You discovered our list of the best CEO books.
CEO books are works aimed at top executives, entrepreneurs, founders, and company heads. Performing the CEO role requires a vast skill set and a full-picture mindset. Books written by and for CEOs can help top executives gain the abilities and perspective needed to lead organizations towards success.
This list contains:
- executive leadership books
- the best CEO biographies and memoirs
- first time CEO books
- books by famous business people
So, let’s get to it!
List of CEO books
From executive memoirs to CEO best practice guides, here is a list of books to help develop top leadership skills.
Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall
Nine Lies About Work challenges common wisdom about work that leads to frustration, conflict, and disengagement. The book unpacks common misconceptions such as that company culture determines success more than individual team strength, offering more realistic analyses backed up with facts and examples. Nine Lies About Work tackles topics such as goal-setting, feedback, and employee loyalty.
Notable Quote: “We follow leaders who connect us to a mission we believe in, who clarify what’s expected of us, who surround us with people who define excellence the same way we do, who value us for our strengths, who show us that our teammates will always be there for us, who diligently replay our winning plays, who challenge us to keep getting better, and who give us confidence in the future.”
Buy Nine Lies About Work.
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
The 48 Laws of Power was published around two decades ago, and is still one of the best selling CEO books on the market today. The authors distill three thousand years of human history into the most essential lessons in leadership. The book draws on the philosophies of great achievers to explore what it takes to make it to the top. The book promotes an aggressive and dominating style, examining topics such as persuasion, competition, and image. Examples of advice from these pages include, “use absence to increase respect and honor,” and “win through your actions, never through argument.”
Notable Quote: “When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less.”
Buy The 48 Laws of Power.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
A Promised Land tells the story of Barack Obama’s rise to the highest office in the US, offering first-person insider access and insights from the 44th president. The memoir is equal parts personal and national history, inspiration, and leadership philosophy. Obama covers concepts like rising to the responsibilities of leadership, overcoming daunting obstacles, and retaining a sense of humor and optimism in the face of struggle. A Promised Land is a primer in ambitious yet graceful leadership, advising aspiring greats on the best ways to build a meaningful legacy.
Notable Quote: “I experienced failure and learned to buck up so I could rally those who’d put their trust in me. I suffered rejections and insults often enough to stop fearing them.”
Buy A Promised Land.
Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
Brené Brown wrote a guide to having the courage to disagree and stand up for your beliefs. And, to stand up even in the face of criticism or dissension. Braving the Wilderness teaches readers how to be empathetic and open yet honest and strong, exploring how to discover and defend your principles. The book is an introduction to authentic leadership, and aims to help readers find true belonging through self-reflection and spiritual exploration.
Notable Quote: “You are only free when you realize you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, Jim Huling
The 4 Disciplines of Execution teaches leaders how to act effectively and implement strategies by following four simple rules:
- Focus on the wildly important
- Act on the lead measures
- Keep a compelling scoreboard
- Create a cadence of accountability
The book examines each concept in depth and analyzes different situations through the lens of the process. While many CEO books focus on philosophy, 4 Disciplines of Execution lays out concrete, actionable steps that achieve promising results for carefully-constructed plans.
Notable Quote: “If you’re not keeping score, you’re just practicing.”
The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger
The Ride of a Lifetime is one of the most acclaimed recent books by a famous business person. Robert Iger reveals valuable perspectives gained from a decade and a half as the CEO of Disney, one of the most popular, profitable, and beloved companies in the world. The author elaborates on central wisdom such as “betting on talent,” “the power of respect”, and “if you don’t innovate you die,” backing up each belief with experience. The Ride of a Lifetime champions values such as optimising, decisiveness, fairness, and courage, offering a blueprint for legendary leadership.
Notable Quote: “Optimism. One of the most important qualities of a good leader is optimism, a pragmatic enthusiasm for what can be achieved. Even in the face of difficult choices and less than ideal outcomes, an optimistic leader does not yield to pessimism. Simply put, people are not motivated or energized by pessimists.”
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Thinking, Fast and Slow explores two approaches to thinking: emotional, immediate, intuition-based judgment, and the more thorough, conscious, logical slow approach. Each method has appropriate applications and fits particular situations. Daniel Kahneman explains each style of thinking, delving deep into highly-pertinent business themes like over-confidence and decision making. A CEO needs to be the main brain of an organization, and Thinking, Fast and Slow helps executives strike the right balance between feeling and reasoning, helping leaders manage their own mindsets and convert employees to their wavelength.
Notable Quote: “The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little.”
Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos by Jeff Bezos and Walter Isaacson
The majority of the best CEO biographies trace the full life journey of executives. Invent and Wander focuses on Amazon founder Jeff Bezos by collecting his writings, telling the tale of his ascent via the advice and guidance he gives along the way. The book collects Bezos’ most impactful correspondence and speeches from 1997 to the present, piecing together the revolutionary founder’s philosophy and keys to success one memo at a time.
Notable Quote: “We will continue to focus on hiring and retaining versatile and talented employees. We know our success will be largely affected by our ability to attract and retain a motivated employee base, each of whom must think like, and therefore must actually be, an owner.”
Buy Invent and Wander.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
Experts consistently rank Shoe Dog as one of the best CEO memoirs, and business greats like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates praise it as a remarkable read too. The book tells the tale of Nike founder Phil Knight, tracing his journey from humble beginnings to the head of the prolific shoe company. Knight presents an honest view of his hurdles, detailing the odds he overcame and the relationships he forged along the way to build one of the most influential brands in the world. The book is an especially apt read for aspiring entrepreneurs in search of level-headed, non-romanticized advice.
Notable Quote: “I’d tell men and women in their mid-twenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career. Seek a calling. Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it. If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.”
Buy Shoe Dog.
The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins
The First 90 Days is one of the best first time CEO books. The book centers around transitions into roles of increased responsibility. For example, the chapters map the pitfalls new managers often make in the changeover from worker to leader, and suggest best practices for new leaders. Michael Watkins elaborates on concepts such as shifting to a leadership mindset, accelerating the learning process for you and your teams, building relationships and organizational foundations, and managing yourself efficiently. The First 90 Days draws on the experiences of thousands of executives to prepare new CEO’s to tackle the challenge.
Notable Quote: “To be successful, you need to mobilize the energy of many others in your organization. If you do the right things, then your vision, your expertise, and your drive can propel you forward and serve as seed crystals.”
Buy The First 90 Days.
The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win by Maria Konnikova
While most recommended executive leadership books are memoirs of business empires or industry manifestos, this title is a book about poker. At its core, poker is a game that centers around reading people accurately and maintaining an air of composure and mystery. These examples are behaviors that CEOs must also emulate in boardrooms and offices. The Biggest Bluff is a master course in human psychology and the art of persuasion, told through the lens of one woman’s ascent through the world of professional gambling.
Notable Quote: “People failed to see what the world was telling them when that message wasn’t one they wanted to hear. They liked being the rulers of their environment. When the environment knew more than they did—well, that was no good at all. Here was the cruel truth: we humans too often think ourselves in firm control when we are really playing by the rules of chance.”
Buy The Biggest Bluff.
How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Raz
How I Built This is a collection of interviews with entrepreneurs explaining how they built, maintained, and grew businesses into thriving, celebrated organizations. Host-turned-author Guy Raz compiled an anthology of some of the most fascinating stories into a guide on the most common or challenging obstacles entrepreneurs face.
Notable Quote: “The entrepreneur is a person who strikes out on their own to reach these frontiers of progress, aware of both the risks and the rewards of going it alone. They are driven to discover what might be found out there. They feel the call to make something out of what they find– something new, better, faster, more efficient– and to make it accessible to the rest of us in a way that we can use.”
Buy How I Built This.
No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier
Instagram continues to be one of the most influential companies in the world. Reporter Sarah Frier takes readers on a journey inside the organization, tracking the company from inception to becoming an app behemoth. The book outlines the founders’ vision and mission as well as drawing on the perspectives of societal figures to define the impact Instagram has made on modern life. The end result is a primer on how to launch, maintain, and grow a revolutionary company.
Notable Quote: “People who don’t take risks work for people who do.”
Buy No Filter.
Despite CEOs’ busy schedules, top executives find reading time to expand knowledge and keep current on industry and societal trends. In the fast-moving, global environment of the modern business world, it is more critical than ever for CEOs to continue learning. Brushing up on best selling CEO books is one of the simplest ways for organizational heads to remain in the know.
FAQ: CEO Books
Here are common answers to questions about CEO books.
What are CEO books?
CEO books are books written for executives. Some of these works are profiles of famous figures, while others serve as guides and philosophies for high level leadership. These books may come in the form of biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, self-help books, philosophies, manifestos, inspirational readings, or instructional guides.
What books do CEOs read?
Many CEO’s gravitate towards new releases and popular bestsellers. The reading habits of executives varies depending on guiding philosophies, management style, and industry. However, a few books that many famous CEO’s regularly recommend include Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, and Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown.
How do you find good CEO books?
One way to find books that align with your leadership style is to read books written by CEO’s you admire. You could also connect with relatable CEOs on LinkedIn and regularly scan your news feed for reading recommendations. Keeping tabs on the New York Times’ Business bestseller list is another trusty method to stay on trend.
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