The 9 books CEOs are reading

Welcome to CEO Booklist, a curated selection tailored for chief executives. This frequently updated collection of books is designed to provide practical insights and strategic perspectives to the individuals tasked with steering the direction of organisations.

In the fast-paced world of business leadership, the right knowledge can be the difference between stagnation and growth. In the words of Peter Drucker, 'The best way to predict the future is to create it.' As CEO, the decisions you make today shape the trajectory of your organisations tomorrow.

Within CEO Booklist recommendations, you'll find a diverse range of titles aimed at addressing the challenges and opportunities faced by today's leaders. Whether you're seeking guidance on innovation, management techniques, or navigating uncertain terrain, CEO Booklist offers valuable perspectives to inform and inspire your journey. Check back often to take inspiration from what your peers are reading.

1. The Coming Wave by Mustafa Suleyman & Michael Bhaskar

2023 · Hardback · 352 pages

In The Coming Wave, Mustafa Suleyman, co-founder of Google DeepMind, explores a future where Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes an integral part of daily life. He discusses how technologies like AI, quantum computing, and DNA printers will shape our world, offering both promise and peril. Suleyman emphasises the need to navigate the challenges posed by these advancements, striking a balance between progress and safeguarding against potential risks. The book provides insights into the complexities of managing powerful technologies in a rapidly evolving landscape.

Bill Gates calls this 'An excellent guide for navigating unprecedented times.'

2. Scaling People by Claire Hughes Johnson

2023 · Hardback · 480 pages

Scaling People is a practical guide from a seasoned executive who's been in the trenches of high-growth startups like Google and Stripe. Claire Hughes Johnson knows the real challenges faced by leaders trying to scale their teams effectively. This book cuts through the buzzwords and offers down-to-earth advice on building the backbone of any company: its people.

Forget complicated business strategies—this book focuses on the nitty-gritty of crafting foundational documents, strategic planning, hiring, team development, and performance management. With plenty of worksheets, templates, and real-world examples, it's a hands-on toolkit for founders and leaders looking to create scalable systems that actually work.

Sure, it takes effort and discipline to implement these practices, but the payoff is huge: a sustainable, scalable company poised for long-term success. Whether you're running a startup or a seasoned enterprise, Scaling People provides a detailed roadmap for building the right structures to support your most valuable asset: your team.

3. Working Backwards by Colin Bryar & Bill Carr

2022 · Paperback · 304 pages

Working Backwards provides an insider's perspective on Amazon's unique culture, leadership style, and best practices, as recounted by two former high-ranking executives, Colin Bryar and Bill Carr. Drawing from their extensive experience at Amazon during a period of groundbreaking innovation in the late 90s, the duo shares the behind-the-scenes stories of iconic products like Kindle, Amazon Prime, Echo, Alexa, and AWS.

This book goes beyond mere anecdotes, offering valuable insights into the principles and methodologies that underpin Amazon's success. Bryar and Carr emphasise that Amazon's achievements stem not from individual brilliance but from a steadfast dedication to well-defined, meticulously executed principles and practices. By distilling their firsthand knowledge, they provide readers with actionable strategies that can be adapted to any company, regardless of its size. Working Backwards offers a compelling narrative that demystifies the Amazon approach and inspires readers to implement its lessons in their own organisations. 

4. CEO Excellence by Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller & Vikram Malhotra

2022 · Hardback · 384 pages

CEO Excellence by McKinsey senior partners Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, and Vikram Malhotra offers invaluable insights drawn from 25 years of extensive research and interviews with top global leaders. It explores the distinctive yet surprisingly similar traits of effective CEOs across diverse industries.

This book underscores the importance of mindset and practices in exceptional leadership, particularly pertinent in today's dynamic business landscape. Through real-world examples, it looks at how outstanding CEOs navigate challenges and drive unparalleled success.

With a focus on world-class leadership, it provides actionable strategies for new and aspiring CEOs to emulate, accelerating their journey to effective leadership. This timely resource places emphasis on the impact of exceptional leadership and offers guidance on honing one's skills to excel in the CEO role.

5. Power and Prediction: The Disruptive Economics of Artificial Intelligence by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans & Avi Goldfarb

2022 · Hardback · 256 pages

In Power and Prediction, the authors explore how AI is changing decision-making by breaking down prediction and judgment. They explain how AI is taking over prediction tasks, making decisions faster and more precise. This shift, they argue, will shake up industries worldwide, impacting winners and losers. Yet, by understanding and adapting to these changes, businesses can position themselves for success in the AI era. With practical advice and real-world examples, Power and Prediction offers valuable insights for business leaders and policymakers navigating this evolving landscape.

6. The Solutionists: How Businesses can fix the future by Solitaire Townsend

2023 · Paperback · 280 pages

In The Solutionists, you are guided through a practical blueprint for addressing our climate crisis and leading sustainable change. It's a handbook tailored for CEOs and entrepreneurs aiming to become catalysts for a more sustainable future.

Through real-life examples and actionable strategies, the book illustrates how businesses of any size or sector can integrate sustainability into their operations. From adopting plant-based food sources to implementing net-zero technologies, these stories showcase the transformative power of sustainable practices.

By embracing this mindset shift, leaders can not only contribute to solving global challenges but also drive innovation and growth within their organisations. The Solutionists offers a roadmap for those ready to take personal ownership of sustainability and make a meaningful impact on the world.

7. Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, a memoir by the creator of NIKE

2018 · Paperback · 400 pages

In 1962, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight took a $50 loan from his father to start a company importing affordable, high-quality athletic shoes from Japan. From selling shoes out of the trunk of his car, Knight's venture, Nike, has grown into a global powerhouse with annual sales surpassing $30 billion.

In this memoir, Knight shares his journey candidly, from facing early setbacks to celebrating triumphs with his close-knit team. Through humour and hard-won wisdom, he reflects on the challenges of entrepreneurship, emphasising the importance of perseverance, teamwork, and a shared mission.

Knight's story not only unveils the creation of an iconic brand but also offers invaluable lessons on resilience and making a lasting impact.

8. The Scout Mindset by Julia Galef

2024 · Paperback · 288 pages

The Scout Mindset author Julia Galef explores the human tendency to adopt a 'soldier' mindset, defending beliefs we favour, often at the expense of truth. She contrasts this with the 'scout' mindset, which prioritises impartial exploration to uncover what's genuinely true, rather than what we wish to be true.

Galef argues that adopting a scout mindset can lead to better decision-making and understanding of the world. Drawing on diverse examples, from survival scenarios to business strategies, she emphasizes that scout thinking isn't about being inherently smarter, but rather about cultivating emotional skills and habits that enable more objective analysis.

Through engaging anecdotes and insights, Galef encourages you to challenge your biases and embrace a more open-minded approach to problem-solving and decision-making.

9. The Diary of a CEO by Steven Bartlett

2023 · Hardback · 368 pages

In this book, the Steven Bartlett boils down the essence of success and failure gleaned from his personal entrepreneurial journey and countless interviews on his podcast of the same title.

He unveils timeless principles applicable across industries, serving as a compass for leaders. Rooted in psychology and behavioural science, these laws are not theoretical musings but practical insights drawn from surveys of diverse individuals worldwide and conversations with top achievers on his popular podcast.

From building remarkable enterprises to personal growth, these principles promise to guide anyone striving for greatness.

Join the conversation

CEO Booklist is your passport to innovation and excellence. Absorb insights from our curated selection and we invite you to share your own must-reads for CEOs using the comments form below. Let's shape a community of visionary leaders, fuelled by knowledge and collaboration. Join the conversation and chart the course for tomorrow's success.

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