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Six Business Books to Make You a Better CEO

By Bianca Smith • December 11, 2017

Many top CEO's attribute their success to books. Bill Gates has said, "Whether I'm at the office, at home, or on the road, I always have a stack of books I'm looking forward to reading." And he's one of the richest men in the world—who's also done a lot of good. Tesla CEO Elon Musk says he was raised by books. He read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica at age nine and learned a lot about the world from science fiction novels.

There's also research supporting this. Economists at the University of Padua in Italy studied 6,000 men from nine European countries. They found the more books the men had in their childhood homes, the more they earned later. CEO material?

While those growing up with books may have a head start, it's not too late. Here are our favorite books that'll make you a great CEO.

Win-Win Negotiation

Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury was published in 1991 and has the look of a get-rich-quick scheme. But its 200 pages are among the most useful you can read. It teaches separating the emotion and people from discussions to focus on the issue, and to get the best outcomes for all. Keep this one around and re-read it every few years.

Making Change Easier

There's a saying that no one likes change, except a baby. While this is extreme, change is hard. Hard but required. Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath shows that successful change has a structure and with this structure, you can change anything, from companies to your own habits.

Encouraging Your Team's Innovations

Following on from the change management in Swift is The Bright Idea Box. Jag Randhawa looks at the most innovative companies, like Toyota and Google, to see why they are successful. He then created a series of worksheets in the book where you can engage your team to be innovative.

An MBA in a Book

Anything by Michael E. Porter is recommended, but we mainly suggest Competitive Strategy. Michael explains the underlying theory of international business. It sounds dry (especially compared to fast-talking Gary Vaynerchuk) but gives a stronger basis for corporate decision-making helping you look at who is your competition. It's a wider group than you think.

All About the Customer

In What's the Future of Business by Brian Solis introduces the concept of Generation C. C is for customer. Acknowledging the customer is still a new concept for some companies, but those who do seem to perform better. This isn't an academic tome with lots of illustrations and quotes ready to frame (if you're willing to cut up the book, that is). The case studies give reasons and frameworks for how business is changing.

Future CEOs

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson has been the buzz of 2017, mainly with millennials, so perfect to end this list. It's technically a self-help book, but it's career changing. Mark uses his own experiences to show why you need to choose what to get upset or fight for, that we're always learning, we're not that special, and more. These are all things successful CEOs learned from experience. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck gives the knowledge faster and without suffering (even though the book says we need that too).

Read more by Bianca Smith

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