The 7 best books that every CEO should read

Best CEO Books

There are many different ways that leaders learn, and reading books is one of my favorite ways to open my mind to new thinking and expand my perspective.

Personally, I like to always have at least a couple of books I’m reading; and even when I don’t entirely agree with all of the concepts in a book, I always gain some insight that sticks with me.

The following seven books are ones that I have returned to throughout my 35-year career and that I often recommend to CEOs seeking new ideas and inspiration:


1. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni

5 dysfunctions of a team book cover

“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” outlines obstacles that lead to underperforming teams, and recommends steps to overcome them.

One major obstacle Lencioni discusses is a lack of trust. Lencioni notes that when there is an inattention to results, status and ego can take over and lead to finger-pointing that fractures teams.

Trust is the foundation for creating cohesive teams, encouraging innovation and ultimately achieving organizational goals. In thriving organizations, trust is largely built on integrity, transparency and the belief that everyone has a voice and ideas to help the company succeed.

2. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

4 agreements book cover

“The Four Agreements” offers a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform the workplace. The agreements are:

  • Be impeccable with your word. When leaders say they’re going to do something, it’s non-negotiable that they deliver on their promise.
  • Don’t take anything personally. When leaders are constantly trying to preserve their egos, the team is unable to move forward and progress toward its goals.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Great leaders are intentional with their communication. They ask questions instead of jumping to conclusions.
  • Always do your best. There are no shortcuts in the path to success.

While these principles extend beyond business, they truly are the fundamentals needed for great leadership.

3. Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips

Lincoln on Leadership book cover

“Lincoln on Leadership” examines President Lincoln’s leadership abilities and details how they can be applied to today’s complex world.

President Lincoln exemplified the importance of humility in his effort to abandon command and control leadership. Even amid intense pressure, he showed discernment, taking the time to pause instead of reacting too quickly. It is amazing how perspectives change when leaders give themselves the time and space to really think through decisions.

4. Strategic Selling by Robert Miller and Stephen Heiman, with Tad Tuleja

Strategic Selling book cover

“Strategic Selling” emphasizes the importance of being able to speak your customers’ language. Great leaders understand what their customers are trying to fix, accomplish, or avoid and how their product or service will help their customer achieve their goals. When leaders stay close to their customers’ evolving needs, they’re able to build lasting relationships, ensuring long-term success in the ever-changing business world.

5. Good to Great by Jim Collins

Good to Great book cover

“Good to Great” is another must-read as it helps CEOs better understand where their company provides value. According to Collins, “Level Five” leaders display a powerful mixture of personal humility and indomitable will.

Many of us know Collins’ famous line about having the “right people in the right seats on the bus.” I’ve seen firsthand how a coworker taking on a new and different role in the organization can lead to incredible success for both the individual and the business.

6. For the Brand New CEO:

The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale

For those just starting out on their CEO journey, “The Strangest Secret” provides a helpful reminder of the importance of mindset to leadership success.

Nightingale was ahead of his time in the now well-established concept that people’s thoughts shape their reality and can determine their success.

This is why great leaders focus on articulating the company mission, vision and purpose to their teams. When everyone knows what success looks like, everyone works together toward the goals. While it sounds straightforward, it is certainly not easy. This powerful concept has stayed with me throughout my career.

7. For the Seasoned CEO:

From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life by Arthur C. Brooks

Strength to Strength book cover

Finally, it can feel lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be. The role of the CEO is challenging, and “From Strength to Strength” offers a roadmap for finding purpose and meaning as leaders reach the end of a successful career and decide on the next chapter. Brooks shares how intentional focus on priorities and habits can pave the way for fulfillment.

This story was first published in Entrepreneur. 


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Category : Leadership

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About the Author: Sam Reese

Sam Reese is CEO of Vistage, the world’s largest CEO coaching and peer advisory organization for small and midsize businesses. Over his 35 year career as a business leader, Sam has led large and midsize organizatio

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