Newport Board Group, an Advisory Firm of CEOs, Releases a List of the Best Business Books for Business Owners and Executives

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Seven Good Reads for CEOs in 2015

Summer is a time when business leaders, whose daily lives involve juggling priorities and crises, might consider taking time to step back to refresh perspectives on business and growth challenges. One way to shake up an approach is to commit to a program of reading. There are thousands of business books written every year. To help get started, here are seven books that can give a CEO new insights:

1. The Hard Thing About Hard Things

The author of this book, Ben Horowitz, is co-founder of Andreesen Horowitz, the wildly successful Silicon Valley venture capital firm. The book advises entrepreneurs who run start-up businesses how to handle the almost-unimaginable problems that come with trying to get a new company off the ground. An example of his against-the-grain advice: when two departments of a company are warring against each other, make their leaders switch jobs for a while. Each will gain an intimate understanding of the problems that the other department faces. The book is also fun to read as Horowitz, a big fan of rap music, often supports points with quotes of lyrics of his favorite songs.

2. Smart People Should Build Things

Andrew Yang is the founder of Venture for America, an organization that identifies top college graduates who might be inclined to go into traditionally prestigious professions like finance, consulting and law. It then directs them to spend two years working in start-ups and early stage companies in recovering U.S. cities like Detroit and Baltimore. There they train the next generation of hands-on entrepreneurs and work to generate job growth. In his book Smart People Should Build Things, Yang paints a picture of entrepreneurship as realistic and achievable, explaining lessons to be learned from the stories of those who have succeeded. This is a great read for anyone looking to be inspired to take initiative and innovate–instead of waiting for an employer to hand you the perfect job.

3. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

This book takes the form of a fictional tale to explain the complexities and pitfalls that business teams face. The author, Patrick Lencioni, has written two previous books that develop parables to explain hard truths about how businesses succeed and fail. This book concerns a troubled Silicon Valley firm that brings in a new CEO who is an old-school manager who had retired from a traditional manufacturing company two years earlier at age 55. It explains how a new boss can overcome the “five dysfunctions” that lead teams to fail: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. It contains a questionnaire for readers to use in diagnosing and improving the effectiveness.

4. Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book

Author Jack Welch became the management guru when, during his 20 year tenure as CEO, GE became the gold standard of global company business practices. He is known around the world for his realistic, take-no-prisoners style of management. Typical of “Jack’s way” is his widely quoted maxim that, when the rate of change inside the company is less than the rate of change in the market, the company’s demise is probably near. This book is an excellent resource for those who, instead of inspiring stories about entrepreneurs, want straightforward advice about the hard choices and tradeoffs involved in running a business. Welch includes great advice on subjects such as picking and developing management talent (which he became famous for at GE) and insisting on competing only in market niches where the company has a distinctive competitive advantage.

5. Start With Why

Start With Why by Simon Sinek focuses on inspirational leadership and how it can produce organizations that are more profitable than their competitors. Among the key concepts he espouses is that “people don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Getting repeat business and word-of-mouth business has a lot to do with helping customers to understand and believe in your company’s inspiring mission—not manipulating them into opening their wallet. The book’s message is a challenge to cynics who believe that marketing messages have little to do with the reality of what a company actually is.

6. No Man’s Land

Doug Tatum, the Chairman of the Board for Newport Board Group and a well-known authority on the entrepreneurial economy, delivers excellent advice about leading an emerging business to its next level of growth. Tatum discusses his idea of “No Man’s Land”, when a second stage company finds itself too big to be considered small but not yet big enough to be considered a large company. Tatum presents his case studies of businesses that have grappled with the four key challenges of No Man’s Land: Market, Management, Model, and Money. Learn about the risks entrepreneurs face when they try to leave the startup phase behind, institutionalize their personal capabilities and get their company to scale–where they have a chance to generate real wealth.

7. Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business

Traction by Gino Wickman poses the question: Do you have a grip on your business, or does your business have a grip on you? It focuses on the everyday problems and frustrations that sap the time and energy of business leaders: people issues and conflict, profits that are inadequate to fund growth, organizational inertia and drift. It posits six key components, part of an Entrepreneurial Operating System® that more than 2000 companies have adopted.

Of course fixing the problems of a real world business is never quite as simple as business advice books like these often make it sound. But these seven books offer even a skeptical reader new insights on business leadership and innovation. Making an effort to apply what they teach can make you think differently about the business—both long term strategy and to do on the first day back from summer vacation.

Mark Rosenman, Chief Knowledge Officer – Newport Board Group

If you are looking for more reading material for business advice, download our Free EBook “The Shift” to learn how to make your organization’s culture performance based.

CEO performance culture
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