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10 Best CEO Books: Unlock Leadership Insights for Success

Did you know that Warren Buffet recommends reading 500 pages a day? Or that Bill Gates devours 50 books a year? How about the fact that Mark Cuban spends 3 hours every day reading books? 

Some of the world’s most successful leaders take their reading very seriously. And there’s a good reason for that. As new developments bring transformations everywhere—from technology to supply chains to the world order itself—it’s more important than ever for CEOs to prioritize continuous learning and development. CEO books are a great way to do that! 📖

Running a business today requires intersectional knowledge. It’s as essential to learn about history and human psychology as business strategy and leadership. Business leaders turn to CEO books as a way to amass valuable insights and perspectives on these subjects.

Here are some benefits of reading books for CEOs:

  • Stay ahead of the curve: By reading books, CEOs can stay informed about new technologies, trends, and challenges and adapt their growth strategies accordingly
  • Expand knowledge and skills: Books offer knowledge on various leadership-related topics such as project management, finance, communication, and negotiation. These can help CEOs broaden their skills and become well-rounded leaders
  • Develop critical thinking: Reading complex, challenging material can strengthen critical thinking skills, enabling CEOs to manage problems, evaluate different options, and make sound decisions
  • Improve communication skills: Reading well-written books can refine your understanding of language and how to use it effectively as a leader. Many CEO books offer guidance on empathetic and effective communication as well
  • Be inspired: Even if you’re not a C-suite executive yet, reading about what makes people successful and how they overcome challenges can be a powerful source of inspiration. As you go about building a successful career, management and leadership books can be a powerful motivator

By making reading a regular habit, you can unlock leadership insights, refine your management style, and get new ideas and actionable advice, ultimately achieving organizational goals.

Understanding the Value of Books for CEOs

CEO books are designed for anyone who wants to excel in their organization. That includes founders, new business leaders, top executives, and those who aspire to be in similar roles!

Here are some ways CEO books contribute to leadership success: 

  • Building strong teams and fostering collaboration: This common theme delves into strategies like effective communication, delegation, empowerment, and building trust. By applying these concepts, CEOs can promote teamwork, increase productivity, and unleash the full potential of their teams
  • Strategic decision-making and risk management: In a turbulent world economy, great leaders command and control leadership skills to navigate uncertainty and make critical decisions when they need to. CEO books contain information on analytical frameworks, risk assessment strategies, and long-term vision development. Business leaders can lean on these lessons to drive their companies toward sustainable growth
  • Innovation and adaptability: Many CEO books demonstrate how business leaders can embrace change, nurture creativity, and try new ideas. By building a company culture centered on innovation, they can respond to market shifts, seize opportunities, and maintain a competitive edge
  • Ethical leadership and corporate social responsibility: Thriving companies are typically run by business leaders who excel at decision-making, sustainable practices, and stakeholder engagement. By following these principles, CEOs can build trust with employees, customers, and the community
  • Personal growth and resilience: Self-care, stress management, and work-life balance are just as important for CEOs as they are for everyone else. By taking care of themselves, mentally, physically, and spiritually, business leaders can develop resilience, empathy, and even-mindedness amid intense pressure

If you’re looking for CEO book recommendations to boost your leadership skills and personal development, you’ve come to the right place! 

Here’s our list of the 10 best CEO books for leadership success. ✍🏻

1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni 

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
via Amazon
  • Author: Patrick Lencioni
  • No. of pages: 230
  • Year published: 1994
  • Estimated reading time: 3 hours and 49 minutes
  • Ideal for: CEOs, business executives, and aspiring leaders
  • Ratings:
    • 4.6/5 (Amazon)
    • 4.1/5 (Goodreads)

Lencioni’s book is a masterclass in building high-performing teams. 

In it, he reveals the five dysfunctions that create underperforming teams. Lack of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results are each a major obstacle Lencioni discusses.

Through a captivating story, Lencioni offers practical tools to build a cohesive unit where trust, conflict, commitment, accountability, and results are valued. It’s a team-building guidebook disguised as a page-turning story.

This book provides practical tools for leaders and team members. It offers actionable strategies for building a cohesive culture and a successful company, where communication is open and respect is mutual. 

Quote from the book:

It’s as simple as this. When people don’t unload their opinions and feel like they’ve been listened to, they won’t really get on board.

Patrick Lencioni

Key takeaways

  1. Leaders play a critical role in establishing a healthy team culture
  2. Building trust, fostering healthy conflict, ensuring commitment, promoting accountability, and prioritizing results contribute to team cohesion
  3. To help a company succeed, great leaders focus on addressing dysfunctions in their team and transform the team’s dynamics

What readers say:

“As a consultant who has worked with hundreds of teams in organizations large and small, I can attest that the model outlined in “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” is both accurate in its root diagnosis of team dysfunctionalism, and is as pervasive as human nature itself.”

2. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The-Four-Agreement
via Amazon
  • Author: Don Miguel Ruiz
  • No. of pages: 160
  • Year published: 1997
  • Estimated reading time: 2 hours and 40 minutes
  • Ideal for: Leaders at all levels
  • Ratings:
    • 4.7/5 (Amazon)
    • 4.1/5 (Goodreads)

Who would’ve thought that a self-help book based on ancient Toltec wisdom could be so impactful for aspiring leaders?

This book is a CEO book because it presents four simple, yet powerful agreements that can radically change your life and lead to greater happiness, inner peace, and personal freedom.

The four agreements are: be impeccable with your words, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best.

These agreements aren’t easy solutions, but lifelong journeys of self-discovery. Each agreement challenges you to let go of self-limiting beliefs and embrace your true potential. 

Quote from the book:

Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don Miguel Ruiz

Key takeaways

  1. Speak with integrity and truth
  2. Realize that others’ actions and words are more about them than you
  3. Recognize that assumptions can lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary suffering
  4. Strive for excellence in everything you do, but recognize that your best may vary from day to day

What readers say:

“In the tradition of Castaneda, Ruiz distills essential Toltec wisdom, expressing with clarity and impeccability what it means for men and women to live as peaceful warriors in the modern world.”

3. Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips

Lincoln on Leadership
via Amazon
  • Author: Donald T. Phillips
  • No. of pages: 188
  • Year published: 1992
  • Estimated reading time: 3 hours 
  • Ideal for: CEOs and aspiring leaders
  • Ratings:
    • 4.8/5 (Amazon)
    • 4.1/5 (Goodreads)

This is said to be the first book to explore the unique leadership principles of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States.

The book draws on Lincoln’s life, speeches, and actions to offer lessons and insights into effective leadership

Lincoln once said, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.” The book shows how President Lincoln exemplified a deliberate and forward-moving leadership style. It also highlights his focus on integrity and clear, transparent communication—now a well-established concept in the business world.

Through anecdotes and timeless wisdom, this book remains a classic CEO coaching guide that exhorts CEOs to lead with purpose and resilience.

Quote from the book:

I catch the idea by two senses. But when I read aloud I hear what is read and I see it, and hence two senses get it and I remember it better, if I do not understand it better.

Donald T. Phillips

Key takeaways

  1. Great leaders embody the qualities and values they expect from their team members
  2. Building trust through transparency and ethical behavior is crucial for effective leadership and business success
  3. Leaders should be able to articulate a compelling vision and rally their team toward common goals

What readers say:

“I bought this book because I was prompted by a conversation on the humility of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I wanted to read more about Lincoln’s leadership during the Civil War. This book was good. The author did a great job of sharing Lincoln’s leadership in leading our country through one of the darkest times of our history.“

4. The New Strategic Selling by Robert B. Miller, Stephen E. Heiman, and Tad Tuleja

The New Strategic Selling
via Amazon
  • Authors: Robert B. Miller, Stephen E. Heiman, and Tad Tuleja 
  • No. of pages: 448
  • Year published: 1985
  • Estimated reading time: 8 hours and 24 minutes
  • Ideal for: Sales teams, sales strategists, and aspiring sales leaders
  • Ratings:
    • 4.4/5 (Amazon)
    • 3.9/5 (Goodreads)

If you’re looking for CEO books that can dramatically transform your sales game, this might be the one. 

This classic contains a dynamic approach to boosting sales and improving salesmanship. It introduces the concept of ‘Win-Win’—a concept that transformed the modest company behind the original Strategic Selling, Miller Heiman, into a global leader in sales development, with sought-after employees and an impressive client roster.

The book offers seemingly simple but often overlooked insights like “You can’t sell to someone who can’t buy,”. It guides you through sales tactics and processes, with actionable goals that help you understand customer needs and navigate the ever-changing business world and sales environment.

Quote from the book:

People buy when, and only when, they perceive a discrepancy between reality and their desired results.

Robert B. Miller, Stephen E. Heiman, and Tad Tuleja

Key takeaways

  1. Selling means understanding the customer’s buying process and aligning your sales strategy accordingly
  2. It’s not just about making a sale but about building and maintaining long-term relationships
  3. Recognize that different sales situations require different approaches

What readers say:

“I first read Strategic Selling 30 years ago, called the authors, and implemented the strategy. Within 18 months we doubled revenues and 20 years later sold the firm to a NYSE company. The major value of our company was our selling process. I have read the book dozens of times and it has become a reference guide.”

5. Good to Great by Jim Collins

Good-to-Great
via Amazon
  • Author: Jim Collins
  • No. of pages: 300
  • Year published: 2001
  • Estimated reading time: 4 hours and 59 minutes
  • Ideal for: Aspiring leaders
  • Ratings:
    • 4.6/5 (Amazon)
    • 4.1/5 (Goodreads)

If you’re looking for a book to inspire you to take your business model from good to great, this is it. It’s a must-read for CEOs, executives, and aspiring leaders who want to achieve lasting excellence.

Collins pushes industry leaders to face reality by saying, “Confront the brutal facts but never lose faith.” He analyzes how some companies made the leap to business excellence, revealing key principles such as ‘First Who, Then What’—which means getting the right people on board before setting the direction. 

The author also introduces timeless principles like the ‘Hedgehog Concept’ and the importance of getting the right people on the bus. Greatness is not just about growth; it’s about fostering a sustained practice of excellence. 

This book is replete with practical wisdom and helpful tips for leaders who want to build exceptional and enduring organizations.

Quote from the book:

Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.

Jim Collins

Key takeaways

  1. Building a great company starts with getting the right people on board and in the right seats (positions)
  2. Great companies confront the brutal realities of their situation with confidence but maintain unwavering faith that they will prevail in the end
  3. Achieving greatness is not a one-time event but a sustained process

What readers say:

“This book by Jim Collins is one of the most successful books to be found in the “Business” section of your local mega bookstore, and given how it purports to tell you how to take a merely good company and make it great, it’s not difficult to see why that might be so.”

6. The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale

The Strangest Secret
via Amazon
  • Author: Earl Nightingale
  • No. of pages: 44
  • Year published: 1956 (as a spoken word record)
  • Estimated reading time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Ideal for: Aspiring leaders
  • Ratings:
    • 4.8/5 (Amazon)
    • 4.4/5 (Goodreads)

The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale is a motivational gem for up-and-comers looking to unlock the secret to business success.

Nightingale declares, “We become what we think about,” underscoring the power of positive thinking in achieving your goals. This book encourages CEOs to set clear goals and work towards them through positive affirmations and a can-do attitude.

Though nearly 70 years old, the book’s timeless wisdom resonates with modern advice around the power of affirmations, vision boards, and gaol-setting. It shows how intentional focus can help you develop a leadership mindset, leading you to incredible success and transformative achievements. 

Quote from the book:

Even if our home burns down we can rebuild it. But the things that we got for nothing, we can never replace.

Earl Nightingale

Key takeaways

  1. We should set clear and specific goals and write them down. We should also review them daily and take action to achieve them
  2. Positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes, while negative thoughts attract negativity
  3. Consistency in thought and action is vital for achieving long-term success

What readers say:

“Earl is arguably one of the founding fathers of self-development as a construct. Hence, if you want to explore a true self-help read, then do not search any further. Great book!”

7. From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks

From-Strength-to-Strength
via Amazon
  • Author: Arthur C. Brooks
  • No. of pages: 304
  • Year published: 2022
  • Estimated reading time: 4 hours and 24 minutes
  • Ideal for: CEOs and top-level managers
  • Ratings:
    • 4.4/5 (Amazon)
    • 3.9/5 (Goodreads)

It’s lonely at the top. And even seasoned CEOs can struggle with feelings of isolation and stagnancy. This is where From Strength to Strength can help, as it offers a roadmap for personal development

This book warns CEOs against staying in the same place for too long. It encourages them to adapt and innovate forward with insights such as ‘Evolve or Dissolve’. 

The book draws on the author’s own experiences and attempts to stay relevant and resilient and serves as a good source of mentorship. 

Quote from the book:

To be happy as you get older, remember: don’t just add, subtract.

Arthur C. Brooks

Key takeaways

  1. The second half of life is not a time of decline, but a time of opportunity and growth. You can leverage your accumulated knowledge, wisdom, and experience to create value and meaning for yourself and others
  2. Shake off your reliance on worldly success and rewards and strive toward true fulfillment instead
  3. To find your purpose in the second half of life, you need to answer four questions: What are you good at? What do you love? What does the world need? What can you get paid for? The intersection of these four elements is your purpose

What readers say:

“For the successful “striver” this book is a comforting advisor to reassure you for changing your life to a new focus. Brook’s examples and historical references are very useful. It’s a great read.”

8. CEO Excellence by Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, and Vikram Malhotra

CEO-Excellence
via Amazon
  • Authors: Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, and Vikram Malhotra
  • No. of pages: 384
  • Year published: 2022
  • Estimated reading time: 5 hours and 10 minutes
  • Ideal for: CEOs and top-level managers
  • Ratings:
    • 4.7/5 (Amazon)
    • 4.1/5 (Goodreads)

If you’re curious about insights from senior partners at the world’s most influential management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, you should read this book. Chock-full of anecdotes and interviews, CEO Excellence reveals hidden insights into how modern leaders think, operate, and manage conflict. 

The authors of CEO Excellence conduct in-depth interviews with the heads of some of the world’s most successful companies—including Netflix, JPMorgan Chase, General Motors, and Sony. For CEO aspirants, this peek into the minds of heavyweight CEOs makes the book a must-read.

You can also discover leadership strategies, rules of organizational effectiveness, tips on keeping the board engaged, and ways to maintain stakeholder connections. 

Quote from the book:

Raising the spirits of your leaders doesn’t happen overnight.”- Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller and Vikram Malhotra

Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller and Vikram Malhotra

Key takeaways

  1.  Be bold, embrace uncertainty, and shape the future of your company with a clear vision.
  2. Great CEOs don’t need to master every aspect of the business, but they need to manage and orchestrate a diverse range of responsibilities
  3. While financial performance is important, the best CEOs also train an intentional focus on making a positive impact on society and the environment

What readers say:

“I really liked “CEO Excellence” by Carolyn Dewar. It can be thought of as a mini-MBA course, as its value extends beyond the C-suite and contains valuable lessons for everyone in corporate America. Dewar, and her writing partners, sought to create a book that details the difference between okay-CEOs, and those that are truly great.”

9. The Culture Map by Erin Meyer

The-Culture-Map
via Amazon
  • Authors: Erin Meyer
  • No. of pages: 304
  • Year published: 2014
  • Estimated reading time: 4 hours and 48 minutes
  • Ideal for: CEOs and top-level managers
  • Ratings:
    • 4.7/5 (Amazon)
    • 4.3/5 (Goodreads)

Are you a CEO, a business executive, or a CXO contender who wants to improve your cross-cultural communication skills and grow your global business? If so, you need to read Erin Meyer’s eye-opening book.

This book explores the challenges and opportunities of working with people from different cultures. Drawing on her extensive research, Erin Meyer unlocks the secrets of successful collaboration across diverse cultures.  

Today, it’s not unusual for businesses to interact daily with partners and stakeholders spread across geographies. But leading a company through the intricate web of cultural norms and communication styles can be challenging. 

She puts it aptly, “Understanding cultural differences is more than a nice-to-have skill; it’s a must-have.” 

Meyer’s book provides a navigational tool and a cultural compass for businesses seeking to thrive in this paradigm. 

Quote from the book:

When interacting with someone from another culture, try to watch more, listen more, and speak less. Listen before you speak and learn before you act.

Erin Meyer

Key takeaways

  1. Different cultures have varying preferences for communication styles, ranging from explicit to implicit
  2. Understanding cultural expectations around feedback helps in managing teams and individuals more effectively
  3. Aligning persuasive strategies with cultural preferences enhances their effectiveness

What readers say:

“Erin tells us stories, draw [sic] principles from them, and make [sic] it easier to understand what cross-cultural work means. It was delightful [sic] learning experience to read and to put myself in many situations described in the book.”

The Role of Literature in Strategic Planning and Decision-Making

The right book in the right hands can change the world. Many world leaders credit something they read for influencing the course of their lives. For business leaders, books can be a powerful way to glean lessons that can maximize their impact at the workplace. 

Right from strategic planning and decision-making, to navigating transitions and implementing change in management, CEO books have the answers you need, if you know where to look. 

For example, The First 90 Days by Michael D. Watkins provides practical frameworks and actionable strategies for specific situations. 

The First 90 Days
via Amazon
  • Author: Michael D. Watkins
  • No. of pages: 304
  • Year published: 2003
  • Estimated reading time: 4 hours and 45 minutes
  • Ideal for: Aspiring leaders
  • Ratings:
    • 4.5/5 (Amazon)
    • 3.9/5 (Goodreads)

This book acts as a roadmap for new leaders entering a role, particularly during the crucial first 90 days. Watkins outlines five key phases:

  1. Acclimate: Grasp the organizational context, culture, and key players quickly
  2. Assess: Analyze the situation, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  3. Align: Build relationships, communicate vision, and gain buy-in
  4. Decide: Prioritize initiatives, make critical decisions, and set the direction
  5. Accelerate: Implement decisions, build momentum, and deliver early wins

By following these phases and their accompanying strategies, leaders can navigate the transition period effectively, avoid common pitfalls, and help their company succeed. 

Becoming a Better Leader with ClickUp

ClickUp Goals
Set clear goals for yourself and your team, and track progress with ClickUp Goals

Want to turn the lessons from CEO books into action? A comprehensive project management and collaboration solution such as ClickUp can help. 

With ClickUp Goals, you can create clear and realistic objectives for yourself and your team, and track progress on the ClickUp Dashboard. The tool helps you align your actions with your vision and company mission, and ensure every member of your team is on the same page.

Further, you can use custom fields in ClickUp to track aspects of your team’s performance such as morale, growth, and leadership impact. Use these reports to build a holistic view of your team’s progress, so you can drive sustained success and celebrate milestones along the way.

ClickUp Dashboards
Stay a step ahead with real-time progress updates on ClickUp Dashboards

Team management and follow-ups eat up a lot of your time as a leader. But with ClickUp’s Project Management Solution, you can encourage your teams to self-manage, while you always have a clear view of what’s happening. The solution also lets you clearly identify areas that are flourishing and those that need your intervention. 

ClickUp Automation
Use ClickUp Automation to collect relevant data without hassle

With ClickUp Automation, you can track your teams’ progress and performance without having to micromanage. This feature automatically collects and displays relevant data from reports, emails, and projects on centralized dashboards, leaving you free to focus on strategic, long-term ideas. 

But just so you’re always alerted to potential issues, you can set up ClickUp Automations to notify you of looming budget approval deadlines or growing project risks. This way, you can stay on top of your priorities and take action when it matters.

ClickUp’s Gantt chart
Get a bird’s-eye view of all Spaces, Projects, Lists, and tasks in ClickUp’s Gantt chart

You can use ClickUp’s Gantt Chart View to map out your entire leadership strategy, including project timelines, task dependencies, and resource allocation. Quickly identify potential bottlenecks and adjust your plan for smooth execution.

Many CEO books stress the importance of upskilling and nurturing your people. So if you’re looking to have some productive fun with your team, check out ClickUp’s Mind Maps feature, too. It’s a great way to brainstorm, connect related concepts, explore different avenues, and identify potential opportunities. 

Power Up Your CEO Skills

The best leaders in the business world aren’t just avid readers; they put what they learn into practice every day! The moment you finish one of these CEO books, the real work begins.

So build your knowledge base and catalyze the lessons learned into action with ClickUp. Your impact as a business leader will multiply exponentially. And your teams, your customers, your stakeholders, and your shareholders will thank you for it. 

Sign up with ClickUp for free to see what it can do for you. 

Common FAQs

 1. What should I read as CEO?

Choosing the right CEO book can be tricky, as there are so many great options! It depends on what you’re hoping to learn or achieve. You can check out classics like Start with Why by Simon Sinek, Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, or Mindset by Carol Dweck. 

2. What is a CEO Book?

‘CEO book’ isn’t a specific genre or title, but rather a way to describe books targeted toward Chief Executive Officers. CEO books offer insights and guidance about the challenges and responsibilities of business leadership. They cover a wide range of topics, from strategic decision-making and team management to personal growth and well-being, all aimed at helping CEOs navigate the complexities of their roles and achieve success.

 3. What is the best book for executive leaders?

There’s no single “best” book for all executive leaders, as the ideal reading material depends on your individual needs and goals. However, here are some suggestions based on popular choices and different areas of focus: The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, or Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl are good books to get started. 

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