The business section of any bookshop is rife with clichés about how you can be the best leader you can be. These books tell you that you should take risks and not be afraid to fail. This is all fine. But this kind of advice isn’t worth buying for $19.99. Especially when you can buy a motivational poster that says the same thing.
When you are looking for a book by a successful CEO, you want to look for substance. You want the right content in the right context. Of course, writing a book isn’t easy, even if you are a Fortune 500 CEO. But if you, as a reader, are going to spend not just your money but your time on it, you want to take away more than just a couple of key takeaways.
Here are 10 of the best non-cliché books written by successful CEOS:
The Hard Thing about Hard Things
Ben Horowitz is the co-founder of one of the most sought after venture capital firms in the United States – Andreessen Horowitz. His book offers a humorous and practical insight into dealing with real world problems that business people do not encounter in the classroom.
Horowitz is interested in entrepreneurs who are willing to fight for what they believe in. He believes that struggle is an essential part of entrepreneurship. In his book, he implores his readers to “embrace the struggle.”
Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time
In this book, Howard Schultz unpacks the way that he changed the world through café culture. As the CEO of Starbucks, Schultz has plenty of advice to offer readers from his experience in creating a global phenomenon.
In his book, Schultz offers valuable advice when he tells readers that “mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last.”
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are the co-founders of Basecamp. Fried serves as the company’s CEO and Hansson serves as the CTO.
In their book, the pair throw away all of the old rules of business. The book is packed with interesting content that is especially geared towards internet businesses. Some of the best advice this give is regarding product development. The pair write that “the easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use.”
Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book
Jack Welch was the chairman and CEO of General Electric from 1981 until 2001 when he retired. Welch led his company around the globe for decades. He entered multiple markets. He watched as trends came and went. He worked through the dotcom revolution and into the digital age.
For Welch, the book is all about the real world. His book is aimed at people at every level of organizations from new hires to senior executives. Some of his most applicable advice reminds readers that “reality is as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.”
Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy
This book was written by Bill Gates in 1999. Bill Gates is a man who needs no introduction. As the co-founder of Microsoft, he knows a thing or two about pioneering in technology.
Business @ the Speed of Thought was a revolutionary book about data analysis before data analysis even really mattered. But despite this, he writes that “the most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competition … is to do an outstanding job with information.”
In 2014, Sophia Amoruso took the fashion world and the business world by storm when she published #GIRLBOSS. Amoruso has always been a doer. She is the founder, creative director and CEO of Nasty Gal, an online fashion retailer that pulls in more than $100 million a year.
The book offers readers a chance a personal story that reflects both Amoruso’s life and her personality. Rather than deliver the typical motivational quotes, she lets her readers now that they “are not a special snowflake.”
Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose
Deliver Happiness was published by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in 2010.
Hsieh had a conventional career in tech before joining Zappos. In fact, he sold one of his earliest companies to Microsoft for a cool $265 million. When he joined Zappos, he transformed the company into one of the best places to work in America. He did it by focusing on developing a healthy corporate culture.
This corporate philosophy stems from his personal philosophy. In the book, Hsieh says, “I made a list of the happiest periods in my life, and I realized that none of them involved money.”
Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business
John Mackey is the cofounder of Whole Foods Market, a grocery chain that saw growth not only in America but overseas as well.
In his book, he writes about how a company’s stakeholders are not just investors. A company is responsible for its customers, employees, society and the world environment. He sums his theories up well when he says that “the longest journey that people must take is the eighteen inches between their heads and their hearts.”
Taking People With You: The Only Way to Make Big Things Happen
As the CEO of Yum! Brands, David Novak had a lot of insight to share about what it means to lead not just a large organization but a great one. Novak skips the business school jargon and instead focuses on teaching readers how to grab the tools they need to succeed whether they work in the restaurant or they run the company.
In the book, Novak says, “Your ability as a leader to attract, develop and retain people is fundamental to your success. When you get your team right, you’re going to get results.”
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman
This book was published by Yvon Chouinard, the founder and current owner of Patagonia. A climber, environmentalist and businessman, Chouinard wrote this book to be part manifesto and part memoir. The book offers insight into the principles underlying Patagonia.
Both the manifesto and the memoir are summed up clearly when Chouinard writes that “how you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.”
These books are not a one-size-fits-all solution. It is important to read the book that is most suitable for your life. But if you’re looking for a great book that will not just inspire you but mold you into a more successful business person, any of these 10 books will send you down the right path.
Featured photo credit: Robert Scoble via flickr.com