What the top, successful managers are reading

…and you should too!

As a manager, you are responsible for driving action in your team; motivating each member in your team; and supplying enough resources and information for your team to get super work done. In short, it’s a tall order!

And, I for one, can’t stop believing that there are better stores of information than books — stories, biographies, self-helps, guides — for just about anything you wish to accomplish.

Did you know that the most successful people are never really ‘too busy to read’?

Multi-billionaire Warren Buffett reads 600–1,000 pages each day. Bill Gates gets through 50 books a year. Oprah Winfrey is a voracious reader.

And the best of all is Elon Musk. When someone asked how he learnt to build rockets, Elon Musk replied, “I read books.”

If your goal is to build great products, establish companies that will garner name and fame, or you know, build rockets, here’s our list of suggestions to begin your book reading journey with.

Management:

  1. What Management is: And Why it’s Everyone’s Business, by Joan Magretta
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Written by Joan Magretta, a former editor at Harvard Business Review in collaboration with Nan Stone, the book talks to new and seasoned managers. It offers samples and real-life stories about management concepts like value creation, business models, competitive strategy, and organizational design.

If you’re going to read one book on management — let it be this one.

The book takes the wisdom of a huge sea of books and articles and presents it into one simple, clear volume, explaining both the logic of successful organizations, and how that logic works in practice.

Here’s how the authors of this book sum it up: “Think of this book as everything you wanted to know about management but were afraid to ask.”

2. One Minute Manager, by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Besides boasting of a very interesting title, the book is a concise, easy-to-read story that reveals three very practical secrets: One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Reprimands. The book uses behavioral sciences to clearly explain why these apparently simple methods work so well with so many people.

What do they really mean? There’s only one way to find out. Buy it here.

3. Good to Great, by James C. Collins

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Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. After the leap, “the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world’s greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck”, according to various reviews.

So if you’re looking for ways to understand how companies — good, mediocre, and bad — can achieve timeless greatness, look no further than Good to Great.

Finance:

  1. Financial Intelligence: A Manager’s Guide to Knowing What the Numbers Really Mean, by Joe Knight, John Case, and Karen Berman

Numbers matter. And this book tells you why exactly. Inc. magazine calls it one of “the best, clearest guides to the numbers” on the market. Readers agree, saying it’s exactly “what I need to know” and calling it a “must-read” for decision makers without expertise in finance. Also, it’s got a stellar 4.1/5 on Goodreads.

If you’re a manager, you’re going to need numbers and metrics to back up any campaign or project you undertake. If you’re fairly new to the concept of finances, go read this one to brush up on the quintessential tools of management.

Self-help/Humour

  1. The New Yorker Book of Business Cartoons, by Robert Mankoff
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Thanks to this book and the many cartoonists who feature in it, you can understand complicated management concepts with some fun and humour. The New Yorker Book of Business Cartoons is a collection of 110 of the best drawings that lampoon the world of business, as selected by New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff. The cartoons date from 1938 to the present and include the work of The New Yorker’s finest artists, including George Booth, Peter Arno, Roz Chast, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Leo Cullum, and William Hamilton.

Throughout its narrative, the book touches upon topics like the rise of women in business and stock market anxieties. As New Yorker editor David Remnick says in the introduction, “They are perhaps the most important thing The New Yorker publishes.”

2. Managing Humans, by Michael Lopp

You know that phenomenon in Silicon Valley where there are tense areas full of dysfunctional bright people who are in an incredible hurry to find the next big thing so they can strike it rich and then do it all over again?

This book tells you why people always and always matter more than code. If you’re an aspiring manager, or the one that’s successful enough, this book has a story for management folks at all levels. I believe it’ll come very handy in introducing you to all the concepts of coordination, stakeholder management, and the empathy required to develop a people-oriented management style and team.

3. Stealing Fire, by Steven Kotler & Jamie Wheal

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Over the past decade, Silicon Valley executives like Eric Schmidt and Elon Musk, Special Operators like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets, and maverick scientists like Sasha Shulgin and Amy Cuddy have been “harnessing rare and controversial states of consciousness to solve critical challenges and outperform the competition.”

The book talks at length about ‘ecstasis’ meaning “to be or stand outside oneself, a removal to elsewhere”, how this state of mind can be harnessed to achieve personal & professional goals and equates the time needed to achieve ecstasis with the risks and rewards involved.

According to Harper Collins Publishers, this book talks about how the “spreading revolution is fueling a trillion dollar underground economy, and forcing us to rethink how we can all lead richer, more productive, more satisfying lives.”

Btw, the book is credited as a National Bestseller by CNBC, and you can find it here.

4. The Leading Brain, by Hans W. Hagemann

The shorter description of this book according to Goodreads:

“A cutting-edge guide to applying the latest research in brain science to leadership — to sharpen performance, encourage innovation, and enhance job satisfaction.”

Goodreads further explains that the book tries to show how the business world is directly correlated to that of the brain’s functionality, exploding long-held myths about our everyday cognitive performance and fundamentally changing the way we engage and succeed in the workplace.

Bait enough? Here’s a longer review for you to deep dive into.


I hope you enjoy reading these books as much as I loved curating them for you. But of course, it’d be unfair to leave it at reading alone in helping us become successful leaders. The real power of knowledge lies in applying it to tackle real-life situations, at work or beyond.

This is also what sets successful people apart from the rest. They learn and read, everyday, and find ways to translate it into their work.

Do let me know if you’ve been able to do this by leaving a comment below :)