16 Best COO Books to Read

By: | Updated: February 03, 2023

You found our list of top COO books.

COO books are resources that provide guides for chief operating officers in their day-to-day running of important organizational duties. Examples include How to be a Chief Operating Officer by Jennifer Geary, Riding Shotgun by Nathan Bennet and Stephen Miles, and From Supervisor to Super Leader by Shanda K. Miller. The purpose of these books is to provide COOs with the tools and knowledge they need to manage organizations effectively.

These books are similar to CEO books, business books, management books, and leadership books.


This list includes:

  • books for startup COOs
  • books on becoming a chief operating officer
  • books about COO roles and responsibilities

Here we go!

List of COO books

As the second-highest chain of command, COOs play an important role in their organizations. Since COO books are often based on real-life experiences or case studies, these resources offer unmatched benefits to readers. From Startup CXO by Matt Blumberg and Peter M. Birkeland to Built to Last by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras, here are the best books for COOs.

1. How to be a Chief Operating Officer: 16 Disciplines for Success by Jennifer Geary

If you are looking for books for startup COOs, then How to be a Chief Operating Officer is a must read. In the guide, Jeniffer Geary breaks down the 16 core elements and 13 technical areas of a COO’s job. The author also breaks down the three vital pillars of strategy, culture, and change in the COO role. Readers dive into the responsibilities, performance, and warning signs that every COO must take note of to perform effectively. How to be a Chief Operating Officer provides practical insights that give clear and powerful roadmaps for COOs.

Notable Quote: ”Too obsessed with day-to-day coverage, too easily blown off track by day-to-day events, they have a tendency to flit from issue to issue, rarely engaging with them fully and rarely joining up their various responses into a considered overall approach.”

Read How to be a Chief Operating Officer.

2. The Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey

People management tends to be a major problem for COOs in their efforts to design and implement organizational structures. The Speed of Trust showcases the speed at which organizations can establish relationships with employees, clients, and constituents. The resource also offers a practical look at how trust functions in relationships and transactions and its importance for a high-performance company. Through The Speed of Trust, COOs can learn how to forego the check-and-balance processes due to lack of trust.

Notable Quote: ”The first job of a leader—at work or at home—is to inspire trust. It’s to bring out the best in people by entrusting them with meaningful stewardships, and to create an environment in which high-trust interaction inspires creativity and possibility.”

Read The Speed of Trust.

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3. Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t by Verne Harnish

With a variety of international accolades and recognitions, Scaling Up is a great read for COOs who want to avoid major business pitfalls. In the resource, the best-selling author shares practical techniques and tools for building dominating businesses. The author also guides readers in creating an organization that focuses on the satisfaction of all stakeholders. Readers will find various one-page tools like the Rockefeller Habits Checklist and the updated One-Page Strategic Plan. Over 40,000 firms across the globe use these resources to scale their operations. The book is also a worthwhile read for all workers, from frontline employees to senior leaders.

Notable Quote: ”In retaining employees and keeping them engaged, we’ll cover the five activities of great (vs. good) managers: Help people play to their strengths. Don’t demotivate; dehassle. Set clear expectations and give employees a clear line of sight. Give recognition and show appreciation. Hire fewer people, but pay them more (frontline employees, not top leaders!).”

Read Scaling Up.

4. Riding Shotgun: The Role of the COO by Nathan Bennett & Stephen Miles

Riding Shotgun tops the list of books about COO roles and responsibilities. The book helps COOs learn handy tips about day-to-day job roles, such as strategy development and team management. The authors draw heavily on the experiences of CEOs and top executives in major corporations. For instance, readers get a chance to learn from the experiences of top executives in companies such as eBay, PepsiCo, Adobe Systems, and Starbucks.

Notable Quote: ”If you can’t conceptualize the strategic objectives or help drive that or participate in that, I don’t think you are going to succeed. But, equally, if you can’t translate that into an executable plan, you are not going to succeed either.”

Read Riding Shotgun.

5. Startup CXO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Company’s Critical Functions and Teams by Matt Blumberg and Peter M. Birkeland

Startup CXO is a guide that helps every functional leader in an organization to understand their roles. Hence, current or aspiring COOs can grasp what to avoid with function-specific tools, tactics, and advice. The resource has in-depth chapters that cover the nine important functions of startups. These include people, sales, business development, operations, finance, marketing, customers, product, and privacy. The book also features advice from CEOs about how to scale and be successful executives. Besides COOs, Startup CXO is also helpful for other organizational leaders such as board members, CEOs, and investors.

Notable Quote: ”‘What gets measured gets managed.’ I’d add to that: if you don’t know something even exists, you can’t begin to measure it, let alone manage it!”

Read Startup CXO.

6. Welcome to Management: How to Grow from Top Performer to Excellent Leader by Ryan Hawk

Welcome to Management is a great resource for individuals starting their COO jobs. In the book, the author differentiates the tactics that will get a manager promoted from the strategies individuals should use in their new roles. These tips include actionable advice and tools to ease the transition into a managerial position. The author outlines practices from in-depth interviews with over 300 globally renowned forward-thinking leaders, case studies, and personal stories. COOs will learn how to lead themselves and their teams and develop a culture of mutual trust and respect.

Notable Quote: ”If we don’t trust people, how will we engage them, innovate, create, inspire, be a team? You can trust too much and get burned, but you can also not trust enough, and you wouldn’t see the possibilities.”

Read Welcome to Management.

7. The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo

The Making of a Manager tops the list of books on becoming a chief operating officer. In the guide, the author takes readers through the stages of organizational leadership, from accepting a job offer to carrying out duties. Readers will get handy tips on being a good steward, the secrets of leading confidently, and how to deal with unexpected situations. The book has practical everyday transformative insights and examples on issues such as building trust, planning, and managing teams.

Notable Quote: ”This is the crux of management: It is the belief that a team of people can achieve more than a single person going it alone. It is the realization that you don’t have to do everything yourself, be the best at everything yourself, or even know how to do everything yourself. Your job, as a manager, is to get better outcomes from a group of people working together.”

Read The Making of a Manager.

8. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras

Built to Last is a fantastic read for COOs seeking company management guides. The book provides practical guidance and new insights to individuals who want to build landmark businesses. Built to Last  bases its guidelines on a Standford University Graduate School of Business research project lasting six years. The project entails studies of 18 exceptional companies in comparison to their competitors. Readers will get insights on what separates companies such as Walmart, General Electric, 3M, and Walt Disney from other organizations. The book inspires entrepreneurs and company executives such as COOs by sharing practical concepts.

Notable Quote: ”Visionary companies make some of their best moves by experimentation, trial and error, opportunism, and—quite literally—accident. What looks in retrospect like brilliant foresight and preplanning was often the result of ‘Let’s just try a lot of stuff and keep what works.'”

Read Built to Last.

9. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John C. Maxwell

The 5 Levels of Leadership is a great resource for individuals seeking books about COO roles and responsibilities. The key lessons from the book revolve around leadership tools that will fuel success and grow teams. John C. Maxwell also offers a guide that will help leaders grow in their roles while also helping subordinates develop their skills. The resource has a detailed guide of the five levels of leadership, including position, permission, production, people development, and pinnacle. Maxwell uses in-depth insight, humor, and examples to help leaders master each level of leadership.

Notable Quote: ”When people follow a leader because they have to, they will do only what they have to. People don’t give their best to leaders they like least. They give reluctant compliance, not commitment. They may give their hands but certainly not their heads or hearts.”

Read The 5 Levels of Leadership.

10. Decide! The One Common Denominator of All Great Leaders by Gino Wickman

Decide! tops the list of leadership books for COOs. The book outlines four major discoveries about decision-making and the exact process leaders should follow. The author also includes success stories from leaders using the listed methods. The short read will also help organizational leaders, including COOs, to see the big picture in everyday tasks.

Notable Quote: ”A client that had clarified its 10-Year Target in the first session was a partnership, and the two partners realized they had two completely different goals. One wanted rapid growth, and the other was content.”

Read Decide.

11. Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices by Peter F. Drucker

If you are looking for guides on becoming a chief operating officer, then Management is a good bet. The book aims to equip managers with the thinking, understanding, skills, and knowledge of the job. The author bases these lessons on his teaching experience in executive programs and his work as a management consultant. The book outlines techniques and tools for effective management.

Notable Quote: ”Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people,’ that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

Read Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices.

12. From Supervisor to Super Leader: How to Break Free from Stress and Build a Thriving Team That Gets Results by Shanda K. Miller

One of the best books on becoming a chief operating officer is From Supervisor to Super Leader. The guide is a fantastic choice for new COOs since it tackles common issues in team management. For instance, the book offers team management tips for managers who fear failure to meet expectations. The easy-to-read book also has lessons from Shanda K. Miller’s over 20 years of experience in team leadership. Through the publication, readers will grasp core practices of team leadership and also tips on building strong relationships.

Notable Quote: ”Here are examples of team norms and agreements:

  • Treat others with respect
  • Listen first to understand
  • Strive to be open-minded and understand each other’s perspectives
  • Practice empathy and put yourself in others’ shoes
  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt
  • Be accountable to the team
  • Have fun and celebrate the wins.”

Read From Supervisor to Super Leader.

13. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

One of the best resources for startup COOs is The Lean Startup. The book outlines why startups fail and how organizations can prevent these failures. Eric Ries uses an approach that leverages human creativity while increasing capital efficiency. The author bases these strategies on his experience, sharing insights on topics ranging from lean manufacturing and research to scientific experimentation. The book offers companies ways to test their vision and adapt instead of wasting time creating elaborate business plans.

Notable Quote: ”After more than ten years as an entrepreneur, I came to reject that line of thinking. I have learned from both my own successes and failures and those of many others that it’s the boring stuff that matters the most. Startup success is not a consequence of good genes or being in the right place at the right time. Startup success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.”

Read The Lean Startup.

14. Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable… about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business by Patrick Lencioni

Death by Meeting is one of the best books for startup COOs. In the book, Patrick Lencioni guides readers through meetings, one of the most essential yet dreadful aspects of any business. The New York Times best-selling author suggests simple yet revolutionary tips every COO can implement. Death by Meeting is a blueprint for COOs and other organizational leaders who want to eliminate the team’s frustrations and create a thriving work environment.

Notable Quote: ”When a group of intelligent people come together to talk about issues that matter, it is both natural and productive for disagreement to occur. Resolving those issues is what makes a meeting productive, engaging, even fun.”

Read Death by Meeting.

15. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell

With over 30 years of leadership experience, John C. Maxwell uses the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership to teach valuable skills. The author combines insights from his mistakes and successes as a recognized leadership expert, author, and speaker in the guide. Maxwell also uses his observations of sports, business, politics, and military conflict to deliver top COO tips. Some of the lessons that readers will learn from the book include the law of process, respect, intuition, connection, and empowerment.

Notable Quote: ”Many people view leadership the same way they view success, hoping to go as far as they can, to climb the ladder, to achieve the highest position possible for their talent. But contrary to conventional thinking, I believe the bottom line in leadership isn’t how far we advance ourselves but how far we advance others. That is achieved by serving others and adding value to their lives.”

Read The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.

16. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton

Getting to Yes is one of the best chief operating officer books to teach negotiation tips. In the resource, the authors describe a negotiation method that isolates problems and creates new options. The criteria of this approach also focus on interests while using objectives to help parties reach agreements faster. Roger Fisher bases these teachings on his background in negotiation projects and his consulting organizations to deliver tips that will help COOs. The book is also a fantastic resource for negotiating personal and professional disputes.

Notable Quote: ”Pressure can take many forms: a bribe, a threat, a manipulative appeal to trust, or a simple refusal to budge. In all these cases, the principled response is the same: invite them to state their reasoning, suggest objective criteria you think apply, and refuse to budge except on this basis. Never yield to pressure, only to principle.”

Read Getting to Yes.


The chief operating officer is an important position in any organization. This role combines the functions of a manager and a chief executive. Hence, COOs handle complex duties such as designing and implementing policies and keeping business operations on track. While individuals learn most tasks on the job, COOs can take advantage of books to learn the fundamentals of their role. These books can cover topics such as management, leadership, strategy, and organizational operations. These resources can also guide individuals who aspire to hold COO positions.

Next, check out our list of books for new managers, startup books, innovation books, and change management books.

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FAQ: COO books

Here are answers to common questions about COO books.

What are COO books?

COO books are resources that provide guidance and best practices for leaders who hold or aspire to have the chief operating officer position. These guides provide insights into the COO role, such as job responsibilities, people management, and organizational operations tips.

What are the best books for chief operating officers?

Reporting to the CEO, COOs maintain control of diverse business operations. These roles can be challenging, hence the need to have vast business and operations knowledge. Some of the best books for chief operating officers include The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, Scaling Up by Verne Harnish, and Built to Last by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.

What books teach how to become a COO?

Becoming a COO requires a combination of work experience and solid education. Individuals can also get vast knowledge of the COO roles from books and other resources. Some books that teach how to become a COO include Management by Peter F. Drucker, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell, and Decide! by Gino Wickman.​

Author avatar


People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at teambuilding.com. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.


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