What’s On Your Favorite Business Leaders’ Bookshelves?

To make an impact in the business sphere, students need to stay on the pulse of latest business strategies, market dynamics, and evolving business models. As the saying goes “those who read shall lead”.

There’s no shortage of content so the first question is – where to start? Leaders like Bill Gates, Ben Horowitz, Elon Musk, etc. have all carved out a niche for themselves through their innovative business endeavours. Following their reading routine and recommendations is a great first step.

We curated a list of books that are packed with insights and should be a worthy addition to your personal library. All recommendations have been highly touted, garnering rave reviews from industry experts and business professionals alike.

Have a look at the following and consider adding any or all to your must read list!

1. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog was featured on Bill Gates’ Favourite Books of 2016 and Gates deems it to be ‘refreshingly honest’ as he believes that Phil opened up in a way few CEOs are comfortable doing. Nike’s swoosh is recognized the world over, and the company itself has grown into a $29.6 billion enterprise. Yet its founder, Phil Knight, until this release has been a figure shrouded in mystery among Fortune 500 executives.

This memoir maps his journey from selling imported Japanese shoes from the back of his Plymouth Valiant to creating one of the most valuable athletic brands in the world. Hailed as a brutally honest and critical account of his own shortcomings and struggles, this book upends all your assumptions about a nascent startup and introduces you to the the fascinating reality behind it all. Phil is curiously different from most typical CEOs who adorn the front covers of venerable business magazines. He is modest, shy, and critical of his own accomplishments. Readers will be pleased to find they’re more likely to connect with Phil than the towering and distant personalities of some CEOs.

According to Gates, the odd mix of employees Knight pooled together to kickstart his company based on their passion for sports resonated with his own ideals of hiring people with a specific set of skills for Microsoft. For Nike, hiring a former track star who was paralysed after a boating accident or a salesman obsessed with penning letters to Knight hardly seemed like a recipe for success, but their passion and association with athletics created excellent problem solvers out of them. Aspiring leaders can pick up valuable lessons from Knight’s journey. He had a strong aversion to micromanagement and trusted his employees to drive their vision to fruition.

2. Lean In For Graduates by Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 stupendous success, Lean In, spearheaded a global movement for workplace equality. Oprah Winfrey described it as, “Honest and brave . . . The new manifesto for women in the workplace.” Sheryl’s boss and founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said, “For the past five years, I’ve sat at a desk next to Sheryl and I’ve learned something from her almost every day. She has a remarkable intelligence that can cut through complex processes and find solutions to the hardest problems. Lean In combines Sheryl’s ability to synthesize information and get the best out of people. The book is smart and honest and funny. Her words will help all readers―especially men―to become better and more effective leaders”

Followed by its roaring success, Sheryl released Lean In For Graduates, which was marketed as a handbook for the next generation. Along with lessons from the original book, this version comes packed with six additional chapters entailing tips from experts on finding the first job, negotiating salary with finesse, resolving workplace dilemmas, and what ‘leaning in’ means for women of colour and millennial men. A fresh perspective by a male has been put forward on breaking gender disparity. In one of the chapters titled as Man Up: Millennial Men and Equality, Kunal Modi, a McKinsey consultant, talks how men must consider contributing to domestic chores as their responsibility, and not treat it to be an act of charity. He says, “I’m not helping my fiancé by making dinner, I’m simply making dinner.”

Also included are stories of youngsters from around the world who conquered their fears to achieve commendable feats. Plus, a ‘Letter to Graduates’ from Sheryl! This version comes packed with more gritty tales about women of all ages and ethnicities with diverse industry backgrounds and income brackets.

3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, is a big bookworm. His office is stacked with books, and he once even claimed he can’t live without books. Incidentally, his own book, Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, recently hit the shelves. It’s a peek inside the tech revolution at Microsoft and how artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and quantum computing are disrupting the business landscape. It also chronicles Satya’s own personal journey from his humble roots in India to the glistening corporate corridors of Microsoft. After reading Hit Refresh, explore some of Nadella’s book recommendations, especially Ben Horowitz’ The Hard Thing About Hard Things.

Ben’s commentary on turning tech companies into tech giants is unparalleled, it’s also the reason why many entrepreneurs seek his guidance. Need help forming your own leadership psychology? Dealing with smart people who are bad employees? Is it the right time to cash in? This book is an indispensable resource for building and growing a business. Ben also narrates the incidents of near-death experiences in his company and its eventual buyout by Hewlett-Packard. He also debunks the myth that running a business is fun. “The biggest myth is that it’s fun. The reality is that creating and running a business is an incredibly tough grind, and it’s emotionally debilitating. It can be euphoric, but more often than not, it’s terrifying.”

As the adage goes -don’t judge the book by its cover or lyrics. Yes, lyrics. As a diehard rap fan, Horowitz has inserted quirky lyrics from his favourite songs to make it an interesting read! The unique insights derived from his own experiences at scaling business ventures are nothing short of a Bible for fledgling entrepreneurs. Once you’re done with this book, be sure to follow it up with other books Horowitz recommends for managers, entrepreneurs, and investors.

4. The Inner Lives of Markets: How People Shape Them—And They Shape Us by Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan

If you’re looking for inspiring Silicon Valley experts to follow, you’re bound to find Reid Hoffman, the Co-Founder and Chairman of LinkedIn. Not only is he a partner at the venture-capital firm, Greylock Partners, which has backed companies such as Airbnb and Facebook, but he also launched his own podcast channel, Masters of Scale, which deals with the art and craft of creating businesses with a special focus on innovation.

The Inner Lives of Markets: How People Shape Them-And They Shape Us is one of his most recommended books. Written by Fisman, a behavioural economics professor and Sullivan, the editorial director for Harvard Business Review Press, the book examines the intellectual history of economics and the crucial role markets have played in transforming our economy from WWII to the 2000s. For Reid Hoffman, “This book is essential reading for any non-economist who wants to understand how markets shape our world, including transformational marketplaces like Amazon, Airbnb, and eBay.”

It argues that electronic communications are a complementary force not a driving force in revolutionising the way we buy and sell. Instead, the revolution has been mostly played out by the economic theories underlying the market dynamics. These economic forces have seeped into the very fabric of our everyday lives, impacting how we sell and buy things. Not only that, it also highlights our role in impacting this revolution. Whenever we participate in hiring online or viewing paid advertisements, we are reshaping social institutions governing our lives.

5. Building the Internet of Things: Implement New Business Models, Disrupt Competitors, Transform Your Industry by Maciej Kranz

The ‘Internet of Things’ is one technology which has everyone excited. With the ubiquity of connected devices and the proliferation of high-speed Internet, it is bound for greater acceleration. With Internet of Things booming, professionals from all industries need to gain a nuanced understanding of how industry and technology intersect to drive innovation and value. From supply chain to online marketing, every facet of business is set for a radical transformation.

As the Vice President of the Corporate Strategic Innovation Group at Cisco Systems, Maciej Kranz, the author of this book holds considerable authority on the subject matter. Offering sensible business and technology strategies for businesses to cater to their B2B market segment and augment their bottom line successfully, it’s packed with case studies of organisations which have been driving innovation by leveraging ‘Internet of Things’ in their strategy. Harley Davidson is one such company mentioned. To align its production and IT goals, the company converged several of its networks into one, and consolidated its data islands. Such a strategic change culminated into cost-savings, productivity enhancement and swifter decision making. The book clarifies that the IoT is being adopted and encouraged not just for the sake of it, but because it has the potential to create huge value.

Successful people are well-aware how important self-learning is for their personal development. That’s why so many devote a considerable chunk of their day to reading. When Steve Siebold, a self-made millionaire, interviewed around 1,200 wealthy and successful people across the globe he traced a common pattern; they believed in self-educating themselves through reading. For them, learning goes way beyond the college classroom.

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