fine art of decision making and how fast decisions work. CEO Marilyn Hewson recommends this book because it helped her to trust her instincts in business.

                        12. Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman (Larry Page, Google)

                        Surely You're Joking

                          “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists.”

                          Google co-founder Larry Page has listed this book as one of his favorites. As a scientist who worked on many different problems in physics and technology, Feynman is a great example of pushing boundaries. As Google continues to develop new products such as driverless cars, one can see the Feynman’s innovative approach shining through. If your business ideas are novel and facing challenges, Feynman’s book will inspire you to keep working at it.

                          Featured photo credit: Jeff Bezos/Desk.com via desk.com

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                          Bruce Harpham

                          Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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                          Last Updated on July 10, 2020

                          How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

                          How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

                          We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

                          We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

                          So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

                          Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

                          What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

                          Boundaries are limits

                          —they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

                          Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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                          Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

                          Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

                          Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

                          How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

                          Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

                          1. Self-Awareness Comes First

                          Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

                          You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

                          To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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                          You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

                          • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
                          • When do you feel disrespected?
                          • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
                          • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
                          • When do you want to be alone?
                          • How much space do you need?

                          You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

                          2. Clear Communication Is Essential

                          Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

                          Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

                          3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

                          Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

                          That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

                          Sample language:

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                          • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
                          • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
                          • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
                          • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
                          • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
                          • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
                          • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

                          Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

                          4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

                          Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

                          Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

                          Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

                          We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

                          It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

                          It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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                          Final Thoughts

                          Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

                          Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

                          Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

                          The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

                          Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

                          Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

                          They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

                          Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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