10 Books Every Leader Should Read

Some of the most successful people in the world share one thing in common. They are voracious readers. They all love to read books. So, whether you are in business or in corporate world,  you may need to follow in their footsteps. In this article, I will share 10 books every leader should read.

Business Adventures by John Brooks

Not long after Bill Gates first met Warren Buffet back in 1991, Gates asked Buffet to recommend his favorite book about business. Without hesitation, he said “It’s ‘Business Adventures’, by John Brooks.

Gates said  “Today, more than two decades after Warren lent it to me—and more than four decades after it was first published — ‘Business Adventures’ remains the best business book I’ve ever read. John Brooks is still my favorite business writer”.

With a review like that from Bill Gates, you only need to go get a copy.


The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

If you are an investor or an aspiring investor, you definitely need to read this book. According to Warren Buffet, this book is by far, the best book on investing ever written. To invest successfully over a lifetime does not require a stratospheric IQ, unusual business insights, or inside information. What you need is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding that framework. This book precisely and clearly prescribes the proper framework.

Blue Ocean Strategy by Renée Mauborgne And W. Chan Kim

This is one of my favourite books. The authors use the metaphor of red and blue oceans to describe the market in business. Red oceans represent the known market space, where an industry boundary is defined and accepted. Companies try to outperform each other and gain a greater share of product or service demand.

As the market gets crowded, the prospect of profit and growth diminishes. Products and services become commodities and cutthroat competition turns the ocean bloody; hence, the term “red oceans”.

Blue oceans, in contrast, denote the uncontested market space; the market that does not yet exist. In blue oceans the demand is created. So, there is no need to fight over space. Blue Ocean forces you to focus on how to create market share rather than take market share, in order to build a long-term, successful business.

Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Imagine you meet your professional idol who then dismisses you as an ‘ape’ because of your education or how you dress. And ten years later when you are president of the United States, you make that professional idol your secretary of war during the Civil War, because you know he’s the best person for the job. That is one of many instances reflecting Lincoln’s clarity of purpose. He consistently put what he was trying to accomplish above his own ego. This book will help you to learn from the life of a man who is described to be “so great that he overshadows all other national heroes”.


The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen

If you are a business owner, this should be on top of your list. This book will change the way you do business. The Innovator’s Dilemma” is one of the most important books chronicling how innovation takes place, and why it’s common that market leaders and incumbents fail to seize the next wave of innovation in their respective industries.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is the memoir of Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon at Stanford University, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in his mid-thirties. He wrote this book as he approached the completion of his training as a neurosurgeon, but after he had developed metastatic lung cancer. He died at the age of 37 before he could ever practice as a fully qualified surgeon. The book, which he wrote as he was dying, is published posthumously. Kalanithi used the pages in this book to not only tell his story but also share his ideas on how to approach death with grace and what it means to be fully alive. When Breath Becomes Air reminds you that your life is much bigger than it seems, in terms of your work and dreams but also in terms of the people that surround you.

Dare To Lead by Brené Brown

What does brave leadership look like? Brene Brown set out to answer this question based on research with 150 global C-suite executives. She started by asking what people should do differently to lead during our modern times, when “we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation. One of the keys taken away is that who we are is how we lead. Hence, daring leaders should demonstrate self-awareness and self-love.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

As you probably know, we understand the world in two different opposing ways: the fast and slow thinking process. Fast thinking is intuitive, associative, metaphorical, automatic, and can’t be switched off. Its operations involve no sense of intentional control, but it’s the “secret author of many of the choices and judgments you make”. Slow thinking is deliberate, effortful. Its operations require attention. It takes over, rather unwillingly, when things get difficult.

For the older generation, so much emphasis was placed on IQ, but the most common thread in successful business leaders today is high levels of emotional intelligence. This book will challenge your way of thinking and how you make decisions.


The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

“The Boys in the Boat” shows that one should never underestimate what the determined amateur can do when armed with a professional attitude. The book teaches the importance of grit, perseverance, and hard work, as well as teamwork and putting the group before the self. It is an incredible story of triumph against all odds and a great read.

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Kim Scotta co-founder of Candor, Inc., has built her career around a simple goal: Creating B-shit-free zones where people love their work and working together. She first tried it at her own software startup. Then, as a long-time director at Google, she studied how the company’s leaders created an environment where the joy that people took in their work felt almost tangible. As a faculty member at Apple University, Scott learned how Apple takes a different path but is equally committed to creating the conditions where people can do the best work of their careers and love doing it. As you further your career, you are likely to lead other people in some capacity. Radical Candor is one of the best books to read on managing people.

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About Emmanuel Oluwatosin

Co-founder & Publisher of AfricaX. He is interested in: Technology | Media | Startup | Business | Education. Emmanuel currently lives in Calgary, Canada with his family.

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